Las Vegas’ reputation for neon glamour and a glittering skyline does not exactly evoke images of natural serenity and sweeping desert vistas. Travelers here are generally more intent on watching the lights come up than viewing a breathtaking southwest sunset.
If you represent a group that would prefer a more natural alternative for your Las Vegas destination, there are some facilities available that may surprise you.
The Springs Preserve is located just minutes from the downtown area, at an archaeological site that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Visitors here often chuckle when they learn that “Las Vegas” actually means “The Meadows.” It was so named by an 1829 trading party scout, Rafael Rivera, for the green oases in the Las Vegas valley fed by natural aquifers.
More than a decade ago, the Las Vegas Valley Water District embarked on a project to create a 180-acre community sanctuary for local flora and fauna, water conservation, green living and historical preservation. The LEED platinum facility includes gardens, museums, indoor and outdoor event spaces, and a restaurant, along with amazing views of the Las Vegas strip.
The Preserve’s website explains, “The ORIGEN Experience, Guest Services building and the five buildings that comprise the Desert Living Center all incorporate environmental and sustainable design standards, construction techniques and building materials.” Its sustainable features include: “149,560 square feet of platinum LEED buildings; more than 2,200 photovoltaic arrays [that] provide covered parking and generate approximately 75 percent of the site’s power; evaporative cooling towers; straw bale insulation; rammed earth walls.” http://www.springspreserve.org
The venue hosts many of its own signature events throughout the year. In addition, it makes its many unique meeting and event spaces available to groups who wish to host their affairs in a green setting and with the support of sustainable services.
Venues include The Gardens amphitheater with seating for up to 500, the spacious, naturally lit Origen Museum gallery, perfect for business mixers or social occasions, an indoor theater that seats 156, and an outdoor demo-kitchen area which can accommodate 35 people, just to name a few. Conference rooms are also available in varying sizes and boast state-of-the-art audio visual amenities.
The Springs Preserve offers meeting planners numerous out-of-the-box alternatives for event programming. If you are planning your event elsewhere but would like an opportunity to get your group outside for a break, the Preserve offers four guided group tours, including: Archaeology/History Tour; Gardens Tour; Springs Preserve Overview Tour; and Sustainability Tour. The 3.65 total miles of trails are spread over 110 acres and may also be explored independently. Beginning in January 2012, visitors have the option of renting bikes to explore the trails.
The venue also presents “team building activities, motivational workshops, educational speakers and quality event entertainment” that can be booked as stand-alone activities or in conjunction with an on-site event.
For those groups who may be traveling with families, the Preserve offers many activities for children. Inside the Desert Living Center, they can play in the Compost Crawl and Garbage Truck Theater. In the Origen Museum, they can view the film, “Miracle in the Mojave” to learn about the region’s natural history, or watch indigenous animals like Gila Monsters and Pocket Gophers in living habitats. The Nevada State Museum offers thrills like witnessing an atomic explosion and standing face-to-face with the skeleton of an Ichthyosaur.
The Springs Preserve holds itself out as a unique wedding destination in Las Vegas. It proffers a variety of wedding packages and sustainable options for everything from catering to floral arrangements. Venues are available both indoors and outdoors to accommodate small to large affairs.
It is a singular experience to sit on the patio at the Springs Café and witness Las Vegas’ distinct skyline beyond the desert gardens. Green is truly wherever you find it.
Green Tip for February:
February 2 is World Wetlands Day. This year’s theme is Wetlands and Tourism. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has partnered with the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands to prepare a brochure for WWD 2012 on wetlands and sustainable tourism. Download the brochure at http://www.ramsar.org.
Las Vegas now boasts its own Wetlands Park Nature Preserve on the East side of the valley, featuring two miles of paved walking trails and facilities for picnics and gatherings. Groups should contact the Wetlands Information Center a month in advance for reservations (702-455-7522).