While Northern Nevada is widely known for its skiing, boating and camping, the most famous areas are located well outside the Reno city limits.
What visitors may not know is that the city is also home to numerous parks scattered across town that offer everything from hiking and biking to amusement park rides. Even in the winter, Reno's parks are a great place to get a cheap (and often free) dose of the outdoors within a few miles of your hotel. For more information about the parks listed below and others, visit www.co.washoe.nv.us/park.
In the summer, Idlewild Park (1900 Idlewild Drive) operates a permanent carnival featuring a roller coaster, merry-go-round and miniature train. But the park's playgrounds, exercise course and sports areas are busy year-round. Idlewild also hosts a peace officer memorial, the city rose garden and numerous ponds popular with geese and other fowl.
Not too far away, Newlands Park (700 California Ave.) is often nearly deserted, which makes it a good choice for anyone looking for some solitude. Set on a rise overlooking Reno High School and some of downtown's oldest buildings, the park is well-kept and ideal for picnickers or families looking to get away from the casinos and strip malls. It's a bit harder to get to than many parks: Most visitors have to park across California Avenue on Newlands Circle and cross over. Be careful here, as some motorists seem to forget that the crosswalk is there.
While only a park in the broadest sense, the Truckee River Walk (Along the river from Virginia Street to Arlington Avenue) eventually links with the Wingfield Park complex, which encompasses Brick Park, Bennett Park, Wingfield Park West, Wingfield Park East and Bicentennial Park. Within these parks you can find picnic shelters, barbeque, basketball courts, an amphitheater, pathways and the Truckee River Whitewater Park. During the summer months, the large outdoor amphitheater hosts public concerts, theater, dances and movie screenings. The riverwalk itself allows access to the water, as well as pedestrian routes to local businesses and several art installations.
Reno's largest park, Rancho San Rafael, (1595 N. Sierra St.), offers picnic facilities, miles of trails, multiple playgrounds, an arboretum and a botanical garden. It also houses the Wilbur May Center (www.maycenter.com), a museum showing trophies and artifacts amassed by philanthropist Wilbur D. May. During the warm season, the May Center's Great Basin Adventure theme park operates a flume ride, petting zoo and interactive exhibits about local history and nature.
Across the street, the Fleischmann Planetarium (1650 N Virginia St.) is just one of the public attractions on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. The planetarium grounds feature a variety of astronomy exhibits and seminars, full-dome movies, a meteorite, a solar system model, weather instruments and other exhibits as well as a powerful telescope for public viewings. The architecture alone is work checking out.
Located near the center of town, Teglia's Paradise Park (2745 Elementary Dr.) provides garden plots for residents to plant their own vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruits, a portion of which is donated to charity. The garden also features a six-foot-tall, 800-pound mosaic scarecrow built by a local sculptor. The rest of the park offers a community center, paved pathways, a picnic structure and a grape arbor.
South Valleys Sports Complex (15650 Wedge Pkwy.) on the south side of town is a weekend mecca for youth soccer players. The main area features numerous athletic fields with plenty of room for spectators and one of Reno's newest public libraries, while several pathways wind through the surrounding neighborhoods in full view of the foothills.
Bartley Ranch Park (6000 Bartley Ranch Rd.) surrounds the historic Huffaker School, a 150-year-old schoolhouse that has been refurbished by the county. Above the park, Windy Hill offers an overlook point with a impressive view of the city popular with couples of all ages. Down below, a visitor center and multiple trails for mountain-bikers, hikers and horseback riders abound. There's also an impressive outdoor amphitheater and a seasonal corn maze.
Huffaker Park and Mountain Trail (1160 E Huffaker Ln.) Somehow manages to be rural and urban at the same time. Set in the middle of the city's southern sprawl, the park includes areas for sports including baseball and horseshoes, a playground, picnic areas, a running stream and plenty of open grass. The dirt trail system ranges over a mostly undeveloped mountain, which offers an interesting contrast between nearby subdivisions and the open desert. Overlooks, benches and picnic tables are scattered around the 1.4-mile outer trail, and various cutoffs allow hikers to make their trip as challenging or easy as they'd like. Be advised that while this is a suburban park, you may come across small animals such as rabbits or rattlesnakes and trails may be rocky or eroded in spots.
The quintessential Reno park, Virginia Lake Park (1980 Lakeside Dr.) has been a favorite of joggers and bird-watchers for decades. On any given day, athletes ranging from active senior citizens to high school track teams can be found doing laps around the lake. An island in the middle of the is a major gathering area for Canada geese and other fowl, and the birds are not shy about gathering around visitors in search of snacks. In addition to picnic enclosures and a playground, the park also features a fitness course and a view of the systems that help clean up after its inhabitants.
Article written by Matt Farley. Farley is a Nevada native who has worked for the Reno Gazette-Journal and Nevada Magazine and been syndicated by The Associated Press, Gannett News Service and the Las Vegas Review Journal.