Today’s post is part of the “Favorite Places to Explore Nature” series, which features some of my favorite bloggers sharing great places to explore nature with kids in their hometowns.
|At Lake Tahoe bright & early for an afternoon of crawdad catching|
Please extend a warm welcome to Lindsey of OutsideMom.com. She’s a mom, an outdoor educator, a mud pie maker and adventure guide to two adorable boys. If you’d like to know how to make a hammock or turn your minivan into an RV, Lindsey’s your gal. She currently calls Reno home.
I’ve only lived in Reno for a year now, but in that short time we have most definitely nailed down a few places that the kids and I return to time and time again. I’ve narrowed it down to our top five, otherwise this post could get looooong.
#1 Lake Tahoe
Ever heard of this place? I thought so. Turns out Lake Tahoe is completely worth the hype! It makes living in Reno actually nice. Clear, beautiful water, lots of rocks for jumping, kayaking to secret coves, small hidden sandy beaches to hike to, and loads of crawdads just waiting to be caught with a piece of salami tied to the end of a string. We made the trek over the mountain several times a month during the summer; we just couldn’t get enough.
Insider tip: If there is any way you can get there on a week day, do it. Most of the beaches fill up to beyond capacity on weekends (lack of parking being the major issue). If you can’t avoid weekends, get there first thing in the morning to stake your claim. Better yet, visit in the early fall after all the vacationers have gone home.
I personally prefer North Lake Tahoe: more rocks, better sand and for some reason I swear it’s warmer!
#2 Swan Lake Nature Study Area
Swan Lake is a quaint little wetland (with a boardwalk!) located north of Reno in Lemmon Valley. But if you’re looking for amazing vistas and stellar scenery, this isn’t the place for you.
|Swan Lake in the fall (I swear, it gets much greener in the spring!)|
So why do we love it so much? It’s the small things. In the spring this places is loaded with birds, frogs and our favorite: macro-invertebrates. If you go, invest in a small pond net (the kind used for cleaning fish tanks) and spend the afternoon catching and identifying these fascinating little critters.
#3 Truckee River Whitewater Park
You don’t need to be a kayaker to enjoy the Whitewater Park. I often bring my kids (without my boat) just to hang out by the river. I love watching all the kayakers play in the park, and my kids love to throw rocks, run around on the river trail, and of course, look for crawdads. The park is right downtown, so you can get your nature fix while also spending some time soaking in the big city … you know, if you’re into that.
|Watching a friend of mine down at the Whitewater Park|
Insider tip: This is not the best place to be at night, or if you want a space where your kids can run around unsupervised. The water can be pretty swift, especially in the spring, It’s also a popular spot with some of the local riffraff.
#4 Galena Creek Recreation Area
We visit Galena Creek year round. There are loads of trails for hiking and biking, as well as a few popular sledding hills. My kids and I like to pack a picnic, wander the interpretive trail and play in the creek. It’s near the base of Mount Rose, making it one of the closest places to the city to actually find some shade (pine trees galore)!
|Wandering the trails near Galena Creek|
Insider tip: The visitor’s center hosts a series of interpretive programs. Check out the calendar before you go.
#5 Nevada Discovery Museum
Nevada Discovery Museum is hands down the best children’s museum I’ve ever had the privilege of visiting. What makes this museum so unique is its focus on local issues, both indoor and out, and the way they have incorporated hands-on learning into every exhibit. It’s so well done! My three favorite outdoor themed exhibits are:
- Truckee Connects: They actually have an 80-foot model of the Truckee River running through the atrium! And you can play in it!
- Under the Stars: Explore a cave, sleep in a tent, go fishing, pack a backpack and learn about the wildlife in Reno’s backyard.
- Cloud Climber: Climb up into the ‘clouds’ in a nearly three-story tall structure (with ample safety nets for the youngest of climbers).
|Playing in the river at the Discovery Museum (note cloud climber in background)|
Insider tip: There are often field trips in the morning, so it gets pretty crowded. Try to get there around noon (they have a place you can eat lunch) and plan to spend the rest of the day there. There is so much to see, I find something new every time I go, and trust me, we go a lot.