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Free Christmas and Holiday Activities Around Reno and Sparks

Free Reno Area Family Events for Christmas and the Holiday Season


Outdoor Christmas decoration at a home in Reno, Nevada, NV

Outdoor Christmas decorations at a home in Reno, Nevada.

Photo © Stan White

Free Christmas and holiday activities, events, and shows in Reno include Christmas parades, concerts of holiday music, museums, holiday lights, Christmas fun at the library, and more.

Free Christmas & Holiday Events, Concerts, and Shows

Sparks Hometowne Christmas Celebration - December 6 and 7, 2013. Sparks Hometowne Christmas kicks off with the annual tree lighting ceremony on Friday evening from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mayor Martini will light the tree at Saint Mary's Amphitheater in Victorian Square and there will be refreshments courtesy of John Ascuaga's Nugget. On Saturday, the 27th annual Sparks Hometowne Christmas Parade begins at 1 p.m. and will travel east to west along Victorian Avenue. The theme is "Celebrating 150 Years of Nevada Heritage," in celebration of the Sesquicentennial - 150th Anniversary of Nevada Statehood. Come early to enjoy free hot chocolate from Living Stones Church. Check out Santa's Village and visit Santa in the historic Glendale Schoolhouse. Other activities include Christmas shopping at the Hometowne Craft Faire in the Sparks Heritage Museum and Cultural Center. You can bring a new, unwrapped gift to donate for the City of Sparks Toy Drive. Join the Ugly Sweater Fun Run at 10 a.m. on December 7, a benefit for Toys For Tots. For more information, call (775) 353-2291.

Holiday Fun at the Washoe County Library - Various dates in December. Check my article and the Washoe County Library website for dates and locations of holiday events and activities like Christmas story times, visits from Santa, free holiday movies, and more. For more information, call (775) 327-8300.

Battle Born, Nevada Proud! - Sierra Watercolor Society Winter Art Show and Sale at the May Museum - November 7 through December 18, 2013. This free exhibit is a Nevada sesquicentennial signature event, with artists displaying original watercolors depicting Nevada's heritage. Show is open during normal museum hours (Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). The May Museum is located in Reno's Rancho San Rafael Regional Park.

Tuba Christmas Concert at the May Museum - December 7, 2013. Come to the Wilbur D. May Museum for the annual Tuba Christmas Concert at 3 p.m. This free family-friendly event features traditional and modern holiday carols performed by tuba players from around the community. Sip hot cocoa and cider and nibble cookies. Try a holiday scavenger hunt in the museum collection to win a prize. Come back the following weekend for the Holiday Gingerbread Festival at the Museum (see below).

hands/ON! on 2nd Saturdays - December 14, 2013. This free monthly event at the Nevada Museum of Art features art activities for families, plus free admission to all museum exhibits for everyone. The theme for December is "Winter Wonderland." For more information and to see what else is going on at our outstanding art museum, refer to "Events at the Nevada Museum of Art."

Holiday Gingerbread Festival at the Wilbur D. May Center - December 14, 2013. Join the family fun and enter the Holiday Gingerbread House Contest at the May Center in Rancho San Rafael Regional Park. Ribbons and prizes will be awarded in three categories. Proceeds from the contest go to benefit the Wilbur D. May Arboretum and Botanical Garden. Get entry forms online or at these locations: May Arboretum Office and Wilbur D. May Museum, both at 1595 N. Sierra Street in Rancho San Rafael Park. The entry fee is $10 and forms are due by December 11. Gingerbread houses must be delivered to the Wilbur D. May Museum between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Saturday, December 14. In addition to formal judging, those in attendance can vote for a "People's Choice" award. Winners will be announced at 2 p.m. This event also features holiday musical performances and holiday arts and crafts. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call (775) 823-6500.

"Home 4 the Holidays" Adoption Drive - Through January 1, 2014. Nevada Humane Society is trying to find homes for 1,200 dogs and cats during the Home 4 the Holidays Pet Adoption Drive. The holidays are all about family and friends. If you love animals, this includes the four-legged family members. Now, through January 1, adult dogs may be adopted for only $45, adult cats for $10, and kittens for $30. Senior citizens may adopt pets 6 years of old and older for free. Together we can make sure that all homeless pets in our community are truly Home for the Holidays! Come meet your new family member at the Nevada Humane Society, 2825 Longley Lane, Reno. More information, call (775) 856-2000.

You can join the fun by attending these holiday events at the Nevada Humane Society…

  • November 23 – Home 4 the Holidays Craft Fair (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
  • December 7 – Holiday Tree lighting at NHS (5 p.m.).
  • December 14 – Cupcake Day includes photos with Santa Paws (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Lights of Tanea - The Biggest Little Christmas Light Show in Reno - November 29 through December 31, 2013. The south Reno neighborhood centered on 16180 Tanea Drive hosts a big holiday light show complete with synchronized music. Lights of Tanea collects non-perishable food items for Evelyn Mount's Outreach Program, and cash donations and reusable clothing for Friends of Multiple Sclerosis. The lights are on and the music plays Sundays through Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. On Christmas Eve and Christmas, the show goes until midnight. This is a very popular event - please read and follow the rules so everyone has a good time.

"Art Angels Community Workshop" by Sierra Watercolor Society - December 14, 2013, 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Kids can make their own holiday gift of a watercolor painting. This free watercolor workshop is limited to 50 children, ages 6 to 12, and includes all supplies and small-group instruction. Reservations are required - call (775) 785-5961 to register.

Galena Creek Visitor Center - Eco-Friendly Gift Wrapping Workshop - December 7, 2013, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Join us at the Visitor Center, where one of our naturalists will show you some easy, cheap, and Eco-friendly gift wrapping strategies that don't sacrifice aesthetics. Be kind to your family, friends, and environment this holiday season. While attending the event, you can do some last minute shopping in the Galena Creek Store. Winter hours are Friday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call (775) 674-5499.

"Festive Holidays: Stars of Wonder, Stars of Light" Reno Pops Community Christmas Concert - December 13, 2013. Join the Reno Pops Orchestra for its Festive Holidays Concert, "Star of Wonder, Star of Light," where we will celebrate beloved and ancient carols, complimented by selections from the stars and lights of Broadway and Hollywood. This free concert will be at The Rock Church in Sparks, 4950 Vista Blvd. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. and no ticket is needed.

Free Christmas Events in Virginia City and Carson City

Silver and Snowflakes Festival of Lights in Carson City - December 6, 2013. The event is Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The night's festivities begin on the Capitol grounds with the state tree, a bristlecone pine, being lit, as well as lights along Carson Street. Join the procession with Santa, Mrs. Claus, the voices of the Carson City 5th Grade Music Students Singing Ensemble, and Victorian carolers from the Battle Born Civil War Reenactors. Highlights include special priced ice skating at the Arlington Square Ice Rink, hot dogs and chili dogs from the Elks Club, and cookies and hot chocolate from the Downtown Business Association. For more information, call (775) 887-1294.

Christmas on the Comstock Parade of Lights - December 7, 2013. Gather along C Street, Virginia City's main drag, for an evening showcase of holiday lights glowing on everything from trucks to bikes and all up and down the street. The parade starts at 5 p.m.

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