Just east of Reno, Sparks, Nevada offers a wide array of events and attractions. The 39 North Marketplace farmers market, Star Spangled Sparks, Nugget Best in the West Rib Cook-Off, Hot August Nights and Hometowne Christmas Parade are just a few of the events that attract thousands of attendees each year. The city of Sparks has distinguished itself as a great special events destination in the West, furthering its apropos slogan, “It’s Happening Here.”
Some popular attractions in Sparks include the Nugget Casino Resort, the Outlets at Legends and the Sparks Marina — known by locals as “The Marina.” This public park has become a go-to place in Sparks for outdoor activities, including picnics, volleyball, bike riding, and water sports such as stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking, with rentals available at the marina. Fuel up for a day on the water or relax afterward with a locally-brewed coffee from Lighthouse Coffee Shop which overlooks Sparks Marina and the Sierra Nevada mountains.
The unique and fun family-friendly events happening year-round in Sparks attract spectators and visitors from around the region. From the US Open of Watercross and the Northern Nevada Dragonboat Festival at Sparks Marina to the City of Sparks Hometowne Christmas Celebration in Victorian Square, there is an event for everyone!
One of Reno-Sparks’ iconic events, the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cookoff takes place over Labor Day weekend and includes not only the best barbeque, but also live music, a craft fair and family activities. In 2016, The Nugget Rib Cook-off was named “Best BBQ Festival” by USA Today Top10 Readers’ Choice. This is one Sparks event that you won’t want to miss!
Enjoy shopping in Sparks with a collection of retailers at The Outlets at Legends and the Sparks Galleria. The Sparks Galleria features many big box stores and is a great option for some everyday shopping. Legends offer more than just an outlet shopping experience. Shop the world’s largest all-sports store, Scheels, where you can find gear for any adventure. Additional retailers include Nike, Banana Republic, Gap and more. Artwork, fountains and landscaping inspired by Nevada are sprinkled throughout this outdoor shopping mall, making it the perfect place to spend the day.
Don’t be fooled by the size of Sparks, there are plenty of opportunities to experience the culture of this old railroad town.
The Sparks Museum and Cultural Center, located in Victorian Square, is a great place to learn about the heritage of the City of Sparks and the Truckee Meadows area. The Museum offers an outdoor train exhibit, as well as a schoolhouse built in 1864. Right around the corner, you can take a photo with a part of Sparks history, Last Chance Joe. Originally owned by the Nugget Casino, this 32-foot figure was erected in 1857 in front of the casino as a way to publicize an addition to the building but has since become a local landmark. In 2014, Last Chance Joe moved down the street to the Sparks Museum and is currently undergoing restoration.
A very welcome addition to the Sparks arts community, The Generator, acts as a community art and maker space. With more than 34,000 square feet of workspace, industrial equipment and 3-phase power, a number of Burning Man projects are born here, as well as many other art installations you can see throughout our community. The Generator is more than just workspace, offering workshops, events and shows year-round.
An iconic landmark in Sparks’ Victorian Square is Great Basin Brewery. Nevada’s oldest operating brewery, Great Basin offers a full menu with many beer-infused items, including their beer-battered fish and chips and their artisan beer bread. Their most popular brew, the Ichthyosaur IPA (“Icky”) named after Nevada’s state fossil, is highly recommended. As locals like to say, “Get Icky with someone you love!”
Another brewery located in Sparks is quickly making a name for itself, both in the local community and beyond, is Revision Brewing Company. They were chosen in USA TODAY’s list of great beer destinations in each state. Stop in for a cold beer on tap or tap some home with you. Their award-winning Blonde NV is a favorite among regulars.
If you missed the Nugget Rib Cook-off, you can still get a taste of some delicious barbecue at BJ’s Nevada Barbecue Company. Their menu includes all the favorites – pork ribs, beef brisket, smoked chicken and more – served with their award-winning sauces. Make sure you try their ribs, which have won awards seven times at the annual rib cook-off, and their Kick-Ass Fries are a favorite among locals and visitors alike.
The casinos in Sparks have no shortage of delicious dining options. Try the Steakhouse at Western Village for an elegant dining experience with a casual feel or the Ale House at Rail City for some more traditional pub grub. Another great dining experience is a Sparks staple since 1959, the Oyster Bar at Nugget. Known for their seafood selections, make sure to try a pan roast or their famous seafood stew!
Sparks, Nevada came to be in a unique way starting in 1902. Prior to this time, there was a vast area of ranchland and swamps east of Reno inhabited by the Washoe Tribe. As the rail industry began to boom towards the end of the century, the Southern Pacific Railway Company saw an opportunity in the area. Southern Pacific decided to realign their route and move their switchyard and maintenance sheds to what is now known as Sparks, Nevada. The company then decided to split their purchased land into sixty-seven plots and offer their relocated employees a deed to a 50’ x 140’ piece of land. After drawing numbers out a hat for their plots, the new residents settled into the new town of Harriman, named for the president of Southern Pacific, E.H. Harriman. Later gaining its current name, Sparks, for Nevada Governor John Sparks.
Sparks experienced slow growth until the 1950’s when the city saw a housing boom making way for warehousing and light industry that continued until the 1970’s. The city’s first high-rise casino, Nugget Casino Resort, was built in 1984.
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