Bring the kids and get a little up-close-and-personal time as you explore the Silver State.

BY MEGG MUELLER

Spring break. The phrase conjures many thoughts, but for parents it’s one simple question— where should we take the kids? The weather can be mercurial, much like the kids’ moods, but staying home is just not an option. Across the Silver State, spring break can be celebrated indoors and out, with adventures both near and far. Here are just a few. 

Ruby Crest Trail ©Scott Mortimore

ELKO

Elko is basecamp for the Ruby Mountains and Lamoille Canyon. Lamoille Canyon offers one of the state’s most scenic drives into a host of mountain trails, alpine lakes, secluded valleys, and campsites. In late spring and into summer, the towering peaks are adorned with a sprawling blanket of wildflowers, making it a supremely scenic family destination.  

PARKS & OUTDOORS


Ruby Crest Trailhead – Families can embark on a short hike (2.8 miles roundtrip) to Dollar Lakes, or depending on your gusto, the Island Lake Trail—1.9 miles one way—is another enjoyable option. Bring binoculars to spot mountain goats dwelling on the cliffs above. Fish along the banks of Lamoille Creek or any of the beaver ponds in the canyon; permits can be bought at Elko’s C-A-L Ranch store or Elko Fly Shop.

Thomas Canyon Campground – This is a popular base for exploring the rest of the Rubies, plus there are many places to hike and fish. The campground has more than 40 campsites with fire rings, grills, water, and simple restrooms. Lamoille Creek runs through the campground, and the Thomas Canyon trail (4.4 miles one way) is a good hike for adventurous families.

Click for more things to do and see on the Rubies Route road trip.

The Ruby Crest National Recreation Trail – If your family is into serious backpacking, consider the Ruby Crest Trail, which extends 43 miles along the rim of the Rubies. Most hikers start at Harrison Pass, hiking from north to south and finishing at the Lamoille Canyon Scenic Drive turnaround.  

Hastings Cutoff, the Pony Express Trail, and Ruby Valley – If you’re a family of history geeks, grab a good area map and retrace some of the steps the pioneers took on their way out west.


MUSEUMS

Northeastern Nevada Museum – Along with collections of Western art and stories of the area’s history, an impressive exhibit of wild animals is perfect for the kids.

The Western Folklife CenterChanging exhibits focus on the people who define the authentic American West. This stop is a must for cowboys and cowgirls. 

California Trail Interpretive Center

California Trail Interpretive Center – The history of the brave pioneers who traveled the trail is told through hands-on experiences including exhibits, walking trails, and recreated encampments. 


FOOD

Breakfast – Start your day at the Coffee Mug, where kids get a menu full of puzzles, coloring, and tiny-people-approved dishes. McAdoo’s is another delicious option for breakfast and lunch.

©B.J. Bull Bakery

Lunch – For a meal with a side of history, try B.J. Bull Bakery for some Cornish pasties area miners used to eat. It’s a simple but delicious meal served in a casual atmosphere, which means mom and dad can relax.

Dinner – If a taste of the local Basque culture is on the menu, hit The Star or Toki Ona. La Fiesta is your choice for Mexican, and tasty burgers are at Hunter Rays. 

LODGING

Elko has no shortage of inns, motels, and hotels (many have outdoor pools—if the weather cooperates). For a bit of retro fun, check out Stockmans Casino and Ramada Hotel. The Iron Horse RV Resort has a swimming pool and cottages, too.

©Las Vegas Springs Preserve

LAS VEGAS

While it may be true that just 10 percent of annual visitors to Las Vegas are under 21, that small percentage still equals more than 4 million visitors. So that’s 4 million kids who need to be entertained, exercised, fed, and watered. While there are a seemingly infinite number of diversions, it’s easy to get lost inside the excitement of The Strip. Once you’ve had your fill of the neon thrill, step outside and see what else there is to discover.

PARKS & OUTDOORS

Centennial Hills Park – Spanning 120 acres, this park has a bright, colorful play area with oversized flowers and plenty of things to climb on.

Sunset Park – Water features, interpretive trails, wildlife habitats, a lake for fishing, and bike rentals make Sunset Park a must-visit for families.

Las Vegas Springs Preserve – Welcome to 180 acres of natural wonder in the heart of the city. Botanical gardens, trails, historical structures, wetlands, and wildlife exhibits await your family.

©Las Vegas Museum of Natural History

MUSEUMS

Nevada State Museum Las Vegas – Located on the Springs Preserve campus, this makes for a perfect two-fer day. Learn about area history dating back millions of years, plus the rise of Las Vegas as a tourist mecca, Hoover Dam, the atomic age, and more.

