Mind games

Local museums, stores and activity centers keep young minds alertTerry Wells Nevada Discovery MuseumRoller KingdomFleischmann PlanetariumScheelsPump It UpThe Playroom

Scheels has an indoor Ferris wheel.

Scheels has an indoor Ferris wheel.

Photo By ashley hennefer

Reno and sparks sit just at the edge of the Sierra Nevada with the Truckee River running right smack through the middle of downtown Reno. In other words, this region is surrounded by boundless outdoor recreation opportunities for the family. But sometimes, we get rain or snow, or worst of all, that cold, dreary, hazy pain in the butt of an inversion layer that we just went through. After a few days of that cold dreariness you need to get your little rascals out of your house before a) they destroy it and b) you begin removing large clumps of that rapidly graying hair from your scalp. To retain your sanity, you need to find a fun place indoors to take your kids. And no, 8-year-olds don’t consider sampling the coffee at Trader Joe’s or wandering around Whole Foods wondering why every one is so thin as fun indoor activities. They want kid fun. So in the interest of your mental health we are providing a list of some options. Before you go, be sure and check the website and/or make a phone call to make sure they are open, and you know how to get there.

The Discovery is packed full of great hands-on exhibits and fun things to do for kids including the Cloud Chamber, which is basically a three-story jungle gym where they learn about the water cycle, or Truckee Connections—an 80-foot working model of our favorite river. At the Build It! exhibit kids can get involved with the building process from drafting plans to choosing building materials, with a healthy dose of information on green energy generation. At Da Vinci’s Corner, they get to explore some of the things that one of the world’s greatest inventors was interested in and at the Spark! Lab Smithsonian kids and adults get involved with fun activities geared towards sparking interest in their creative minds and invention. The museum also provides a steady supply of classes and programs that might strike your kids’ fancy, and it’s a highly recommended spot for birthday parties.

409 S. Center Street, (775) 786-1000, www.nvdm.org

Once you’ve done that museum thing, perhaps the kids just want to go for a roll at the Roller Kingdom downtown. Roller skating to music? What’s not to like? For kids, they have a Thursday family skate night and Sunday family day, plus the Saturday morning zoo geared towards children under 10. Rates are reasonable and there’s a snack bar. If you are thinking a group party might be what is needed, Roller Kingdom has a full menu of private party options including the Kooky A Bird, Wally Funtastic, or Wizards Deluxe Pizza Party.

515 E. 7th Street, (775) 329-3472, www.rollerkingdom.org

Fleischmann Planetarium shows entertaining and educational films.


While it’s worthwhile to spend a few minutes perusing the small but interesting scientific display, you go to the Planetarium for the very cool surround-you movies presented on the ceiling of the dome. In fact, once you start going to these shows with the kids, you might want to sneak off for a showing while the kids are in school. Currently the dome presentations include: Saturn, Jewel of the Heavens, with incredible photography on one of our solar systems most unique planets; Ice World, an exploration of icebergs and glaciers; and Attack of the Space Pirates, where you travel through space accompanied by music from Star Wars creator George Lucas.

1664 N. Virginia, (on the University of Nevada, Reno campus), (775) 784-4812, www.planetarium.unr.nevada.edu

While you might think of Scheels as a mega clothing and department store, it can also be a pretty entertaining place to spend a few hours with the kids. There are life like bronze sculptures, humongous aquariums full of fish, a wildlife mountain with depictions of our western wildlife, an operating Ferris Wheel, old fashioned shooting gallery and several sports simulators that folks can try, including a chance for your little racer to become a NASCAR driver.

Legends at Sparks Marina, 1200 Scheels Drive, (775) 331-2700, www.scheels.com

Yes, this is the land of those gigantic, inflatable bouncy things that kids can’t get enough of. While certainly a top birthday choice, Pump It Up is also popular for special events during the holidays or just to join in the Pop-In Playtime.

610 E. Glendale, Sparks, (775) 324-9663, www.pumpitupparty.com/nv/sparks

Want to keep it simple and just find a playground that is not wet? The Playroom is an indoor playground, geared especially towards infants, toddlers and kids up to 8 years old. In addition to being a dry place to play, they also have drama, dance or theater classes.

8745 Technology Way, (775) 826-7529, www.theplayroominfo.com