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4 Family-Friendly, Secret(ish) ‘Things to Do in Reno Before You Die’

mikalee bookWhen I was contacted by a publisher and asked if I would write a book about Reno, my first thought was this:

Am I being Punk’d?

But then I realized it was legit and that Ashton Kutcher was not about to show up at my door; the publisher was asking me to write a book called “100 Things to Do in Reno Before You Die,” which, despite the title, was not in any way about dying.

Instead, it’s a bucket list book about Reno, one that would grow to include more than 100 ideas that fall into categories including food and drink; music and entertainment; sports, recreation and outdoor adventure; culture and history; and shopping and fashion.

(And by the way, I say “more than 100 ideas” because some of the “things” are lists of multiple “things,” which is how I cheated and jam-packed this book full of options for locals and visitors alike!)

So yeah, with the understanding of the scope of the book in mind, I had a second thought: I wanted this to be the kind of book to make people rediscover how incredibly spectacular Reno is.

I have lived here since I was 4 years old, and now, I’m raising my own three kids here — who range in age from 4-17.

So needless to say, I spend a lot of time trying to find fun, family-friendly and generation-spanning activities that all of my kids can enjoy.

While the book isn’t entirely dedicated to family-friendly activities, a vast majority of the suggestions are just that. And one of the best things I’ve heard from readers is that they’re using the book as an idea generator: When they’re at a loss of a fun activity on a weekend, they pick up the book, flip to a random page — and go!

Below are four examples of some lesser-known, family-friendly ideas I learned and experienced while compiling this book. And if you’re looking for more ideas, join me at The Nest (one of the “things” in the book!) next Saturday, Aug. 12, from 1-3 p.m., where I’ll be selling and signing books. I’d be happy to brainstorm a few other ideas for and your family!

Smiling with Hope Pizza

If you’re looking for an authentic New York experience in a suburb of Reno, this is your place! Though chances are, you had no idea you were even looking for that.

But trust me when I say: You are.

While the food is authentic and yummy and 5-star-Yelp-review worthy, the reason you’ll want to bring your kids here may have more to do with the mission. Owners Walter and Judy have made this a place welcoming of employees of all backgrounds, including those with developmental disabilities, training them to deliver the most incredible customer service experience you can imagine. You can walk in grumpy, yet leave feeling #blessed to live this most amazing life and just wanting to warmly embrace every single person you pass.

But don’t do that. We’re not quite there as a society yet.

Inclusiveness is the takeaway here — which includes a helping of the most melt-in-your-mouth garlic knots you’ve ever experienced. I’m not saying “tasted,” because they also will inspire a transformative multi-sensory experience.

Yes. They’re THAT good.

Details here. Their hours are a bit wonky, so pretty please check their website before you buckle your toddler (who is hangry and didn’t nap) into the 5-point car seat only to be met with a “CLOSED” sign. Smiling with Hope is located at 6135 Lakeside Dr #101 in Reno; (775) 825-1070.

Nevada Museum of Art

Sure, you’ve already heard about the NMA — if you haven’t already even been for yourself — and this is supposed to be a post about “little-known secrets.”

But what I truly believe is little known about the museum is its “Hands ON! Second Saturdays,” which happen — wait for it — the second Saturday of every month.

Mind blown, right?

Anyhow, these programs offer free admission and are the perfect way to inspire your littles to be interested in the offerings of a world-class museum.

It’s called “Hands ON!” because your children can get their hands dirty (with ART!) by participating in fun and engaging art activities, storytelling, live performances, and more.  They can enjoy time with museum staff, who will invite them to take a closer look at selected artworks while engaging in a dialogue about the selected pieces.

Themes and programs change monthly and rotate through cultural explorations, exhibition connections and community partnerships.

The next Hands ON! Second Saturday is this Sat., Aug. 12 from 10 am – 6 pm (which means you can check it out right AFTER meeting me at The Nest and picking up your copy of my book. Hint-hint.)

Details here.

