From camping inside 100-year-old train cabooses and exploring Wild West army forts to witnessing the Cheetah Run, painting with park rangers, and learning about our solar system in one of the darkest places in the country, it’s easy to feel like a kid at heart here, whether you’ve got kids in the backseat or not. Take a break from your phones, get out here and explore—Nevada will reward your curiosity. Flush with fun family activities, solid family time in the Silver State is uncomplicated, brimming with award-winning children’s museums and discovery centers, natural wonders around every bend, family outdoor activities in state and national parks with enough room to let the kids run loose, and wildlife thriving in natural places that are still truly wild.
Nevada Children’s Museums & Discovery Centers
Family Outdoor Adventure Time in Nevada
Wildlife and Animal Sanctuaries in the Silver State
From Las Vegas to Elko, Reno to Ely, Nevada is a classroom-free lesson waiting to happen in every town across the state, with interactive exhibits sure to get that noggin working for every family member along for the ride. Immerse yourself in interactive science exhibits at the 67,000-square-foot Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum in Reno. Young aspiring transportation engineers can climb in a space shuttle or balance on an airplane teeter-totter at The Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada in Carson City, and graze on a creative buffet at Discovery Children’s Museum in Las Vegas. Three floors of rotating exhibits give aspiring engineers, entrepreneurs and artists a chance to solve mysteries and come up with fun ideas, devise inventions, as well as perform in theater and puppet shows.
Family Outdoor Activities in the Silver State
Most people have never seen a night sky like the one stretching across the entire Silver State. And Nevada’s sky—or in our case, galaxy—knows no bounds when it comes to memory-promising family outdoor activities. Teach your kids about the planets, stars, and the heart of their own universe for the astronomy lesson of a lifetime at Great Basin National Park, Massacre Rim, and Death Valley, where shooting stars dart like tadpoles in a pond, and the Milky Way spills plumes of sparkles over almost every open horizon. Bring binoculars or a telescope, plus a star chart, to pick out constellations, or attend a park ranger-led astronomy program. Even in Las Vegas, a city awash in LED and neon, the College of Southern Nevada Planetarium offers star shows immune to the big city’s millions of bright lights.
An unbeatable two-for-one thing to do with family in Las Vegas means visiting the The Springs Preserve and Nevada State Museum—Las Vegas, who share a lush, beautiful setting, an oasis in the heart of the city. With 180 acres of nature walks, lush desert gardens, restaurants, and immersive, interactive exhibits, this fun family destination brings the Mojave Desert and other Nevada desertscapes to life. Think—or play—outside the box at the Downtown Container Park in Las Vegas. Older kids can ponder how shipping containers became shops and restaurants (and craft beer stands for thirsty moms and dads), while younger ones can explore the tree-house jungle gym or giant foam blocks for building (or throwing).
At the Wilbur D. May Center in Reno, circle the globe without packing a bag. Something of a real-life Indiana Jones, world traveler May’s collection includes Egyptian tomb artifacts, African tribal masks, Chinese pottery and Japanese swords. And if you’re ready to get prehistoric, check out the Las Vegas Natural History Museum for replicas of wooly mammoths, dinosaurs and other extinct animals.
Ranking right up there as some of the supremely coolest things to do with family, spend a night at the museum for real. Overnight at Ely’s Nevada Northern Railway and East Ely Depot Railroad Museum inside an early 1900s caboose that’s always been part of the railroad’s story, or Be The Engineer and get behind the controls of an actual working steam locomotive. Check out the original blacksmith’s shop, and of course no visit to this train museum is complete without giving resident Dirt the Cat a good, solid head scratch.
Beyond the great local parks scene in Nevada’s cities and towns, get into 24 crowdless Nevada State Parks across the Silver State, where you can wander through caves and slot canyons, learn to paint with a park ranger in the Spring Mountains, and explore old army fort ruins. Or, hike lush, wildflower-loaded canyons with flowing streams and active beaver damming, get to know the largest marine reptile fossils in a Nevada ghost town, or see where bandits used to hideout in old charcoal ovens.
Learn a piece of Silver State history at the Tonopah Historic Mining Park, where your family can walk a tunnel to one of the mine’s original levels—500 feet underground. Back up on the Earth’s surface, tour the historic buildings and authentic equipment that made Tonopah the “Queen of the Silver Camps.” Or, lean into Nevada’s agricultural heritage at Jacob’s Berry Farm and Lattin Farms, where you can pick your own berries and produce, take tractor rides, and wander through elaborate corn mazes. Learn about the Colorado River on London Bridge Jet Boat Tours, or Lake Tahoe’s Caribbean-esque hues on the M.S. Dixiescenic cruises. While you’re at it, take your outdoor activities to new heights at the Heavenly Gondola & Adventure Park, or Stratosphere Thrill Rides, and check out a handful of you’re-never-forgetting-this mini golf courses like King Putt, Twilight Zone, by Monster Mini Golf and beyond.
Nevada Wildlife and Animal Sanctuaries
In a place that is still so wild, there’s no better way of spending time with family than spotting wildlife at Nevada’s national wildlife refuges and animal sanctuaries. Tucked around the state, the Silver State brims with millions of acres of wildlife areas that protect thousands of species. From desert bighorn sheep and desert tortoise to pronghorn antelope, wild horses and Rocky Mountain elk, mountain bluebirds to Devils Hole pupfish and beyond, many fascinating and rare species thrive in Nevada—and in some cases, nowhere else on Earth. Road trip just beyond Vegas to Desert National Wildlife Refuge—the largest wildlife refuge in the lower 48, spanning 1.5 million acres—or take a day trip out of Reno to see the largest breeding ground for the American white pelican at the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
Nevada is also a haven for less local forms of wildlife at numerous animal sanctuaries rescue centers. See dozens of tropical birds at the Gilcrease Nature Sanctuary and big cats at the Lion Habitat Ranch in Vegas. Feed breakfast to Z-Donks, African crested porcupines and camels at Mesquite’s Desert Ranch Experience. Meet rescued foxes, jaguars, bobcats, cheetahs, bears, and beyond at Reno’s Animal Ark and Unionville’s Sierra Safari Wildlife Sanctuary, too. Even if you’re looking for fun things to do with family without even leaving the Strip, you can check out the Flamingo Wildlife Habitat at the Flamingo Hotel & Casino.
Travel Nevada Pro Tip
Ever hear a cheetah purr? See the world’s fastest land animal show off its talents during the Cheetah Run, then howl—and compete—with the wolves and coyotes at Wolf Howl Night at Animal Ark’s amazing year-round lineup of special events.
From children’s museums and discovery centers, to wildlife sanctuaries, to one-of-a-kind museums and countless, crowdless ways to get outside with the whole fam, there’s no shortage a memory makers around here. Plan a family vacation of a lifetime here, with Nevada family activities sure to satisfy casual wanderers, hardcore adventurers, and every family member in between.
With dozens of amazing family events, children’s museums, wildlife preserves and fun family activities in and out of doors, it’s easy to make family memories here. Tag #TravelNevada to share yours. If we love your photo, you may find it featured here.