Nevada offers a cornucopia of family fun, year-round, both indoors and outdoors.
In the winter, Lake Tahoe ski resorts are full of activities both on and off the slopes and a variety of specials and packages for families. For information about all the Tahoe area resorts, visit www.skilaketahoe.com/. Check out Adventure Peak at Heavenly Mountain Resort, on the south shore of Lake Tahoe, where you can rent snowshoes, snowbikes, tubes and sleds for a fun day in the snow. Diamond Peak Ski Resort on the north shore is known for its children’s programs and children’s ski school.
In the summer, Truckee River Rafting and Tahoe Whitewater Adventures, both in Tahoe City, offer raft rentals for a leisurely and family friendly float down five miles of the Truckee River from the start of the river at Lake Tahoe, visit www.truckeeriverrafting.com/ or www.gowhitewater.com/ for more information.
Some of the best choices for family fun in Reno are at the hotels. The Grand Sierra Resort features a 50-lane bowling alley, driving range, go-cart track, video game arcade with laser tag, miniature golf and more. There is also a pizza restaurant and ice cream parlor right near the arcade. For more information, visit www.grandsierraresort.com/activities/.
Just outside of Reno is the family friendly Boomtown Casino and Hotel. From the outside Boomtown looks like a Victorian era western boomtown, on the inside Boomtown features a huge fun center with miniature golf, an old-fashioned carousel and more. The hotel invites teens to experience the Escape Teen Zone, which boasts games older kids will enjoy like pool, black-light miniature golf, a climbing wall and exciting giveaways of iPods and Play Stations. For more information about Boomtown visit www.boomtownreno.com/fun_center/.
Circus Circus Reno also features fun activities for the whole family. The Midway features a video game arcade and classic carnival games where children can win prizes just like at the fair. Add in live acrobatics shows and a big top atmosphere, the Midway at Circus Circus is big indoor carnival. For more information visit, www.circusreno.com/entertainment/midway.aspx.
After visiting the casinos in downtown Reno head down to the Truckee River where the City of Reno has a developed a river district that includes a river walk with cafes, boutiques, a multiplex movie theater, a grassy park with an outdoor amphitheater and the kayak park. The kayak park is located where Arlington Street crosses the river and includes whitewater features for all skill levels, easy access and a half a mile of river fun. Free and open to the public, the kayak park offers year-round fun for kayakers, rafters, tubers, swimmers and enthusiasts of any other method of floating down the river. There is a kayak shop called Sierra Adventures at 254 W 1st St.located on the corner of Arlington and First streets where river-floating equipment can be bought or rented. For more information call775-323-8928. Tahoe Whitewater Adventures has a seasonal raft and kayak rental satellite shop set up on the south side of the river in the park’s parking area; visit www.gowhitewater.com/ for more information.
The foremost kids’ attraction in Las Vegas is the Adventuredome at Circus Circus (www.adventuredome.com). There is everything from an arcade to a virtual reality zone, miniature golf to roller coasters and and thrill rides. Circus Circus is one of the few casino-resorts that welcomes children, and it definitely caters to their young guests.
Another must-see is the Lied Discovery Children's Museum (www.ldcm.org). It is a leading educational institution in Las Vegas that features the arts, sciences and humanities. Aside from its exhibits, the museum also runs education programs for local low-income, at-risk teens to help them graduate high school and prepare for the work force. The museum boasts an exhibit called “Desert Discovery” designed for children 5 and under; it’s a hands-on zone to teach the fundamentals of desert plants and animals. Children can “shop” for groceries at the Discovery Store, learn how sand dunes are formed and tornadoes are created, and even learn about electricity and UV rays.
Another educational yet entertaining attraction in Las Vegas is the Las Vegas Springs Preserve, a cultural and historic attraction that commemorates Las Vegas’ dynamic history and provides a vision for a sustainable future. Commonly known as the “birthplace of Las Vegas,” the preserve features museums and galleries, an outdoor amphitheater, the Nevada State Museum, an interpretive trail system, a botanical garden, an outdoor children’s learning playground, a restaurant and a gift shop, among other amenities.
Several Las Vegas hotels have nature habitats, some free and some with admission fees. The Flamingo Las Vegas has a Flamingo Wildlife Habitat; admission is free and there are daily penguin feedings that always bring smiles to the faces of young and old onlookers alike. The Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay takes visitors to an undersea ocean of sights, sounds and encounters. There are more than 2,000 animals representing 100 different species.
In Northern Nevada, Lattin Farms (www.lattinfarms.com) is a great family destination in Fallon, about an hour from Reno. The Lattin family runs the farm, which is well-known for its Hearts O’ Gold cantaloupes and its giant corn maze in the fall. The farm is also near the Stillwater Wildlife Refuge, a vital oasis for migratory birds along the Pacific Flyway, so it is a wonderful place for families to view wildlife and explore nature. Fallon is a wonderful small town in Northern Nevada with a rich Basque history and historic, authentic Basque restaurants.
Most of the big-production shows in Las Vegas are of a mature nature and should be reviewed before encouraging children to attend. However, there are several shows that are appropriate for children.
The Excalibur features “Tournament of Kings,” a jousting dinner with invading armies, dragons, wizards and, of course, dinner. Mystere at Treasure Island is a wildly colorful, energetic dance and music show created by Cirque du Soleil. There are acrobatics, aerial high-bar feats and even clowns. Children are welcomed with open arms to magician Lance Burton’s show at the Monte Carlo Hotel & Casino. His magical performance is one not to be missed.