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Top Free Places to Cool Off Around Reno / Tahoe

Free and Really Cheap Water Play Recreation

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Reno and Sparks 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

Summer water play at Wingfield Park in Reno, Nevada.

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.

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 is 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 Outlets at Sparks shopping complex is right next door. In swimming areas, children under eight years old must have an adult with them in the water at all times. Here are the hours for 2014...

  • May 24 to 26 - 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • May 31 to June 1 - 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • June 7 to 8 - 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • June 14 to August 10 - 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • July 4 - 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • August 16 to 17 - 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • August 23 to 24 - 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • August 30 to September 1 - 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Victorian Square Interactive Fountain in Sparks

Interactive water play fountain in Sparks, Nevada.
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.

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 two and adults over 62 free. A '5 Punch Pass' is $13.50, and a '10 Punch Pass' is $24. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting on Memorial Day weekend and  10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays starting June 18. There is a concession with bottled water, soft drinks, and prepackaged snacks. Lazy 5 Regional Park also has a library, playground, picnic areas, skate park, vollyball court, and shade structures. For more information, call (775) 823-6500.

North Valleys Water Splash Park

This park opened in May, 2014. It is located at North Valleys Regional Park in Stead (north Reno), 8085 Silver Lake Road. The aviation-themed park is 7,100 square feet with 20 water features and 60 spray heads. There is a model of Rare Bear, one of the racing planes frequently competing in the Reno Air Races. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on every open day. In 2014, they are weekends only from May 18 through June 15, daily from June 16 through August 9, and weekends only from August 10 through September 1. Admission is $3, with kids under two and adults over 62 free. A '5 Punch Pass' is $13.50, and a '10 Punch Pass' is $24. For more information, call (775) 823-6500.

 

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.

Beaches at Lake Tahoe

When it's blazing hot in the Reno area, lots of people head up the hill to enjoy the relative cool at Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe beaches are popular and provide easy access to Lake Tahoe's cool water for swimming and many other forms of water recreation. Many are free, but some, like Sand Harbor, require a small fee. Note that most Lake Tahoe beaches do not allow dogs.

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