Las Vegas also caters to kids

Associated Press

A statue of Roy Horn and Siegfried Fisbacher, well-known Las Vegas entertainers with their Siegfried and Roy magical act, stands in front of the Mirage Hotel Casino. Their act ended in 2003, when Horn was attacked by one of the tigers on stage.

Bob Retzlaff,

It’s feeding time for a frisky dolphin at Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage in Las Vegas.

Youngsters get a close-up view of a dolphin through the glass of a giant aquarium.


By Bob Retzlaff

LAS VEGAS — If you’re here with your family and can stray from the tables and slots for an afternoon or so, there are a host of attractions that you and the rest of your family can experience and enjoy.

While Las Vegas is primarily for adults, the youngsters — the under-21 set who can’t frequent the casinos — and other non-gamblers can enjoy their stay, too. After all, Las Vegas does attract some 4 million of the younger set annually — 10 percent of the city’s annual visitor total — reports the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

High on the list of attractions for the youngsters — and others, too — are the various animal and marine habitats that, in some cases, are only steps away from the casino. They are educational, too.

We’ve visited several, and the most enticing in our view is Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage Hotel-Casino.

It’s a diversified animal fix, in the view of Travel Agent Magazine, and the Secret Garden is one of the most noteworthy attractions. It’s a lush jungle setting that features black panthers, golden tigers, leopards, lions and Siegfried and Roy’s famous white tigers. There’s a four-ton elephant, too.

The most sought-after sight at the Dolphin Habitat is Sgt. Pepper, a male calf born a few months ago to his mother, Duchess, a 30-year-old bottlenose dolphin. He enjoys his audiences — particularly the younger kids — and puts on a show whenever he is in view.


The habitat is an impressive facility — a 2.5 million-gallon complex of linked pools with a sand floor and artificial coral reef designed to mimic the bottlenose dolphins’ natural habitat. Most of the dolphins were born there, and they regularly perform tricks, from jumping through hoops to tail-walking.

Onlookers often gaze in wonderment at the intelligence of the fast-moving dolphins, which can swim at speeds up to 22 mph. The reason, say habitat officials, is that they use "echolocation," and have the ability to locate objects by emitting sound waves and interpreting the resulting echo. This system of sonar allows a dolphin to "see" without using its eyes. Dolphins use echolocation to navigate and to find food; they can use echolocation on objects two inches or smaller, up to 650 feet away.

The Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat is a tribute to the amazing magical duo of Siegfried and Roy, who performed in Las Vegas for some 30 years, mostly at the Mirage, where they performed for millions of show-goers — more than any other Vegas entertainers.

Their performances ended in October 2003, when Roy was attacked by a white tiger that was a part of the act; Roy nearly died.

There are certainly many other attractions that appeal to the younger set, and adults as well in some cases. We’ve visited several, including the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef, which contains almost 2 million gallons of water. Inside are 1,200 species of sharks, sea turtles and exotic fish.

Among the most amazing creatures are five rare, golden crocodiles with a male water monitor — a cousin of the komodo dragon, notes MCT News Service. There’s also an exhibit of piranhas.

Circus Circus, a standby for our family when the kids were growing up, offers Adventuredome, an indoor amusement park stretching across 5 1⁄2 acres. There’s the Canyon Blaster, a 90-foot-high roller coaster, and Chaos, a Tilt-a- Whirl. Younger kids can ride Miner Mike, the train.

It’s hard to beat Las Vegas as a family destination — it has something for everyone.


• Flying from Rochester is growing in popularity — page F5

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