Reno? With kids?
I can’t say it was top of my list for places to visit last summer as we trekked our way from Seattle to San Francisco, then over the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Lake Tahoe, Nevada. But it was top of Mr Globetrotter’s list to see how Reno compared to Vegas, so it was firmly going to be on our PNW itinerary, whether I liked it or not!!
Dreading the cigarette-soaked carpet smell of seedy casinos, could we make this stop family-friendly?
Like any city though, it only takes a little scratching below the surface to find a great selection of things to do in “the World’s Biggest Little City”, that don’t involve casinos!
Reno, without a doubt, is a fun-filled city worth touring with your kids if you find yourself on the western side of Nevada. There are numerous museums, parks, zoos, fantastic restaurants, and plenty of outdoor recreational activities your kids can indulge in, making the entire trip momentous.
This post is part of our Pacific North West Road trip series
Best time to visit Reno
The best time to visit Reno is during summer when the weather is sunny and great for outdoor fun – though be mindful Reno can reach some extreme summer temperatures.
If you want a season that has fewer crowds, then we highly recommend you visit during spring and fall. You will also find weekdays a lot less busy than weekends for obvious reasons!
Winter can still be a popular time for visiting as people fly through Reno to connect to the ski fields of Lake Tahoe.
There are plenty of special events in the Biggest Little City that make it a popular tourist destination. They include the Reno River Festival, Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, American Century Championship celebrity golf, Great Reno Balloon Race, and the Reno Air Races.
Where to stay in Reno with Kids
Where you stay entirely depends on what you’ve come to Reno for.
If you’re incorporating a visit to the Casinos of Downtown Reno then Circus Circus makes for amongst the most family-friendly of choices of the ROW hotels. They have colorful themed rooms in the newer wing of the hotel and a kids arcade area, Carnival Midway.
For a resort feel more akin to Vegas you need to head further out. Try Peppermill Resort Spa Casino or Grand Sierra Resort & Casino, both offering luxurious poolside settings.
Further afield, you may want to base yourself in Lake Tahoe and tackle these Reno activity suggestions as a day trip.
Getting to Reno & Getting around
To arrive at Reno, we highly recommend you fly through the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, which connects to most parts of the US and is also four miles away from the city.
Upon arrival at the airport, you can either take a taxi, hire a car, or take a 19 bus which is the cheaper alternative to get to downtown.
Driving, you are under 4 hours driving via the I-90 from San Francisco. From Las Vegas you need to allow at least 7 hours via the US-95, or from Los Angeles, it’s an 8.5-hour drive along the scenic US-395.
Best things to do in Reno with Kids
Planning your family-friendly Reno itinerary, we suggest you get these fun and interesting destination on your list:
Truckee River Walk — Downtown
This scenic trail is packed with kid’s activities in Reno that we highly recommend touring. Located in the Riverwalk District of Downtown Reno, Truckee Riverwalk is a family-friendly destination that’s tranquil away from the city’s hustle and bustle.
You can watch ducks swim in the river, watch kayak competitions, or enjoy the scenery of the trial. Truckee Riverwalk also has plenty of amenities nearby, such as local stores and restaurants which serve kid-friendly meals. The trail has paved paths, which makes it more convenient to access.
A laidback activity for kids to enjoy in Reno is visiting Idlewild Park. This scenic destination has two children’s parks, a skate park, a pool, duck ponds, and a beautiful rose garden. Tucked between Idlewild Drive and the bend in Truckee River its a picturesque place to pack a picnic for the day.
We highly recommend this park as it has plenty of activities your kids can indulge in, whether it’s playing on the grassy lawn area or swimming in the pool. Younger kids will most definitely enjoy a trip here as there are plenty of playgrounds and even a train ride at the park – just $2 per person over 2 years of age.
One of the best things to do in Reno with your kids is to visit Wingfield Park. This fantastic park is typically an oasis at the center of the city.
There are several fun activities they can engage in, such as picnics, biking, swimming, river tubing, and sightseeing.
We highly recommend this park, especially during summer when the weather is great for outdoor adventures. Often home to summer concerts and events too, it’s a beautiful hub of activity and free of charge.
Kimmie Candy Factory
Kimmie Candy Factory is another fun place to take your kids. This family-owned confectionery factory doubles up as a tourist destination and a gift shop. A visit to this particular kid-friendly destination entails either a self-guided mini-tour or a fully guided factory tour.
Your kids get to see the entire candy-making process and try out some of the free delicious samples. Kimmie Candy Factory tour is usually free of charge but you should book ahead.
For more information (check as tours may have stopped running due to COVID), visit https://kimmiecandy.com/
Another kid-friendly destination in Reno is Animal Ark. This remarkable wildlife sanctuary has plenty of wild animals and breathtaking scenery. Most of the wildlife are North American predators as well as some more exotic species.
There’s a lovely playground that kids can play in and where you can enjoy picnics or unwind. Alternatively, Animal Ark has golf carts that you can rent for both you and your child to get around.
The admission fee for kids aged 3 to 12 is $9.00 and $14.00 for those aged 13 and above.
Learn more at https://animalark.org/
Galena Creek Regional Park
Another great destination that’s both popular and family-friendly is the Galena Creek Regional Park. Regardless of the season, the park constantly floods with tourists. There are plenty of activities you and your kids can participate in, such as guided hikes on the easily accessible trails, playing horseshoe pits, volleyball, or angling at the nearby pond.
The park also has plenty of picnic areas and a visitor center that hosts exceptional toddler programs such as storytelling and arts and crafts.
The Galena Creek Visitors Center is located on the Mt. Rose Scenic Byway – the road that runs from Reno to Incline Galena Creek has no admission charge.
For more information, visit their website at https://www.galenacreekvisitorcenter.org/
National Automobile Museum
A visit to this particular museum is one of the great things to do with kids in Reno – especially if you have a little motorhead! The National Automobile Museum is among the country’s best car museums with unique exhibits that your children will enjoy, especially if they’re car enthusiasts.
Kids also get to dress up in themed costumes and play the Name that Car Scavenger Hunt, a highly entertaining and engaging car game. The admission fee for adults is$12 and $6 for those aged 6 to 18.
For more information, visit https://automuseum.org/
Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum
This exceptional museum is, without a doubt, going to spark your kid’s interest. Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery is a technological museum with plenty of eye-catching and kid-friendly exhibits that are educational and fun.
There’s the Under the Stars show where your young ones can explore celestial bodies. This museum also has an experiment room and also an art and scientific exhibit.
The admission fee for those aged 1 to 17 is $11.00, while 18 and above is $13.00.
For more information, visit https://nvdm.org/
Wilbur D. May Museum
This one-of-a-kind museum has Wilbur D. May’s private collection containing thousands of unique and exotic objects he acquired during his travel. If you want to view ancient priceless artefacts to feel as if you’ve travelled the globe, then we highly recommend touring this museum.
Some of the exhibits include Egyptian tomb, Chinese pottery, African tribal masks, and Japanese swords. The museum has a kid’s storytime program and a teens group that conducts experiments.
You will find the museum inside Rancho San Rafael Regional Park. Admission at the Wilbur May Collection & Gallery is $6.00 for adults and $4.00 for kids. (Note closed Monday & Tuesday).
You’ll also find a Labyrinth Garden inside Rancho San Rafael Regional Park.
Sierra Safari Zoo
Visiting Sierra Safari Zoo is one of the best Reno activities for kids. There are over 200 exotic animals in this wildlife park, indeed quite a remarkable place to tour with family. Some of the wild animals in the park include tigers, alpacas, deer, Llama, reptiles, sloths, and many others.
In October, the zoo has slides with a small hay maze your children can play in. The admission fee for adults is $7.00, while kids and seniors are $6.00.
Learn more at https://aazk.org/institutional/sierra-safari-zoo/
We hope we’ve inspired you that there can be much more to Reno than just gambling. Granted, I wouldn’t put it as the most family-friendly stop we’ve made in the USA but you can certainly include it as a stop in a mixed family itinerary.
Looking for more US Road Trip inspiration?
You may also want to dig into more of our West Coast blog posts:
- Highlights you wont want to miss on a west coast road trip
- Best places to visit with kids in northern California
- 20 unmissable family-friendly stops in Oregon
- The best Oregon coast towns for a family vacation
- Awesome family things to do in Bend, Oregon
- Explore My City: Las Vegas with kids
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