A Pre-Christmas Family Visit to Las Vegas – Part One

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had friends comment to me that they had never thought of Las Vegas as a family-friendly vacation spot. One, in particular, was amazed to see our vacation photos from Death Valley National Park and Red Rock Canyon. She is an avid hiker and had never thought of the southern Nevada area as an area that she would enjoy.

We have other friends who like to keep Las Vegas to themselves, a weekend getaway spot for the grown-ups. I can understand that. Hubby and I like to escape the cold and head to Vegas ourselves. We aren’t big gamblers but we love the variety of restaurants and entertainment we find there.

We decided to take our grandson for a pre-Christmas visit this year. It gave him an opportunity to visit with friends (their mom has known his mom since they were little) and to check out some of the many holiday activities and displays the area has to offer. We also planned museum visits that fit in with our homeschool lessons.

Even though we tried to limit our books this trip we still needed
two luggage carts to carry everything up to our room

We arrived at the Best Western in Henderson to find we’d been upgraded to a suite. This is always a pleasant surprise since it gives us much more room to spread out. The hotel was located just off the St. Rose Parkway so it was handy and quieter than staying closer to the Strip. Henderson is also closer to Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, very handy for sightseeing.

Day one saw us sticking close to our room doing our lessons. It was nice after three days in the car and helped us organize things for the rest of our stay. We did take a break to visit the pool and visit one of our favorite restaurants, Lindo Michoacan (the La Loma location was only a short drive from our hotel and offers a great view of Las Vegas and The Strip).

Who can resist sharing a delicious dessert

Hubby and I discovered this restaurant on a visit a few years ago and have added it as a must do whenever we are in the area. The only drawback is that there are so many choices I have a tough time figuring out what to order! (For my meal that is, dessert is always Mexican Fried Ice Cream!)

After speaking to some folks at the Nevada Southern Railroad Museum, we decided to stay in Boulder City for the weekend so we could attend their Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and Santa Claus Parade the next night. We were able to adjust our reservation and moved to the Best Western in Boulder City for the two nights. It was the perfect location, walking distance to the tree lighting and the parade passed right in front of the hotel. It’s an older property but our room was nice and clean and they have an indoor pool.

EJ had fun watching and taking pictures of the parade
Boulder City is a great location for family travel. Close to the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead National Recreation Area, this location is perfect as a base for outdoor activities. Arriving early on Friday, we visited Lake Mead where EJ learned about the history and environment of the area as he earned his Junior Ranger Badge. (We like to incorporate the junior ranger booklets with our lessons since they cover a lot of good information about the area we are visiting.)

Learning about the ecosystem of the Lake Mead area

After leaving the Visitor Center, we decided to have a picnic on the edge of the lake. There were very few people out that day and all of the picnic areas were quite far from the water so we improvised…our dashboard served the purpose!

Peanut butter and jam sandwiches…life is good

The weather was sunny and warm, perfect for a walk along the water’s edge. Although the water level rose slightly from 2016, the “bathtub ring” shows clearly just how far it has fallen through many years of drought in the area.

Spending a sunny afternoon at the beach

It’s amazing how different things look now than when we visited Lake Mead on our honeymoon in 1980 when it was at almost full capacity (about twice as much as today I believe).

Heading back to hotel EJ had a ton of questions about why the water is so low now and what could be done to help it fill again. Travel is a great way to ignite a child’s interest in learning!
We arrived back at our hotel in time for the Christmas Tree lighting at the park nearby and then decided to bring Jack-in-the-Box back to our room for supper (we don’t have this at home in Canada so it’s a treat when we travel).

Next morning we had time for some math and spelling work before heading off to the railway museum. Hubby had arranged for he and EJ to ride up in the engine on the Santa Train (he’s a locomotive engineer) so we wanted to arrive in plenty of time.

EJ didn’t suspect a thing although he was wondering why we weren’t lining up to board the train. His papa kept him busy explaining how the wheels and breaks worked on the engine. Much more fun than reading about it in a book 🙂

When the conductor called “All aboard!” EJ got his surprise as the engineer invited him to climb up on the engine. He was super excited and trying to take everything in at once.

Riding the engine on the Santa Train

The guys had a great time running the train through the desert terrain (so different from the Rocky Mountain run hubby has a home) and speaking with the crew. It sounds like the train run will be getting longer once all the road construction is done in the area but the distance didn’t dampen our young man’s enthusiasm one bit. He came bounding down the steps, asking if I had heard the bells ringing – “That was me! I got to blow the horn too!”

The Nevada Southern Railway Museum is definitely worth the stop if you have any train fans in your family. We spent some time checking out some of the other cars and the shop area before heading off for lunch and an afternoon swim back at the hotel. 

The guys wanted to be sure of a good spot for Santa’s Electric Night Parade so they grabbed blankets and snacks and found a place for us on the planter wall in front of the hotel. By the time I came down from the room the streets were filled with families waiting for the first set of lights signaling the start of the parade. 

I was surprised at how many entries there were in the parade, including the fan favorite Star Wars Speeder. Note the kids having fun joining in with their lightsabers on the side of the street!

There was time for a quick supper and a call home before bed since we planned an early start for Hoover Dam the next morning.

Hoover Dam and the new bypass highway

Sadly, we arrived at the dam to find out they were having trouble with the elevators so there were no tours that day so we had to settle for a walk across instead (parking is still free in spots on the Arizona side).

Since we finished early at the dam we decided to stop for brunch at one of the local diners we had heard about in Boulder City. 

The Southwest Diner is a tiny place and we expected a wait but were lucky and found a table right away. It was tough to decide on what to order as we watched heaping plates pass by our table (the pancakes are enormous!) but I finally settled on my staple clubhouse sandwich (I was torn between it and the Avocado BLT). I order these everywhere we go and everyone has their own take on it. Les’ Club was fairly standard but boasted a generous portion of roasted turkey breast along with crispy bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. A definite will order this again sandwich.

Les’ Club and fries

EJ was happy with his breakfast from the kid’s menu and hubby’s only complaint was the large portion of corned beef hash was too large to finish. This diner is worth a visit.

Our visit to Boulder City was at an end. We headed back to Henderson for the remainder of our visit and more pre-Christmas fun that I’ll share with you in part two of my post.

The Southwest Diner in Boulder City Nevada

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