Las Vegas Museum of Natural History – This museum covers the world and brings it to Las Vegas. Mummies, dinosaurs, wildlife, aquariums, and amazing fluorescent minerals and rocks will keep even the most jaded tyke engaged. 

DISCOVERY Children’s Museum – A three- story museum full of fun, hands-on exhibits and so many things to touch, your kids won’t know what to handle first.

The Mob Museum – This museum has plenty of intrigue and crime-related exhibits to interest older kids. Spotlighting how the Mob and law enforcement played roles in the city’s development, the museum tells both sides of the tale.

©Pizza Rock

FOOD

The Strip – Buffets, and more buffets. Aside from those, plenty of obvious choices—such as Hard Rock Café or Rainforest Café—also keep kids occupied nicely while waiting for your meal.

Du-Par’s Restaurant and Bakery – Located at the Suncoast Hotel & Casino, this diner has pancakes to die for. Du-Par’s rocks it with simple, incredible food.

Pizza Rock – Pizza Rock is a local treasure with great pizza and a cool semi-truck that looks like it smashed through the wall. Sometimes, it’s just that easy to please them.

©Shark Reef Aquarium, Mandalay Bay

HOTELS

The Strip – Circus Circus has circus acts and an arcade; New York New York has a roller coaster; Mandalay Bay has the Shark Reef Aquarium; the MGM Grand’s pools are set on 6.6 acres with winding rivers and grottos. Get the picture? If you want big adventure for your kids, The Strip properties are a sure bet.

Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa – If you want a little breathing room, try Red Rock. About 30 minutes off The Strip, the hotel has a huge pool, bowling alley, playground, and more, but best of all, it’s situated near some of the most beautiful scenery (Red Rock Canyon) in the world.

Terry Lee Wells Discovery Museum

RENO & LAKE TAHOE

As a popular headquarters for northern Nevada summer vacationers, the Reno-Tahoe area caters to family fun. Gorgeous beaches, fishing holes, museums, hiking trails, eateries, and hotels aplenty are the perfect spring break diversion.

PARKS & OUTDOORS

Davis Creek Regional Park – Located in Washoe Valley, Davis Creek Regional Park offers lots of hiking trails, fishing ponds, and a campground. 

Fuji Park – In the heart of Carson City, this is a great place to picnic or barbecue. Baily Fishing Pond is perfect for young anglers, and a skate park challenges boarders.

Idlewild Park – Covering 49 acres near downtown Reno, Idlewild offers playgrounds, a swimming pool, walking and biking paths, a rose garden, a baseball diamond, and numerous special events along the Truckee River.  

Sand Harbor State Park – With spacious sandy beaches at beautiful Lake Tahoe, plus ramps for boaters, water skiers, and anglers, Sand Harbor State Park is a great place for a beach day, even in spring temperatures.  

MUSEUMS

Carson City – Just a short drive away, The Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada; Nevada State Museum, Carson City; and Nevada State Railroad Museum are three great options, depending on your kids’ interests.

Reno – The Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum has many hands-on activities and exhibits to stimulate children’s minds. The Wilbur D. May Center at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park features a kid-friendly museum surrounded by an arboretum, playgrounds, and miles of gentle hiking trails.

©Squeeze In

FOOD

Breakfast – Red Hut Café is perfect for families, and has locations in Reno, Stateline, and Carson City. Peg’s Glorified Ham N Eggs is another great choice in Reno and Sparks.

Lunch – With locations in Reno, Sparks, and Carson City, Squeeze In is another excellent choice, offering a big lunch menu and lots of crayons to keep kids occupied. In Incline Village, stop at T’s Mesquite Rotisserie. Their tri-tip burritos rival any in the area.

Dinner – With locations in Reno and Sparks, Great Basin Brewing Co. has a lively atmosphere and plenty of choices for youngsters. For a swanky kids menu, head to Incline Village and the Lone Eagle Grille, where you’ll find the glorious Baked Tahoe dessert—not to mention breathtaking views of stunning Lake Tahoe.

©Circus Circus Reno

HOTELS

Reno – Many of the downtown Reno casinos have restaurants, arcades, and cater to families. Circus Circus Reno—which offers a large arcade area and nightly circus shows—is a great bet, and for adventurous kids, try Whitney Peak Hotel. This non-gaming property is home to the world’s tallest artificial climbing wall. 

Stateline – Harvey’s Lake Tahoe and Montbleu Resort are in the heart of Lake Tahoe’s casino and ski resort area, offering myriad diversions. 

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