Vegas gone wild

The wildest part of Las Vegas isn’t exactly its crazy nightlife scene.

If you really want to get wild in Las Vegas, come and hang out with the city’s real party animals. You’ll be surprised that you can see sharks, flamingos, dolphins and wildcats all on the Las Vegas Strip. Since the hotels housing these animals are not too far from one another, you can actually see them all in one day if you wanted to.

So bring out your animal side and make it a really wild trip — if you dare.

The Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, Mirage

dolphinThis is certainly one of my favorite wildlife attractions on the Las Vegas Strip. Where else can you see fun and playful dolphins and a variety of wild cats, just steps away from each other? Sure, you can see dolphins at Sea World and lions and tigers at the zoo, but seeing them in Vegas adds to your vacation. Plus, you won’t tire yourself out from all the walking at bigger facilities.

At the dolphin habitat, you’ll see Atlantic bottlenose dolphins swimming, “tail walking” across water, catching fish or bonding. These sociable creatures also like to shake their heads, flap their fins and even come up to you because they’re curious. I want to take one of these guys home and put them in my pool.

Dolphin lovers can delight in the facility’s “Trainer for a Day” program. Slip into a wetsuit and spend all day with these fun-loving animals. There is also a VIP tour available. You’ll be able to take a picture with a dolphin and get a behind-the-scenes tour of what goes into taking care of them.

Make sure to check out K2, the newest addition to the dolphin family.

Just steps away from the Dolphin Habitat, enter the world of beautiful wildcats at The Secret Garden.

white_tigerThe attraction showcase of lions, tigers and leopards. Whenever I come in here, I feel like I’m seeing a collection of stuffed animals, but only bigger and real. You’ll see black and white striped tigers as well as pure white ones.

You’ll also discover fun facts about the animals written on plaques spread throughout the facility.

I like to coming here when it’s closer to nighttime — that’s when the cats really come out and play. I’ve noticed the times when I went during the day, they were either sleeping or just sat there.

The Shark ReefMandalay Bay

Jaws: Eat your heart out.

The Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay features more than 1,200 species of marine life including sharks, exotic fresh and saltwater fish, a 300-pound sea turtle and much more.

Sharks include the nurse shark and tiger-striped shark, which both measure up to nine feet long. You’ll also see two tiger sharks, which measure more than six feet in length.

The Shark Reef is also home to a handful of unique looking sea creatures. These include chunky, colorful catfish and saw fish (with a nose that looks like a chainsaw!). The aquarium also houses piranhas. While I wouldn’t be first in line to pet these guys, you can pet various stingrays, eels and crabs at the touch pool.

One of the more recent additions is the live female bowmouth guitarfish. The 5-foot, 90-pound shark ray is one of only a dozen featured in aquariums throughout the United States.

Lion Habitat, MGM Grand

lionIt’s one thing to house more than one cat, but it’s a completely different story when you have lions.

At MGM Grand, you’ll get an up-close view of these furry felines. While these African lions are behind a soundproof glass window, you still get a rush being so close to them.

The habitat showcases two to three lions at a time. The caretakers rotate the lions a couple of times a day, so you’ll always see a different set. When the lions aren’t at MGM, they roam free at a ranch handled by Keith Evans, an exotic animal trainer with almost three decades of experience.

While you’re checking out Mufasa, Simba and Nala (probably not their real names, but I’d like to pretend that they are), there are placards around the habitat sharing lion trivia. For instance, I never knew lions like to eat together in groups, just like us. They actually run quite fast (40 miles per hour) — I just thought they slept and were good at hiding and pouncing.

Wildlife Habitat, Flamingo

Located next to the Flamingo’s pool area, the Wildlife Habitat at the Flamingo makes you feel like you’re in the tropics — even during our brisk winter temperatures.

The Wildlife Habitat features Chilean flamingos, Impeyn and silver pheasants, Gambel’s quail, a Crown crane, two ibis, swans, ducks and parrots. You’ll also see turtles and koi fish, too.

As you stroll through the garden, enjoy all the greenery including pines and palm trees, as well as ponds and waterfalls.

Whether these animals are roaming in lush greenery or swimming about in massive aquariums, the Las Vegas Strip has enough wildlife to make up a zoo. In addition, these places have souvenir shops so you can bring home memories.


Most folks take their Vegas jackpot winnings back home, but my dad decided to stay here instead. That’s how I left Seattle almost 20 years ago. I moved from greenery and rainy days to hot summers, palm trees and desert. As much as I love my hometown, I decided to stick around Vegas. This city just has so much to offer. You don’t even have to be a gambler, bar hopper or an all-night partier. I love Vegas for its awesome vegan-friendly spots, concerts, swanky hotel suites and spas so big, they’re like castles. The pool scene is not too shabby either, which is why I love taking stay-cations. Besides living it up -- Vegas style -- I’m hanging out with my handsome hubby, adorable baby girl, two cats and super-fluffy Shih-Tzu. I’m also a huge fan of '90s music, shows and movies. You can find me on Google+ and Twitter.