Your Ultimate Family Vacation Guide to Reno Tahoe, NV
Reno casinos are famous, but that doesn't mean "The Biggest Little City in the World" doesn't offer some fun for the whole family. Check out these kid-friendly hotels, restaurants, and activities in Reno to plan a great trip.
Reno Tahoe is one of the quirkiest destinations you’ll find in the U.S. It boasts some of the most natural wonders of the world by day and by night transforms into a casino paradise.
People come to “The Biggest Little City in the World" for thrilling adventures. Whether it’s skiing down the alpines or getting hitched at a wedding chapel, there is no shortage of fun. And while the city is rich in adult activities, more and more family activities geared towards the dinosaur chicken nugget eating and Paw Patrol generation have been popping up.
Here are our recommendations on how and where to spend a vacation in Reno Tahoe when you have kids in tow.
What to Do
No matter what time of year you visit, Lake Tahoe, surrounded by acres of Sierra Nevada wilderness and sitting pretty on the border of Nevada and California, delivers breathtaking views and a myriad of activities. In the warmer weather, there's fishing, kayaking, rafting, swimming and more on the lake. For those looking to stay dry, hike up one of their numerous trails and experience the Treasures of Tahoe, aka the best sights of the area — or capture some aerial views via helicopter or Hot Air Balloon tour.
For those that visit between Thanksgiving and July 4th, add skiing to the agenda! With over more than 180 lifts and 500 unparalleled runs in total, Reno Tahoe has the highest concentration of world-class ski resorts in North America. Head up to Mt. Rose or Diamond Peak, located just 30 minutes outside of the city, to shred some gnar. Or venture a little further to Northstar California Resort and enjoy stellar slopes, but also (and this is our favorite part!) several après-ski activities such as ski-up champagne bars. Post-ski, unwind at Northstar's quaint little village full of shops, cozy fire pits and lounge areas. Kids can munch on s’mores, while you enjoy with spiked hot coco. And whether or not you're a ski family, Reno Tahoe is great place to start your journey. At all of these resorts, trained instructors will take you and the kids to Ski school, and stay by your side, starting with how to stand up in skis and how to hold the ski.
Sierra Safari Zoo
Housing over two hundred animals and more than forty different species, Sierra Safari Zoo is the largest zoo in the state. Bring the family here and encounter some exotic breeds of monkeys, lions, mules, emus, birds, and more. Opened as a place to encourage togetherness between humans and their furry and scaly counterparts, this zoo is currently operated daily by over 50 volunteers.
The Nevada Museum of Art
Take a trip to the Nevada Museum of Art and discover exhibits from local artists, pieces from the Burning Man festival, and other innovative installations like the Orbital Reflector project. If your trip happens to fall on the second Saturday of the month, stop in for the special Hands ON! program, where kids will get free museum admission as well as a line-up of hands-on art activities, storytelling, live performances, and more. On Sundays, families can have brunch before or after their tour while enjoying live music.
The Discovery - Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum
Think: educational Chuck E. Cheese’s sans the chaos and ball pit. At The Discovery, kids will be able to experience hands-on STEM exhibits such as the Cloud Climber, a jungle gym that lets kids climb up Nevada’s water cycle, or the Mindbender Mansion, an exhibit chock-full of brainteasers and interactive challenges sure to test kids' brainpower. Our personal favorite exhibit is Nevada Stories, where visitors can uncover buried artifacts on an archeological dig, create postcards to e-mail home, "work" on the transcontinental railroad, and more.
Kimmie Candy, located right in the city, is a family-run candy factory. Their specialties include Sunbursts (colorful chocolate-covered sunseeds) ChocoRocks, and Pretzel Bites. Bring the family on a factory tour to check how the goodies are made, but be sure to call ahead to schedule.
Where to Eat
If you’re in the mood for some gastropub fare, check out The Depot. This combined brewery, distillery, and restaurant is housed in an old train station where kids can enjoy classic homestyle favorites like mac n’ cheese or fried chicken, and you’ll enjoy the variety of home-brewed beers.
Peg’s Glorified Ham 'n' Eggs
Peg's is the perfect breakfast and lunch place for you and your little “peglets” to chow down on comfort foods. While kids wait on their Mickey Pancake or kiddie portion of sausage and eggs, they’ll be able to make their own crayon work of art. Rumor has it that Peg’s will hang up their favorite drawings and may even put it on their website! Before leaving, kids will also get to pick a prize out of the treasure chest.
Simple Ice Cream Sandwiches
What makes Simple Ice Cream Sandwiches unique is kids get to design their own ice cream sandwiches—and not just with cookies, but with doughnuts! They can sandwich one of Simple’s yummy ice cream flavors such as mud pie, pistachio, or blueberry, in between two warm doughnuts of their choosing. It’s also home to the cronut ice cream sandwich. P.S. Remember to snag some doughnut holes for the road.
Liberty Food and Wine Exchange
For some classy dining, visit Liberty Food and Wine Exchange, where guests are treated to the freshest ingredients delivered straight from northern Nevada farms mixed with the delightful international flavors. Their menu is designed for people who like to try a little bit of everything rather than a whole lot of one thing—perfect for those picky eaters! For kids, we suggest the pizza or one of their many pasta dishes. And if all else goes wrong, their craft cocktails for you will make everything seem just a little bit better!
Holey Schmidt Doughnuts
Get ready to drool at Holey Schmidt Doughnuts! These decadent dough rings come in flavors you won’t find anywhere else— think: Maple Espresso, S’more, Oreo Cheesecake. The kids will love the adorable Cookie Monster doughnut as a well as a variety of cereal-themed doughnuts such as Fruity Pebbles and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Where to Stay
Whitney Peak Hotel
How many hotels have you been to that have a climbing gym—let alone the Guinness Book of World Records’ World’s Tallest Rock-climbing wall lining the outside of the building for all of Reno to admire? Whitney Peak is the place to be for the family looking to stay active while on vaycay. It offers a 7,000-square-foot indoor bouldering park, complete with a separate kids room, as well as group fitness classes, a fitness center, spa, sauna, and more. It’s coined as an active lifestyle hotel.
And if guests happen to be staying there on certain nights, they can catch a show at the hotel’s entertainment venue, Cargo Concert Hall, followed by some yummy comfort food and refreshing cocktails at the hotel’s restaurant, Roundabout Grill. Good to note: This is Reno’s first non-gaming and non-smoking hotel, which is ideal if you’re looking for a more relaxed atmosphere.
Grand Sierra Resort
For the family looking for non-stop thrills, Grand Sierra Resort is a must-stay. Here, guests are treated to a movie theater, bowling alley, ice skating rink, a ginormous video arcade called Fun Quest, and a simulated golf course called The Bunker. Oh, and that’s just all on the inside. Outside, guests can race around the Go-Kart track or if they dare, ride on Ultimate Rush, a giant swing that will slingshot you 180 feet into the air. No biggie, right?
Circus Circus at The Row
In the heart of downtown Reno, lies three luxury resorts, coined The Row, all interconnected: Eldorado, Circus Circus, and Silvery Legacy. Together, this hotel wonderland features 25 restaurants, 22 bars and lounges, 11 nightspots, and thousands of rooms and suites. Basically, if you stay in one hotel you can easily walk to the others without going outside. While all of these resorts are 5 star in terms of amenities, you’ll probably want to check into Circus Circus with the kids. This 100-percent smoke free resort gives off an old-timey carnival feel (make sure to say hi to the clown on the sign outside!), and is the closest to The Midway at The Row, a massive arcade with classics like skee ball, Whack-a-Mole, air hockey as well as free circus acts daily for the kids.