Often referred to as the eighth wonder of the world, Hoover Dam is a must for visitors to the state of Nevada, especially since it's less than an hour's drive from Las Vegas.

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Family Vacations in Nevada Overview

Nevada offers families the best of both worlds -- outdoor adventure and a dazzling city that are so close together, you can experience it all in one day. About 85 percent of the state is public land and there are well over 200 forested mountain ranges where families can hike, backpack, mountain climb, ski, sightsee, go flatwater paddling or take a canoe trip.

Hoover Dam, one of the twentieth century's greatest engineering achievements, is also one of the grandest attractions in the state of Nevada. Built from more than six million tons of concrete, kids will be amazed by the structure’s sheer size.

While the The Sagebrush State is home to America’s largest adult playground, the 24-hour city of Las Vegas is also chock full of fun activities and attractions especially for kids.

In the following article, you’ll find profiles of some of the state’s major attractions and activities. Included is contact information to help you plan your trip as well as photos of each destination. Here’s a preview:

Whitewater Park and Kayak Slalom Racing Course

During the summer months Whitewater Park and Kayak Slalom Racing Course is popular with kids who enjoy floating down the river in inner tubes.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas has reinvented itself in recent years as a family vacation destination. As a result, Las Vegas now offers an array of family-oriented shows and themed hotels that kids are sure to love.

Pyramid Lake

Pyramid Lake is a striking contrast to its rugged, arid surroundings in northwestern Nevada. Located on the Paiute Indian Reservation, Pyramid Lake's warm, shallow waters are a magnet for anglers and swimmers.

Begin a trip to Nevada by reading the next page and planning to visit the Whitewater Park and Solemn Tandem Racing Course.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Las Vegas City Guide: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit America’s Playground.
  • Nevada State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Nevada, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Photo courtesy City of Reno Reno’s Whitewater Park offers a great kayaking experience. It’s become a popular downtown attraction as well.

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Family Vacations in Nevada: Whitewater Park and Kayak Slalom Racing Course

Cutting right through the middle of downtown Reno, this white-water rafting course was created out of the Truckee River. It is open year-round for kayaking, rafting, canoeing, and tubing. The mile-long course features 11 drop pools and a slalom racing course, and there are 7,000 tons of smooth flat rocks along the riverbanks that are perfect for picnicking or watching the paddlers pass by.

At one point the course splits into two channels that later reconnect; one channel offers the drops, bumps, and pitches of an aquatic rodeo course, while the other is better suited for beginning kayakers.

During the summer months the course is popular with kids who enjoy floating down the river in inner tubes. Concessionaires rent all types of watercraft, including tubes and riverboards, and kayaking lessons are available for all ages.

A river festival in May brings out some of the world's best professional and Olympic kayakers for white-water competitions, clinics, and demonstrations. On Friday nights in the summer you can enjoy music from the Rolling on the River concert series as you float down the river.

Leave the whitewater, and trip the lights fantastic on the Las Vegas Strip. On the next page, you can read all about Sin City.

Whitewater Park and Kayak Slalom Racing Course Information

Address: 400 Island Ave., Reno, NV

Telephone: 775/787-5000 800/442-7238

Hours of Operation: Hours vary

Admission: Cost varies

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Nevada State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Nevada, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

From his turret, Merlin welcomes you to Excalibur Hotel.

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Family Vacations in Nevada: Las Vegas

Las Vegas is a city divided when it comes to family vacations. Long known for its glittering casinos and adult entertainment, the city has reinvented itself in recent years as a family vacation destination. As a result, Las Vegas now offers an array of family-oriented shows and themed hotels that kids are sure to love.

Family-friendly resorts include the Excalibur Hotel, inspired by castles in Europe. Its Tournament of Kings is a must-see extravaganza, and its Court Jester's Stage features magicians, jugglers, and puppeteers. Outside the Sherwood Forest Café, kids can climb on giant dragons.

If your family's tastes include pirate adventure, try out Treasure Island Resort, based on the tales of Robert Louis Stevenson. There's a lagoon facing The Strip and plenty of talking skeletons and treasure chests inside the resort. It's also home to Mystre, the fantastic Cirque du Soleil performance many consider to be the best show in town. Circus Circus shows are daily from 11:00 a.m. to midnight in its mezzanine, along with dozens of carnival games and an arcade with more than 300 video and pinball games. Behind the hotel is an amusement park.

Las Vegas's selection of shows is legendary, and many of them are suitable for families. In addition to Mystere, the inventive Cirque du Soleil theater group offers two other breathtaking performances -- one of which is completely underwater. Star Trek: The Experience is a huge hit with kids over the age of seven. Part museum, part movie, and part ride, this exciting attraction combines live theater, a motion-simulation ride, and dazzling special effects.

Lance Burton's magic show features some of the best sleight-of-hand in the business, and children are often called out of the audience to assist onstage. The spectacular Fountains of Bellagio are a family favorite. They are located in front of the opulent Bellagio resort. The fountains are synchronized to music and enhanced by dramatic lighting. The show is free.

Other Las Vegas attractions include Stratosphere Tower, reaching some 1,150 feet above The Strip. It offers thrilling rides, freefall jumps, and roller coasters. While younger children will enjoy the view, the rides are better suited for older kids.

The Secret Garden of Siegfried and Roy and the Dolphin Habitat are greats stop for animal lovers, as is the Wildlife Walk at the Tropicana. M&Ms World, with 26,000 square feet of chocolate, is a mouthwatering shop for kids to visit. Dozens of other kid-pleasing attractions include Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, the Guinness World of Records Museum, the Lion Habitat at MGM Grand, racecar driving experiences, the Manhattan Express roller coaster, and much more.

Beyond Las Vegas, a world of outdoor adventure awaits. Continue reading to find out about trips to Pyramid Lake.

Las Vegas Information

Address: Downtown Las Vegas at N. Las Vegas Blvd. and Fremont St.

Las Vegas, NV

Telephone: 702/735-1616

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Las Vegas City Guide: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit America’s Playground.
  • Nevada State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Nevada, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Laura Sutherland is a widely acknowledged authority on family travel and has published several books on the topic, including Best Family Ski Vacations In North America and Tropical Family Vacations.

Visitors can kayak across the idyllic Pyramid Lake.

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Family Vacations in Nevada: Pyramid Lake

Named for the distinctive 400-foot rock near its eastern shore, Pyramid Lake is a striking contrast to its rugged, arid surroundings in northwestern Nevada. The lake is one of the largest desert lakes in the world and is famous for its tufa rock formations. Its surface vacillates from turquoise to dark blue. Across the lake, views of the mountains, streaked with gray and pink, are unforgettable.

In 1844, John C. Fremont, said to be the first Anglo to gaze at the lake, put a fitting description to paper after this vast oasis punctuated his journey through the desert: "A defile between the mountains descended rapidly about two thousand feet; and, filling up all the lower space, was a sheet of green water, some twenty miles broad. It broke upon our eyes like the ocean."

Located on the Paiute Indian Reservation, Pyramid Lake's warm, shallow waters are a magnet for anglers and swimmers. The world-record cutthroat trout -- a 41-pound whopper -- was pulled from these electric blue waters in 1925.

Pyramid Lake Information

Address: Visitor Center

709 State St., Nixon, NV

Telephone: 775/574-1088

Hours of Operation: Dawn - Dusk

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Nevada State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Nevada, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.