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Top Free Places to Cool Off Around Reno / Tahoe

Free and Really Cheap Water Play Recreation


Reno residents head for the water when the heat is on. We may live in a desert, but there is plenty of water-based recreation in the Reno / Tahoe region thanks to our proximity to the Sierra Nevada and the cool water that flows our way from its many streams. The main one is the Truckee River, without which Reno and Sparks simply would not exist as they do today. We also wouldn't have the abundance of cool choices in water play places we all enjoy during the dog days of summer.

Wingfield Park in Downtown Reno

Photo © Stan White

Wingfield Park in downtown Reno one of the most popular places for Truckee River water play during Reno's hot summer months. Together with the Truckee River Whitewater Park, it's like a free water park right in the middle of the city. You can bring your own tubes, rafts, and boogie boards, or rent water play toys from a couple of nearby vendors. The park has big shade trees and expanses of lawn for sunbathing. Numerous downtown Reno events take place here, including the Reno River Festival in May.

Whitewater Park at Rock Park in Sparks

Summer water play at the Whitewater Park at Rock Park in Sparks, Nevada
Photo © Stan White
The Whitewater Park at Rock Park consists of over 1,000 feet of fun - five drop pools for kayaking, tubing, and rafting. Riverbank modifications provide for safe water play areas for children and great places for families to enjoy a day at Rock Park. Admission to Rock Park and its whitewater features is free. The whole park was overhauled after 30 years of service, reopening in May of 2009 with the addition of the Whitewater Park at Rock Park.

Victorian Square Interactive Fountain in Sparks

Photo © Stan White
This amazing fountain occupies a large plaza in front of the Century Theatre on Victorian Square in Sparks. During the summer months, streams spray from numerous jets to create a watery maze that keeps kids running and laughing, trying to anticipate when the next burst of water will spring up. My description doesn't paint a good picture - you have to see it for yourself. The fountain is big and suitable for all ages, including the adults who aren't shy about running around like kids. Come on down and get wet - there is no admission charge.

Sparks Marina Park

Swimming beach at Sparks Marina Park
Photo © Stan White
Sparks Marina Park has a terrific free swimming area at the northwest corner of the lake. The designated swimming area roped off and there are lifeguards on duty. There is a big beach for sunbathing and sand play, restroom facilities, snack bar, nearby playground, and lots of parking. Outside the swimming area, you can float non-power boats, go fishing (Nevada state regulations apply), or walk the path around the water. The Legends at Sparks Marina shopping complex is right next door. For 2009, swimming is permitted May 23 to 25, May 30 to 31, June 4 to August 30, and September 5 to 7, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Children under eight years old must have an adult with them in the water at all times.

Kings Beach State Recreation Area at Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe, Kings Beach State Recreation Area, Lake Tahoe Recreation, Lake Tahoe Swimming Beaches
Photo © Stan White
Kings Beach State Recreation Area at Lake Tahoe is 43 miles from downtown Reno. The Mt. Rose Highway (Nevada 431) takes you up to cool water lapping at Lake Tahoe's north shore. When you get to Nevada 28 at Incline Village, turn right and drive west, passing through Crystal Bay, NV. At the state line, it becomes California 89 and takes you to Kings Beach. It's a little over five miles from Incline Village to Kings Beach. This beautiful, family friendly park on Lake Tahoe's north shore is a perfect place to go when the heat is on in Reno. There is a long sandy beach, a shallow shoreline for children, and water toy rentals including, paddle boats, water bikes, tubes, and jet skis. Admission is free, but there is a fee of $7 for parking.

Melio Gaspari Water Play Park at Lazy 5 Regional Park

Lazy 5 Regional Park is located at 7100 Pyramid Lake Highway, in the Spanish Springs area of north Sparks. The water play park is specifically designed for children, with water spouting features like a cactus, horse heads, and sunflowers. Admission is $3, with kids under three free. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, and closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Lazy 5 also has a library, playground, picnic areas, skate park, vollyball court, and shade structures. For more information, call the Pah Rah District Ranger at (775) 424-1804.

Yori Park in Southeast Reno

The Yori Park water play area has waterfalls and jets shooting out of the ground. Using the water play features in this Reno city park is free and open to the public. The water will be flowing every day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Yori Park is in the Linden-Grove neighborhood at Yori Avenue and Gallaway Lane. For more information, call (775) 334-2262.

Great Basin Adventure at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park

Update: Due to budget cuts, the log flume ride, pony rides, and petting zoo will be closed until further notice. The remaining attractions will be open free of charge.

Great Basin Adventure is a small theme park designed with families and children in mind. It has a dinosaur playground, pony rides, petting zoo, gold panning, and a log flume ride. Admission is $5 for all ages, with under 3 free. Log flume rides are $2, or get admission and unlimited rides for $10. Great Basin Adventure is part of the Wilbur D. May Center. Another part of Rancho San Rafael Park is the Wilbur D. May Arboretum and Botanical Garden, full of wondrous plants and criss crossed by shady pathways for cool summer walks. Admission to the Arboretum is free.


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