Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sin City treat: Stop in at Flamingo Hotel's unique wildlife habitat

A red-crested pochard is among dozens of exotic birds at the Flamingo Hotel on the Las Vegas strip, a wildlife oasis.  


A flightless pelican -- wounded by fishing line and unable to fly --
is among pampered guests at the Flamingo's wildlife habitat.
These unusual Asian white-faced
 ducks whistle not quack.

You'll see flamingos in the art at the legendary hotel -- and in the bird habitat.
THE BEST KEPT secret on the Las Vegas strip is not the view from a fancy hotel.
It's not a fabulous meal in a little known bistro.
It's not a two-for-one show ticket or a $3 blackjack table.
It's a fantastic wildlife habitat in the Flamingo Hotel.
The famed Las Vegas strip is just steps away from the Flamingo's
wildlife habitat -- and the fabled, much newer High Roller wheel. 
The charming hotel -- our favorite through many years of staying in Sin City, a town we love -- is the one with the familiar flamingo motif.  It was founded by the legendary Bugsy Siegel -- gambler, ladies man and improviser.  He's known as the man who invented Las Vegas, and he loved flamingos.
"WE DIDN'T build on the strip," a veteran bartender told us. "The strip was created around the Flamingo."
It's true.  Siegel, the visionary entrepreneur who lit up the desert with his casino concept, is memorialized on a bronze plaque near the hotel's charming little chapel. The remembrance is surrounded by flamingos, rare Asian and South American waterfowl and even a pelican who can no longer fly and is fed and pampered by the habitat's staff.
Both a morning and afternoon feeding and talk are offered free to the public.  We chose an afternoon session and thoroughly enjoyed it.
AFTERWARDS, WE caught up to congenial and devoted naturalist Lori Miller while she continued feeding the birds. She and two other bird tenders talks to guests, answers questions and explain feeding and care of the exotic and beautiful creatures in their care.
Naturalist Lori Miller is one of three trained professionals caring for
the birds and fish at the Flamingo Hotel's unique and lovely Habitat.
One of the city's most unique and beloved attractions, the Flamingo's Wildlife Habitat even has a wing in the hotel named after it:  We always ask for the Habitat wing, and that's where we stay.
WE ENJOY IT because we can view the lush habitat from our 15th or 20th story room.  We also love the hotel's dog friendly atmosphere. Well behaved pets are welcome and fellow guests are also animal lovers.  They clean up after their pets and use the pet run area, which like all of the hotel is nicely landscaped.
ON THE HIGH Roller wheel, we loved gazing down at the habitat -- an oasis of calm among the skyscrapers and busy streets.
Parents bring their children to enjoy the waterfowl, and to
stroll around lushly landscaped gardens, pools and ponds.
In a city where price tags can get exorbitant, the habitat is free. No admission charge.
People come from other nearby hotels to enjoy it, as it is open to the public and draws from the nearby Linq, Mirage, Harrah's, Caesar's, Planet Hollywood, Bally's and other top Vegas hotels.
WE MET guests from Germany, Italy and Australia  during our recent four days, and from a dozen U.S. states.
Nestled on the Flamingo's lush 15-acre grounds, the habitat is stocked with exotic birds, fish and sunbathing turtles.
Flamingos gave the Flamingo Hotel its name
and live on a lush island in the habitat.

A highlight of the habitat is "Flamingo Island," home to an impressive flock of Chilean flamingos.  The long-necked coral colored bird is the hotel's signature bird and inspiration for the name of the 1947 property.
The flamingos' supporting cast is a colorful collection of other feathered friends from around the world, including ring-tealed ducks and sacred ibis.  Guests of all ages stand and sit in fascination, watching the birds.  Seeing people and birds peacefully co-existing is a singular pleasure to staying in perhaps the most tranquil spot in Las Vegas.
 WHILE THE FLAMINGOS  preen on a single leg during the changing sunlight,  across the way, you'll enjoy  

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 black-necked swans, many kinds of ducks, koi and carp.
Miller told us that some of the carp weigh in at 50 and 60 pounds.  They're huge.
The Flamingo at night is a blaze of glorious color.
Migrating birds are also frequent visitors at the habitat, as well as four kinds of hummingbirds, attracted by the feeders kept in pristine condition by the naturalists.
A beautiful brown pelican -- unable to fly because of injuries -- joined the hotel's habitat three years ago, rescued in 2012 from a tangle of fishing line and hooks on a nearby bay.
We savored the hummingbirds zipping to their feeders, took photos of the signature flamingos and watched the water animals at feeding time. The habitat is an idyllic stop among the buzzing city boulevard and Linq district steps away.
The habitat's black-necked swan has a distinctive red growth on his bill.
MILLER SAID that all animals are carefully maintained.  A group of lively, squawking parrots is kept in another area, not far from the habitat.  Guests are welcome to enjoy them, pose for photos with them and contribute to the habitat by purchasing the photos.
What charmed us most about the place is the artful integration of landscaping and critters -- birds fly in and out and putz around in the water, enjoying elegant little islands, streams and waterfalls. The birds seem to know they live in hallowed ground, just yards from the asphalt, neon and high rise hotels of Vegas fame.
IT'S A MUCH loved place to slow down after a session of gambling, drinking, dining or otherwise carousing and over-indulging in one of our favorite towns.

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Melbourne's alleys, streets are artfully adorned by residents.  
COMING UP: We find hidden secrets, stunning artwork and surprising talent in the alleys and secret corners of Melbourne, Australia.  In a unique tradition encouraged by city officials, artists are welcome to paint, improvise, create in this delightful city Down Under. Remember to explore, learn and live, and check us out here Wednesdays for travel tips, hotels, restaurants, cruising and nature pieces:  www.whereiscookie.com

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