MGM Grand Lion Habitat

Unfortunately, the Lion Habitat has closed, but check out the wildlife habitat at the Flamingo or the Shark Reef Aquarium at the Mandalay Bay for similar experiences.

The MGM Lion is one of the most enduring symbols of modern cinema. So it comes as no surprise that the MGM Grand Hotel pays tribute to the great beast by including a live exhibit inside, and a visit here is one of the most memorable things to do in Las Vegas. Started at the end of the last century, the MGM Lion Habitat is located at the south side of the casino, and even comes with a mission statement: To honor the lion and safeguard its preservation for future generations.

The MGM Lion Habitat is really just their home away from home. A handful of the cats are driven in each day from their main lodging, a giant ranch just outside Las Vegas. The cats are rotated throughout the week so that none of them have to make the trip each day.

The MGM Lion itself appears monstrous inside the casino. Though the cats have a tendency to sleep long hours throughout the day, there are occasional shows where the handlers feed and entice the lions to play. The feeding is fairly low-key, looking mostly like raw hamburger mixed with cat food, while their attempts to play are surprisingly clumsy for such regal animals. There are also periodic lectures about the lions meant to generate awareness about conservation, plus to educate listeners on some of the lesser known facts of the lives of the kings of the jungle. It might not be as exciting as winning a grand at the craps tables or going skydiving, but seeing the lions up close can make for quite an exhilarating time.

The MGM Lion Habitat is over three stories tall, and divides into three separate levels. The lions mainly congregate on the top two, where artificial rocks, a waterfall and native plants do their best to replicate the jungles of Africa. There is also an immense skylight that allows the lions to bask in the desert sun above the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas.

The lions usually appear with their handlers, or alone. They spend a lot of time sleeping, though, so it's best to visit the Lion Habitat when the cats are being fed or at play, which is usually when the handlers join the lions behind the plexiglass. One of the great features at the MGM Grand Hotel Las Vegas Nevada is the tunnel, also made of plexiglass, that traverses the second level of the habitat and allows visitors to get right up close to the animals. For whatever reason, the MGM lions always seem to enjoy lounging above the tunnel, so you can usually stand within a few inches of them. And even though the habitat is found in one of the most widely traveled casinos, not to mention being just a short walk away from the wildly popular New York New York, Luxor and Monte Carlo casinos, there is not often a huge crowed to see the lions.

The MGM Lion is, of course, a full-grown male, few of which spend much time inside the Lion Habitat. But if you are lucky, you may get to see one or two of the new lion cubs at play, which is far more exciting.

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