You never know what you might see in Reno. On our first night in town, my wife and 6-year-old daughter called me to look out the window of our 27th-story hotel room. There, in the center of town, was a brilliant fireworks display — an appropriate welcome to this Nevada town full of flash and color. Although there is a plethora of casinos and night life, we found this mini-Vegas to be offbeat and kid-friendly. It's also affordable: two nights at Circus Circus cost about $175, a buffet dinner for two at the Silver Legacy was $50 and the Discovery Museum cost $24 for two adults and one child.
Circus Circus Reno Hotel & Casino (500 N. Sierra St.;  648-5010, http://www.circuscircusreno.com) features free circus-type shows throughout the day by performers from all over the world. The stage is in the center of an elaborate midway full of carnival games. After breakfast at the hotel's Americana Café, we couldn't resist playing some and winning a handful of stuffed animals. We then took a short walk along Virginia Street to the iconic Reno Arch, which boasts that Reno is "The Biggest Little City in the World."
Our favorite meal was dinner that evening at the neighboring Silver Legacy Resort Casino (407 N. Virginia St.;  687-7733, http://www.silverlegacyreno.com). There was just about every type of food you could imagine at the extensive buffet, including plenty of sweets. One of our many desserts was an individual chocolate cake topped with an edible poker chip.
To compensate for all the eating, we took a mile-long walk from the hotel to the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum (490 S. Center St.;  786-1000, http://www.nvdm.org). Our daughter played for hours in this hands-on children's museum. Activities include a play structure called the Cloud Climber, where children can pretend they're a drop of water as they climb through the stages of the water cycle. Other educational displays include lighting up a miniature Reno Arch using different types of energy. Kids can express their creative side at the Art Alcove, where they can work on a craft project inside Da Vinci's Corner. The two-level museum features a picnic area, restrooms, baby-changing station and quiet area.
Be sure to check out the schedule of shows at Circus Circus so you can see a variety. Our daughter wanted to see the Imperial Acrobats of China, but we kept missing it. Instead, we ended up watching the "Dog Catcher" show a few times. That didn't stop her, however, from laughing at the dog tricks each time.