Located in South Reno, the Jennifer M. O'Neal Community Ice Arena is operated by the Greater Reno Community Ice Skating Association, a nonprofit organization with the goal of promoting affordable ice-skating-related sports and recreation.
Photo: Reno Ice
EDITOR’S NOTE This story is adapted from the 2021-2022 edition of the Northern Nevada Guide, a 116-page specialty magazine published in late September by the Northern Nevada Business Weekly. Go here to read the digital edition
Sometimes keeping the kids entertained can be hard, especially during the COVID era when so many of us are working and/or learning remotely.
But whether in a pandemic or not, it’s always a great idea to get out of the house and do something memorable and fun with the entire family. Fortunately, there are lots of places to take the kids in Northern Nevada that are entertaining, interactive and will even delight the parents.
Destinations like the Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada in Carson City host birthday parties and field trips, while The Discovery in Reno features 67,000 square feet of hands-on science and STEAM modeled exhibits.
“We have one of the best state museums here,” Carson City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ronni Hannaman says of the Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada, where kids ages 17 and under get in free.
According to Visit Carson City, the Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada opened its doors in 1994 inside the historic building that originally served as Carson City’s Civic Auditorium, which was built in 1939. It offers a play-based learning environment dedicated to innovative hands-on learning adventures in the arts, sciences and humanities; here, interactive exhibits such as the mine, ghost town and dinosaur are especially fun for children.
Over in Reno, since opening to the public in 2011, The Discovery has solidified its place in Northern Nevada as the home for informal science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) learning. Through hands-on galleries and exhibitions, and a robust array of educational programs, The Discovery connects learners of all ages with opportunities to explore a wide variety of ever-changing topics, all designed to inspire curiosity and further investigation.
Meanwhile, Wild Island Family Adventure Park in Sparks is completely centered on offering entertainment for people of all ages. Here, the waterpark features fun in the sun for all ages including a wave pool, slow river, kiddie pool and slides, sandcastle station, water slides/rides, private cabanas and group facilities.
Additionally, the 125,000-square-foot Coconut Bowl family entertainment center at Wild Island includes 38 lanes, plus 8 more lanes in our two private party garages. Other features include the XD Adventure Theater; “High Ballocity” interactive three-level play structure; Pirate Cove indoor black light mini golf; two 18-hole outdoor mini golf courses; one-of-a-kind glowing electric go kart track that races through a black light jungle; and what Wild Island calls. “the most technologically advanced laser tag arena available.”
Appealing to more sports-oriented families, it’s never a bad idea to swing over to Greater Nevada Field in downtown Reno to watch the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Greater Nevada Field is a 9,534-capacity stadium that sets the standard for venue excellence with state-of-the-art technology, comfort and amenities. Plus, Greater Nevada Field hosts major regional and national events with something for everyone — such as Nitro Circus Live, concerts and private parties.
The region’s newest sports arena opened in January 2021 — the Jennifer M. O’Neal Community Ice Arena, known to locals simply as “Reno Ice.”
The 46,000-square-foot facility currently encompasses one NHL-size ice rink, as well as locker rooms, showers and a mezzanine where it plans on opening a sports bar and grill; fundraising is underway for Reno Ice to eventually construct a second NHL size rink.
Reno Ice provides a full menu of kids programming and hosts the Boys & Girls Club, homeschool students and church groups, as well as offers public skate sessions, hockey and niche skating activities such as ice dancing and synchronized skating.
“At the end of June (2021) we had over 12,000 participants; we’ve been averaging 3,500-4,700 people on a weekly basis. We’re booked all day and all night,” says Joel Grace, president of the Greater Reno Community Ice Skating Association, the nonprofit that operates Reno Ice.
Reno Ice is also in a partnership with the Vegas Golden Knights to facilitate its Learn to Play program for kids.
“We had 180 participants this past summer; the Golden Knights provide a full set of equipment for kids who want to learn how to skate,” Grace says, adding that this 12-week program is the only one of its kind in the Northern Nevada region.
The Association is also in the process of launching a scholarship fund to help get more kids into the sport of hockey.
“This is something near and dear to the board’s heart. We have a $150,000 commitment from SCHEELS for any kid who has a hardship to come out and play. Our goal is that any young person who shows up who wants to play has the ability and the means to,” Grace says. “We consider ourselves a community center. We host a Christmas show, have our semi-pro team there doing exhibition games, and they sell out. It’s a cool spot in Northern Nevada.”
Another well-known year-round sports center for families in Northern Nevada is the Carson City Aquatic Facility, which features the region’s only Olympic-sized indoor 50-meter pool — along with a smaller outdoor seasonal pool with a slide, a tot pool that’s 6 inches to 3 feet deep, and an indoor therapy pool.
“We offer daily lap swim, open swim and a kids club youth program … we have a diving board, slide and basketball hoop,” says Carson City Aquatic Facility Recreation Program Manager Mike Freeman.
The facility at 841 N. Roop St. also offers drop-in kayaking, water polo and host a local swim team called the Carson Tiger Sharks. A junior lifeguard program was created for swimmers who are a bit ahead of what the rec department’s lessons can provide, and its Grownups and Guppies program allows adults to get in the pool with their child (ages 6 months to 3 years) and learn basic water and swimming skills together.
“We usually get about 1,000 kids in lessons in the summer season,” Freeman says, noting that there are about 150 kids per month who practice for the swim team and 50-100 kids per day who play in the pool during the summer months. “I think aquatics is important. We have the only 50-meter indoor pool in Northern Nevada. The next closest one is in Las Vegas or Sacramento, so we tend to host a lot of competitive swimming events here. It’s the hub for competitive swimming, and then we’re able to program around that.”
“We’re also close to Lake Tahoe, and I think it’s important to have a strong aquatics program so when people go up to Lake Tahoe to go boating or recreate, they have the swimming skills to be in the water safely,” Freeman adds. “Our pool is definitely a prominent feature of the Carson rec department … but Carson City has a lot of recreation opportunities outside of the pool, too. There are a lot of things to do here.”
These ideas represent just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to family fun in Northern Nevada. We encourage you to check out the following websites for a plethora of other ideas: