The Other Las Vegas

When President Bush spoke of "family values" in the early 90s, the city of Las Vegas was listening.

No longer limited to casinos and floor shows, the town has added an abundance of activities for toddlers and teens to enjoy.

Glitter City Luxor, Excalibur, the MGM Grand, Caesars Palace, the Mirage, Treasure Island and Grand Slam at Circus Circus are just a few of the family adventures to be enjoyed on the famous Las Vegas Strip.

The pyramid-shaped Lux or Las Vegas - our first stop - was inspired by the 3,000-year-old Temple of Luxor on the River Nile, built by the pharaoh Amenhotep and dedicated to the sun god, Amon-Re.

The Luxor structure was designed to suggest an archaeological dig where ancient Egypt's relics are revealed as if recently excavated. Features include a needle-shaped monument covered with hieroglyphics - contrived after an ancient obelisk discovered at the Temple of Karnak in Egypt's Valley of Kings, the River Nile Tour, and King Tut's Tomb.

A short walk from the pyramid, on the southwest corner of Tropicana Avenue and the Strip, stands Excalibur - a medieval realm of knights and ladies, minstrels and jugglers.

This castle's main event is King Arthur's Tournament. Staged twice nightly, the combat involves armored knights on horseback testing their skill with sword and lance. Dinner is served medieval style.

The story: Jeffrey, a young man, falls asleep on the English countryside. While he sleeps, Merlin the Magician transforms him into the White Knight. As the newest member of the Round Table, Jeffrey attends an elaborate tournament staged before King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. Other castle attractions include the Medieval Village and Merlin and the Dragon.

On the Strip's northeast corner at Tropicana Avenue, lies the 112-acre MGM Grand. Follow the yellow brick road from the sidewalk, between the paws of the eight-foot-tall MGM lion, to the land of Oz.

Inside a seven-story representation of the Emerald City are Dorothy and ToTo, the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man - all as seen in the MGM classic, The Wizard of Oz.

In MGM's Grand Adventure's Theme Park, located behind the casino complex, families will discover action rides, simulated-motion theaters, arcades, shops, restaurants and movie-set replicas of exotic street scenes from around the world.

On the long block between Fla-mingo and Spring Mountain Roads, visitors will find Caesars Palace, the Mirage and Treasure Island.

Opened in August 1966, Caesars Palace reportedly attracts an estimated 13 million visitors each year. Built in the days when Las Vegas ignored families, Caesars was de-signed for adult tastes. However, a stroll through the hotel may be en-tertaining nonetheless.

Caesars displays Roman architecture, scaled-down replicas of historical landmarks such as the Forum, the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill, as well as copies of famous statues like Michelangelo's David.

Take Caesars' moving walkway into the Mirage's south entrance. Created as a Polynesian paradise, the building contains waterfalls, lagoons, jungle greenery and a man-made, 54-foot volcano, which erupts every 15 minutes from dusk till midnight.

Also, don't miss the White Bengal Tigers with the famous illusionists, Siegfried and Roy, at the Theatre Mirage or in their climate-controlled habitat located near the south entrance.

In addition, visit the Mirage's outdoor dolphin habitat, de-veloped as an environmental education program in conjunction with the Clark County school system. Trained naturalists describe the mammals, their origins and habits and teach visitors the Mirage's dolphin policy: take no dolphins from the wild.

The habitat's five original adult dolphins reportedly were already in captivity before coming to Las Vegas. Two others were born here; those interested may watch a video of their birth.

Exit the Mirage's main entrance and turn left, hop a trolley and ride till you reach Treasure Island. Inside at Buccaneer Bay, two ships are firing cannons as pirates swing from ropes, fall from tall masts and jump into the water. The battle rages until one ship is sunk and the other is a battered, broken hull. Treas-ure Island also has its own 1,500-seat showroom which features Mystere, an elaborate spectacle staged by Cirque de Soleil, a French-Ca-nadian circus company from Montreal.

Heading north on the Strip, in the neighborhood of the two-mile stretch between Spring Mountain Road and Sahara Avenue, adventurers will find Grand Slam Canyon at Circus Cir-cus.

Under an enormous pink dome, Grand Slam is an amusement park designed to reflect the southwestern canyon country's evolution, from the dinosaur age to the present.

Indoor winding paths lead visitors through narrow passes, tunnels, sandstone, grottos and caves. Also, a 68-foot waterfall cascades from the top of an indoor mountain.

In addition, head along the Pas-sage of Time where murals depict the evolution of dinosaurs.

Finally, visit the roller coaster, Canyon Blastor - the park's main attraction, with double loops and steep drops. It's a thrill ride not recommended for very young children (a child must be 48 inches tall to ride).

Jurassic Rock On the western horizon, the 50-mile-long Spring Mountain Range is visible from the city. The range's most prominent peak, Mt. Charles-ton, rises 11,918 feet above sea level and is a short 35-miles from the city.

The lower peaks to the left of Mt. Charleston surround Red Rock Canyon. Roamed by dinosaurs in days past, the canyon is located in the Mohave Desert and is less than an hour's drive from Las Vegas.

From the Strip, take Interstate 15 to Charleston Avenue Boulevard. (which becomes State Route 159) and head west into Red Rock Can-yon (pictured on page 111).

On Nevada's 130th birthday, October 31, 1994, President Clinton added 112,000 acres to the park, bringing the Red Rock Canyon Na-tional Conservation Area to a total of more than 195,000 acres.

Although the name "Red Rock" speaks for itself, expect to see other dramatic colors including pink, or-ange and yellow cliffs, known as the Calico Hills. Higher mountains in the distance appear striped, with layers of gray on top of the red.

Red Rock Canyon's Visit-or Center is located just past the Red Springs picnic area. Inside are exhibits tracing the land's geological history, describing how the area might have looked hundreds of millions of years ago. Illustrated charts depict animals and plants at various stages of evolution, from primitive sea creatures to to-day's lizards and coyotes. In addition, one exhibit explains the rocks' colors - iron deposits.

Other attractions include the Lost Creek Children's Discovery Trail, Sandstone Quarry and the Keystone Thrust Fault.

Head For The Border Located on the Arizona-Nevada border, 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas along U.S. Highway 93, is the Hoover Dam.

Built during the Great Depression and containing 7 million tons of concrete (reportedly enough to pave a two-lane highway from Miami to Los Angeles), the dam is considered to be an "engineering wonder." Exactly 726.4 feet high, looking down from the top is similar to being on the roof of a 50-story sky-scraper.

Tourists can take an elevator to the dam's interior and a guide will lead them into chambers, where towering turbines generate enough electric power to serve three states. A de-tailed history of the Hoover Dam also is included. Tour tickets may be purchased at the Visitor Center.

From ancient Egypt and King Arthur's Camelot to the natural wonders of the surrounding area, waste conventioneers and their families can enjoy endless adventures in this chameleon town.