Whinnies of anticipation can often be heard from the stables of Mount Charleston Trail Rides, where well-mannered horses and ponies wait to ferry riders down trails flanked by whistling ponderosa pines, junipers, and aspens. Led by cowboy guides, small groups hop into saddles and embark on scenic explorations of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and its surrounding areas. With crisp air that normally averages 30 degrees cooler than the Las Vegas Valley, the foothills and canyons offer a welcome respite from the heat of the desert. When the temperatures dip too low for horseback rides, the ranch keeps its trusty steeds busy with carriage rides, sleigh rides, and a Sadie Hawkins dance with unicorns from the neighboring forest.
Located just three miles from the Las Vegas Strip, more than 1,200 species of native-Mojave and desert-adapted plants take root along the gardens and trails at The Springs Preserve, a 180-acre refuge for flora and fauna including decades-old trees and native cacti and Yucca saved from residential and commercial development projects. As cottontails, gila monsters, and foxes dart between the plants at their new home, a faculty of guides and instructors lead tours and interactive workshops throughout the interactive exhibits, botanical gardens, and hiking trails located in the certified wildlife habitat. Indoor exhibits include art galleries, on-site learning centers, interactive museum exhibits, and the Springs Cafe. The centerpiece of the Preserve is the Desert Living Center. All seven buildings are LEED-certified Platinum for energy-efficient design and showcase a variety of preservation techniques in action, including a house made out of sustainable material and displays on how to shop intelligently. Guests can explore the botanical and herb gardens while also learning about composting or how to enhance their homes with water-smart landscaping. The Springs Preserve also hosts a number of seasonal events including concerts and art shows.
Las Vegas doesn't necessarily have a reputation for high culture, but the founders of the Las Vegas Philharmonic showed they were serious from their very first concert. In 1999, the orchestra debuted with Mahler's Resurrection Symphony, a demanding work with unusual instrumentation that can stretch up to 90 minutes in length. "As far as we know, this is the largest staging of a classical music piece in the city's history," cofounder Harold Weller told the Review-Journal of the 260-musician production. In the decade-plus since then, the Philharmonic has continued its record of accessible ambition with a pops series, live accompaniment to silent films, and collaborations with superstars such as Sarah Brightman, Placido Domingo, and Andrea Bocelli.
In 2012, the orchestra moved into The Smith Center, a brand new cultural center built from 2,458 tons of Indiana limestone and crowned by an art-deco-style carillon tower that holds 47 bells. Inside the theater, streamlined chandeliers evoke 1920s elegance, and a wide, palm-tree-flanked lawn frames the massive building with enough space for outdoor spectacles and double dates with other orchestras.