The wildest part of Las Vegas isn't necessarily the nightlife.
Right on the Las Vegas Strip is an attraction that defines wild in Vegas in a whole new way. Welcome to Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage Hotel & Casino where white tigers and lions, leopards and dolphins enjoy the Vegas sun and a posh resort like the millions of human tourists who visit the city each year.
The facility, which opened in 1990, is the dream of legendary magicians Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn, better known to millions as Siegfried & Roy. For years the duo has worked to help save endangered animals, primarily white tigers and lions.
The Secret Garden
If you loved collecting those big, cuddly stuffed animals as a kid, then visiting the Secret Garden at the Mirage is a dream come true. Here you can see your furry friends come to life within the lush surroundings of the habitat.
The beautiful attraction displays six different showcases of white tigers and lions, as well as leopards. But the majority of these cats aren't like the typical wild animals you see.
"These are some of the most impressive cats I've ever seen," said Dave Blasko, director of animal care at The Secret Garden. "People come from all over the world to see them."
The Secret Garden stands out from other animal habitats because it features white striped tigers as well as snow white ones. With their distinctive fur color and crystal blue eyes, the cats almost seem unreal.
For more than 20 years, Siegfried and Roy dedicated their time in preserving these rare and exotic breeds. Not only does the Secret Garden preserve these animals from extinction, but visitors also have the opportunity to gain a better understanding and awareness about them.
As you meander through the habitat, you'll notice all the lush greenery, fun, jungle-themed music and even a towering lion figure made from plants. Some of the cats even have built-in waterfalls in their resting areas. You'll also discover fun facts about the animals written on plaques spread throughout the facility. For instance, female lions do most of the hunting while the male lion watches over the pride. Also, tigers actually enjoy swimming.
"Tigers are one of the few cats who like water," said Blasko.
If you want to take some of the wildlife back home with you, the gift shop at the Secret Garden offers souvenirs.
Together with its lush foliage and gorgeous waterfalls, the Secret Garden is the ideal place to visit any time of the year. With all its trees and tropical surroundings, you'll literally feel like you're in another country.
The Dolphin Habitat
Surrounded by palm trees, lush foliage and 2.1 million gallons of water, the Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage is truly an oasis on the Las Vegas Strip. Whether the bottlenose dolphins who call the habitat home are swimming, "tail walking" across water, catching fish or bonding with each other, you'll get an up-close and personal look at their fun, intriguing lifestyle.
While many people think of Sea World when they think of dolphins, many don't realize that they can see the creatures right in the midst of the Las Vegas desert. The Dolphin Habitat is a research facility and is also designed to educate people about these amazing animals. And while the dolphins don't perform on a regular schedule, visitors can still be surprised by their natural playfulness.
Exercising is also very vital to the dolphins' health. When the trainers aren't exercising or having fun with the dolphins, they conduct regular check-ups to ensure that they're healthy.
The Dolphin Habitat offers an underwater viewing area. But if you're trying to take a picture of the dolphins, it can get a little tricky. Since these dolphins are so swift and playful, you may find yourself running back and forth to capture the perfect photo.
The habitat also features shaded seating, a café and a gift shop filled with memorabilia including plush dolphin toys and even dolphin-shaped water guns.
Dolphin Habitat visitors who wish to get a little more involved with the animals can choose from a couple different programs. Painting With the Dolphins allows you to create a mammal masterpiece. Available from noon to 3:30 p.m. daily, you will get up close and personal with a dolphin as you collaborate on creating an original piece of art. Cost of $199 includes price of admission, your unique masterpiece, a certificate and a photograph of the experience.
The Trainer for a Day program, meanwhile, is an all-day activity allowing guests slip into a wetsuit and get up close to the dolphins. From 9:45 a.m. - 3:15 p.m. you will interact with and feed the dolphins while accompanied by habitat staff. A staff member will snap photos of your experience throughout this this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. At the end of the day, your photos will be put on a CD for you to take home as a one-of-a-kind souvenir. Price varies between $495 and $595 depending on the season, with a four person maximum. Call (702) 792-7889 for more information or to make reservations.
Whether you come to see the dolphins or some of the rarest white tigers and lions in the world, The Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat may prove to be the wildest moment on your Vegas trip.