Vikingsholm

Maybe you have a child fascinated by fairy tales. Perhaps you’ve seen enough Elsa from Frozen, Rapunzel from Tangled and Princess Poppy from Trolls to last a lifetime. You can recite every line, sing every song and mimic every dance move.

Oh wait. This is about you, not me. Redirecting.

Anyhow, I’ve enjoyed this hike down and back up again a few times with my kids, and I have to tell you: It’s magical. The hike is just enough to exhaust them for naptime, while not making them beg you with a chorus of “carry me!” over and over and over again.

Maybe just over and over. But no worries: you’ve got this! (Full disclosure: The trail back to the car is steep. Bring those squeezee apple sauces and some dry cereal for snacks.)

Until September, there’s even a 30-minute tour of the castle every 30 minutes — many of the original furnishings are still inside, and the interior is just as ornate and fascinating as the architecture outside. But more than anything else, the romantic castle setting, views of Emerald Bay, and the intoxicating aroma of pine from the surrounding forests will make your kids feel like they’ve visited a Nordic castle worthy of a visit by Kristoff and Sven themselves.

No Olaf until winter — or unless he brings his own personal flurry.

Details here. Tours are $10 for adults, $8 students 7-17 years and with valid college ID, and free for children under 7 years; purchase tickets at the Visitor Center just past Vikingsholm.

Picasso & Wine

Of course you’ve enjoyed Picasso & Wine for date night.

You have, right? (Note to self if you haven’t: Um, do it!)

But did you know that Picasso & Wine is also something to experience with your kids? (Well, sans the “wine” part.)

Check their calendars for “Family Days,” during which a different, easy-ish painting is taught for kids age 6 and up along with their parents. You bring your own snacks (nuts, Goldfish, Costco brownie bites, whatev), order a drink at the bar (they also have awesome mocktails for kids wanting to feel sophisticated), and enjoy fun family bonding over paint.

The best part: You don’t have to worry about getting acrylic paint out of that awesome vintage armchair that you forgot to cover in plastic the moment your kids were born. (But yeah, do that when you get home.)

PS. The next family day painting is Sunday, Aug. 20, and is $25 per person. See you there!

PPS. Many of their painting classes are for those age 16 and up, so this is also a fun thing to do with teens!

Details here. Check calendars for family days. Picasso & Wine has locations in Midtown, at the Summit mall and in Carson City, and is expanding to Sparks soon!

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OK, so there’s SO MUCH MORE I could share! Like having your kids experience a delivery from MARS — the Mathewson Automated Retrieval System, which retrieves books in the library at UNR; taking them to explore downtown art on a Midtown Mural Tour; visiting the underground mine at the Nevada State Museum; or gathering up their gently used books and using them for credit toward a new book at Grassroots Books.

So if you’re interested in family excursions, grab a copy of “100 Things to Do in Reno Before You Die”; the book is only $16, which means that’s less than 16 cents per idea!

Join me at The Nest, Sat., Aug. 12 from 1-3 p.m.

201 Keystone Ave, Reno, NV 89503

Phone: (775) 284-8841

Details here. And anyone who stops by will be entered to win a prize from a “thing” in the book!

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About Mikalee Byerman

Mikalee Byerman
When Mikalee Byerman's decade-long first marriage ended with a message inscribed on a brick — a literal brick — the writer knew she had crazy fodder for a story about the symbolism of bricks, blindsides and a universe that likes to fuck with her. Taking cues from her “you-can’t-make-this-shit-up” misfortune, the potty-mouthed freelance writer is documenting her tongue-in-cheek take on life through her highly controversial blog, Me 2.0, which has been featured on the Huffington Post and TIME Magazine's websites. Her writing also has appeared in Ladies’ Home Journal, Southwest Spirit Magazine and Alaska Airlines Magazine. Her first book — 100 Things to Do in Reno Before You Die — is due out in Spring 2017 (Reedy Press). During the day, she is a communication strategist for the Estipona Group. Oh yeah, and she's also known as "Mom" to two crazy-cool teens and "Mommy" to one plain-crazy toddler.

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