Reno with Tweens: A Perfect Family Day

Reno with Tweens: A Family Vacation

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Reno, known as "The Biggest Little City In the World," is not just for gamblers anymore. With perfect-vacation-day options for tweens ranging from kayaking and hiking to learning about Mark Twain, Reno is family friendly in a big way.


Pick somewhere special for a big breakfast -- you're going to need it with all the planned activities. Mel's Diner in the Sands Regency Hotel (345 N. Arlington, Reno, NV 89501; 775-348-2200) has a pretty decent breakfast, and it's inexpensive, which is important when you've got the whole family. They also make the best milkshakes in town – not exactly breakfast fare, but worth coming back for later.

Another option is Peg's Glorified Ham & Eggs, which has two locations (420 S. Sierra St., Reno, NV 89501; 775-329-2600 and 6300 Mae Anne Ave., Reno, NV 89523; 775-624-2700) and consistently gets rave reviews for their breakfasts. Although a little on the pricey side, if you're a breakfast gourmet, you should try it. Heidi's Family Restaurants (189 Damonte Ranch Pkwy., Reno, NV 89521; 775-826-3336) also gets thumbs-up for their food.

Now that the family is fed, you can start your day's activities at the National Automobile Museum at the corner of Lake and Mill (10 S. Lake St., Reno, NV 89501; 775-333-9300). The museum is open Monday through Saturday, 9:30AM to 5:30PM, and Sunday from 10AM to 4PM. Adult admission is $10 and $4 for kids 6 to 18. There are collections of classic, historic, celebrity cars and race cars, motorcycles and some changing exhibits (so, yes, Dad will like it, too). There's even a vintage clothing collection. In other words, it offers a lot more than just automobiles and plenty to occupy your tweens.

From there, head on over to Wingfield Park (First St. and Arlington Ave., Reno, NV 89501; 775-334-2414) on the Truckee River. There you can rent an inner tube or a kayak and spend some time on the water. If you're confident, you don't even need the tube to ride the current for a couple of blocks. Once you're done, it might be a good time to get back to Mel's and take a break with that shake before heading on to the next adventure.

Depending on the season, you can rent bikes, snow boards or skis, kayaks or ice skates to get some exercise included in your day. Of course, hiking is always available around Reno and always free. There are miles and miles of hiking around Reno, no matter whether you head north, south, east or west. They range from easy to difficult, but all have some degree of climb. Some of the prettiest -- with streams, waterfalls and some pretty awesome views of the city -- are located a few minutes to the west.


If you have time for an hour's drive and a few hours of sightseeing, you've got a couple of choices: You can go up Geiger Grade Road to Virginia City or up the Mount Rose Highway to see Lake Tahoe. Either way, you will start by heading south on 395 until you come to the turnoff where you make your choice.

Lake Tahoe is worth the drive for its pure scenic beauty. It is the second (after Crater Lake in Oregon) deepest lake in the United States and kept filled by rain and runoff from the melting snow and ice. You can boat, hang glide or water ski on the beautiful blue waters, dine lakeside at any number of places or just spend a little time on the beach, awestruck by the majestic ring of mountains that hold the lake in place. Just northwest of Lake Tahoe is Donner Memorial State Park, home to a museum that covers the history of the ill-fated party of settlers trying to reach California.

If you choose to go east to Virginia City, you won't be sorry. A nice pull-off about half way up the road provides a spectacular view of the valley, with Reno looking so tiny it makes you realize how far up you've come. Coming into Virginia City from this direction (you can also come up from Carson City), you will want to stop first at the graveyard, which provides a peek into the history of this historic little town and a nice view of Virginia City itself. A real-life Western town with wooden sidewalks, saloons, museums, shops and cafes, Virginia City is where Samuel Clemens became Mark Twain. His desk, the press area and the old newspaper printing equipment are on display in the Mark Twain Museum. It's an interesting, informative afternoon that won't feel like a history lesson. But be sure and head back down the mountain before dark. The road is full of twists and turns, and can be a white-knuckle ride for a lot of people, even in daylight.


For dinner, splurge and take the family to one of Reno's famous buffets. All of the casino-hotels offer them and it can be a lot of fun watching your tweens figure out what they want when faced with the wide variety of offerings.

If you're looking for a place to stay, try Circus Circus (500 N. Sierra St., Reno, NV 89503; 775-329-0711). It's got free circus performances, a great midway and lots of arcade games for the kids – plus casino games for the bigger "kids."
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