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Reno: Things to See & Do

There is life outside the casinos, and Reno has a number of special attractions which we recommend as family distractions, particularly after a hard day or two of gaming. Also, we suggest that you explore the historic area around Reno, including taking a day trip to Virginia City, or Pyramid Lake.

Ft. Churchill Historic State Monument

You'll find this 1860 U.S. Army outpost eight miles south of Silver Springs, via Alternate Highway 95 (start by driving east from Reno on I-80). The 710-acre park has a visitor center, picnic area, and campground, located beside the Carson River. Nominal fees are charged for use of the campground and picnic areas. Hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Friday through Tuesday. For information, call (775) 577-2345.

Wildlife Parks

The Sierra Safari Zoo is located in Reno, off I-80 near the Red Rock exit. This small zoo is home to some 200 animals -- more than 40 species. The fee is $5 for adults, and $3 for children, with those under 3 admitted without charge. For information, call (775) 677-1101

Animal Ark Wildlife Sanctuary houses animals mostly native to the American West, including coyotes, pronghorn antelopes, a black bear, mountain lion, wolves, bobcats, owls, desert tortoises, and more -- including two tigers (not found naturally in America). The park is open weekends from early April to late October, and also open on Thursdays and Fridays during summer months. Admission fee: $4 for adults, and $3 for children 3 years and under. To get there, take Interstate 395 north from Reno, and turn right on Red Rock Road, and drive 11 miles to Deerlodge. Turn right and drive one mile to the sanctuary. For information, call (775) 969-3111.

Nevada Museum of Art

This brand new major museum is at 160 West Liberty St. in downtown Reno. You can easily find it from Virginia Street, just south of the Truckee River. And once you see the building you'll know it has to be the new museum. It's an all-black building, meant by the architect to represent the nearby Black Rock Desert and mountains. It holds 60,000 square feet of exhibit and common space. As well as major visiting exhibitions, the museum features exhibits specializing in depicting the Nevada (state) and Sierra Nevada area and people. The Installation Gallery features the works of one artist. The Contemporary Gallery is on the third floor. On the roof is an expansive exhibit area for sculpture. The museum has a gift shop, as well as a cafe and library.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesdays-Sundays, and until 8 p.m. on Thursdays. For information, call (775) 329-3333 or go to the museum web site.

Reno/Tahoe Gaming Academy

This is the place to learn basic moves before you venture into a casino. It's located at 300 East First Street, Suite 103, in downtown Reno. Two-hour lessons are offered, covering popular table games. The cost for a session is $5. For information, call (775) 329-5665.

Pure Country Dance Hall and Saloon

There's a lot of the Old West in Northern Nevada and this place typifies the fun you can have in the area if you like things Western, including music and dancing. There is live music, mainly the western swing type, and weekends are busy. Dance lessons are given on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They're free. Many dancers wear cowboy regalia, especially hats. The bands are great, so if you don't or won't dance, it worth going here just to hear the music. It's located at 1955 Oddie Blvd., Sparks. For information and hours, call (775) 331-4441

Day Trips from Reno

1 - To Pyramid Lake

26 miles long and 11 miles wide, and home to the unique cui-cui fish, as well as cutthroat trout, Pyramid Lake offers a great family day trip. Located 30 miles northeast of Reno, it is the last remains of a huge inland sea that covered most of the Great Basin Desert. The signature object, which gives the lake its name, is a huge, pyramid-shaped rock -- 400 feet high -- sitting in the lake. The lake lies within the boundaries of the Paiute Indian reservation.

You'll see hundreds of American white pelicans around Anahoe Island, and other wildlife around the lake. Boating, swimming, and camping are among the popular recreational activities. For information on recreational opportunities, call (775) 476-0123 or (775) 673-6335.

2 - To Virginia City

You'll love this little town. It's all that remains from the sizable city that grew quickly after the Comstock Lode silver discoveries in 1859. It became the largest city in the west outside of San Francisco, with opera houses, saloons, fine dining, brothels, several newspapers, and -- of course -- mining operations. The mines provided the silver that bankrolled the Union in the Civil War. Mine shafts and tunnels are located all over the area and under the present Virginia City.

The drive to Virginia City takes about 45 minutes, traveling from Reno. First, drive south on Highway 395. Highway 341 takes you over Geiger Summit, at 6,799 feet. The driver may curse the steep road, but others will marvel over the views.

What you'll see when you get there is the old main street, lined with old buildings -- some brick, some frame. Saloons, cafes, candy shops, and several museums. A train takes you along the old mining railway, for an hour's ride. Other attractions include underground tours, and the annual Camel Races, held each Fall.

After your visit, you can continue south on Highway 341, which ends at a few miles east of Carson City. Return to Reno via Highway 395, passing Washoe Lake.

For more information on Virginia City attractions,
call (775) 847-0311.

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