The summer season is coming to an end at public swimming pools in Reno and Sparks. Many of our pools will be operating on reduced schedules and most will close for the season on Labor Day, September 4, 2017. For more information about which facilities are open and when, refer to “Public Swimming Pools and Water Play Places in Reno and Sparks.”

Washoe County is also set to close up shop at its water recreation places – the pool at Bowers Mansion Regional Park in Washoe Valley and water play splash parks at Lazy 5 Regional Park and North Valleys Regional Park.

For free water play, there is no season limit on the Truckee River at Wingfield Park in Reno and Rock Park in Sparks. Both parks have whitewater features for kids and families to enjoy during visits to the river. However, use extra caution when in and around the Truckee River this summer and fall. The water has gone down from the raging flows earlier this year, but it is still higher and colder than you may be used to at this time of year.

The “Great American Total Solar Eclipse” will take place on Monday, August 21, 2017. While total eclipses aren’t that rare worldwide, the last one visible in the United States was in the Pacific Northwest on February 26, 1979. The next one won’t be until 2024.

The path of totality of the upcoming total eclipse will only be visible across the United States. The eclipse first comes ashore in Oregon near Lincoln City at about 10:18 a.m., then travels across the U.S. in a southeasterly direction, finally going out to sea through South Carolina around 2:48 p.m. The total eclipse will be visible within a 70 mile wide swath. The nearer you are to the center of this path, the longer the eclipse will last. Those outside the path of totality will only experience a partial eclipse, the extent of which will depend on where you are. For example, here in Reno viewers will experience about an 85 percent partial eclipse. You need eye protection to directly look at the eclipse, except during the total phase. Free pairs of eclipse glasses are available from all branches of the Washoe County Library, while supplies last.

The Fleischmann Planetarium at UNR currently has a show about solar eclipses, playing as a feature with the show “Robot Explorers.” See this double feature at 1, 3, and 5 p.m. daily and at 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

At The Discovery museum in Reno on August 21, 2017, you can view a video stream of the total eclipse and learn about the science related to the event. The Discovery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and this eclipse event is included with admission.

Here are two websites with tons of information about this heavenly event. With little searching, you can find dozens more.

If you want to personally experience the total eclipse and haven’t made arrangements to be in place on the big day, you can probably forget it. Anything and everything in the way of accommodations has been booked solid for months, even years. Just driving up there for the day to experience the event is almost guaranteed to be a bad idea. I’ve seen reports that it’s likely to be the worst traffic day in the U.S. – ever.

Tickets for the 2017 Polar Express™ are now on sale. If you want to ride the Polar Express™ to the North Pole this holiday season, get your tickets soon or you’ll be left out in the cold.

The Polar Express™ excursion train on the V & T Railroad has sold out in all past seasons, making early ticket purchases imperative. Tickets must be purchased in advance – you can’t buy them at the depot. Polar Express™ tickets are available online and by phone.

There will be three types of tickets in 2017 – regular coach, VIP and Twilight Trains. The trips are on the same train, but VIPs ride on a separate parlor car that includes additional entertainment, extra time with Santa, a special holiday treat, and more. Everyone, however, receives the special Christmas gift of a silver sleigh bell from Santa, hot chocolate and cookies, and a reading of the Polar Express™ story by Chris Van Allsburg.

During the 2017 holiday season, the Polar Express™ will provide service to the North Pole on select dates starting on November 18 and running through December 30.