Enjoying Shelby Cars and the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas
I enjoy spending a weekend in Vegas but not for the reason most people do. I actually abhor the Strip. I’m not into gambling, I don’t drink a lot and I don’t really party. I like Vegas because it’s an utterly unique city that is so much more than casinos and clubs. Every time I visit I try to seek out its less touristy aspects and on a recent trip I discovered two more under the radar spots – the Shelby Heritage Center and the Springs Preserve.
If you’re into auto racing Carroll Shelby is an absolute legend but if you’re not, like me, you probably have no idea who he is. Before my trip I was looking up off the beaten spots in Vegas when I learned about the Shelby Heritage Center and what drew my eye had nothing to do with racing. I love visiting factories. Whether it’s a tour or just a stop at the gift shop I love discovering where things are made and the center just happens to be adjacent to the Shelby car production facility. Plus, admission is free which is always nice.
Located just south of the Strip the Shelby Heritage Center is a perfect first stop once you hit the city. I did just that when I visited and, though it was a weekday, I found the place filled with racing enthusiasts. Maybe it’s not such an under the radar spot.
If you’re like me and think you know nothing about Carroll Shelby the center will fill you in. Once I arrived I immediately realized I had heard of him as he was the subject of the Matt Damon and Christian Bale movie Ford v Ferrari. In a nutshell, he was an auto racer and car designer who created the famed Cobra along with several other sports cars.
At the Shelby Heritage Center you can find a number of these cars on display. All in tip top condition they showcase the incredible workmanship he put into his vehicles. That workmanship continues to this day at Shelby Automotive which is just next door. In fact, you can view the production floor through picture windows and, on certain days, you can even take a tour.
If you want to take home a piece of automotive history there’s a giant gift shop with a wide variety of Shelby merchandise and I couldn’t resist grabbing a little something for myself. The heritage center was just right for my first stop in Vegas and my last stop would prove to be just as enjoyable.
Springs Preserve is located well off the Strip and is a 180 acre site that features two museums, a botanical garden and so much more. It’s also a national historic site as it’s the location of a spring that was the original source of water for the indigenous inhabitants of the area.
The day I visited, the weather happened to be in the triple digits so all of the outdoor activities were off the table. I did manage a short stroll through the botanical gardens and I so appreciated the landscape that I hope to return one day when the weather is cooler.
Although I was limited to indoor activities I still had plenty to see thanks to the two museums onsite – the Origen and the Nevada State Museum. I’d be hard pressed to tell you what differentiates the two as they both focus on the history of the state although the Origen’s exhibitions are more interactive while the Nevada State Museum has a more traditional layout.
At the Origen I enjoyed strolling through a rail car, witnessing a recreation of the 1905 land auction that helped create Las Vegas and experiencing a Mojave Desert flash flood among many other things.
The Nevada State Museum contains many artifacts that help tell the story of the state from prehistoric times to the present. As I happen to be particularly fond of old Las Vegas (“old” as in the Rat Pack era) I especially enjoyed the exhibit devoted to it.
I’ve long heard family tales of visiting Vegas when it was a neon wonderland filled with 99 cent breakfasts, cheap slots and swingin’ stars on the hotel marquee so it was fun to see a number of mementos from the era.
Thanks to the Shelby Heritage Center and the Springs Preserve I was able to uncover more of the hidden Las Vegas. The city is so much more than its casinos and clubs and I’m lucky that it’s close enough for a quick trip. Even though I’ve seen a lot I know it’s just the tip of the iceberg and I can’t wait to return to see what other hidden gems I can uncover.