Friday, January 31, 2014

Outside the Bay: Circus Circus Reno

Outside the Bay: Circus Circus Reno

We recently took a road trip to Reno, and decided to stay at Circus Circus because we thought it would be the most fun for the kids. While the Circus Circus Midway and games were a huge hit with the kids, we had many other disappointments with the rest of the hotel.

The Pros:

The kids enjoyed the Circus Circus Midway games and short circus shows just as much if not more than we thought they would. I was additionally happily surprised with the cost of the games – none were more than $2 for a play, most were $1, and some were even less. There are competitive games, the sorts that players race by rolling balls to move their icon along, or squirt water into a clown mouth to see who can pop their balloon first, that had only one winner. Other games guaranteed a win every time. Still others were more challenging with rare winners. Even on the competitive games, my kids won regularly. While the quality of the prizes did vary somewhat, they also ended up with some nice plushes that they have been thrilled with well after the trip. There are also games for winning tickets that can be turned in for other prizes.

The circus shows in the midway were short but fun. We saw a group of performing dogs, a trampoline team and an acrobat. All were fun to watch. We would have preferred more frequent shows since they are so short, if you are not nearby at the right time it is easy to miss them.

We ate several times at Circus Circus’s Americana CafĂ©. Our kids are the kind that can be frustrating to dine out with since they usually don’t eat well in restaurants. However, both kids ate their whole dinner, and breakfast the next day. I ordered a simple sandwich, but it was very good. We also visited the sweet shop for breakfast sandwiches and donuts one morning, and we enjoyed it very much.


Most of the adults in our group found the beds uncomfortable and the blankets inadequate. We also had problems with a lot of noise from other guest late at night in the halls. It was amazing how well sound came into our room from out there. The kids slept happily the way only kids can do.

Circus Circus also has a strange policy for their internet connection. They only allow one device per room to use the internet connection for free. At check in, we were given a code to use to connect with for each day, with no further instruction on how to use it. In this day and age when every member of the family may have their own device, the one device only policy could be a problem for some. I understand that additional devices could be connected for an additional fee, but we were unwilling to pay extra considering how spotty and difficult the free connection was.

Overall, when we stay the weekend in Reno again, I would definitely take the kids back to spend a fun couple of hours in the midway, but we would choose to stay somewhere else to sleep. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose: The Star Wars Exhibit

The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose: The Star Wars Exhibit

The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose’s current special exhibit is Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination through the end of February. Star Wars themed things usually disappoint me, as a die-hard, and old school Star Wars fan, so I was happily impressed with this exhibit. There are lots of original models, costumes and props from the movies. The models are very impressive, even by our more modern standards. I could really get on a much deeper level than I did before why they had been so groundbreaking back in the 70’s and 80’s.

The hands on activities are a lot of fun too. We experimented with magnetic lego hovercrafts, droids that needed to move across uneven ground, and lots of others. There is also a real (although small) hovercraft to ride on. The exhibit was not very busy when we were there, our group was the first in of the day, and we still had to work our way in to a spot for some activities. I can easily imagine that on a crowded day it could be tough to get a turn, although I do believe they limit entrances to the special exhibits to keep crowds under control.

Within in the larger Star Wars exhibit there is what they call the Millennium Falcon experience. It is an additional small cost. Basically, you get to enter a wonderful replica of the bridge of the Millennium Falcon where you watch a 4 ½ minute video through the cockpit window about our real universe and all the planets and galaxies that have been discovered. The actual video wasn’t anything too thrilling, but the Millennium Falcon was fun. There were even some switches to flip, although most of the buttons were fake, and couldn’t be pushed, I found one that was pushable. And, most importantly, it does the jumping into hyperspace bit at the beginning of the video. Still, if getting to sit in the Falcon isn’t worth five bucks to you, then skip this extra bit. There is only seating for four inside, and it runs nearly five minutes. So you can imagine that could lead to quite a wait. For example, we were in the first group into the Star Wars exhibit, and had about a 40 minute wait for our turn in the Millennium Falcon. I do have to give kudos to the staff for their solution to the wait. You can leave a cell number and get a text when your turn is up. So you don’t have to stand in line the whole time.