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Sparks Travel Info
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Sparks, founded in 1904, is a bright, modern little city with attractions including some of northern Nevada's finest hotels, restaurants and casinos.


The Nevada
Travel Network
Description and History of
Sparks
by David W. Toll

Sparks offers an enjoyable series of events like the Chili Cook Off at Victorian Square.
From The Complete Nevada Traveler, the Affectionate and Intimately Detailed Guidebook to the Most Interesting State in America. Buy the Book Here

ADJACENT TO RENO on the east, Sparks was an afterthought of the railroad's, created in 1904 to replace Wadsworth as the big switching yard on this section of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Sparks is Nevada's fourth-largest city and offers abundant services to travelers. The Chamber of Commerce provides area information at the little railroad station on Victorian Avenue just west of Pyramid Way.
Originally named Harriman after the railroad tycoon, Sparks was rechristened to honor Governor John T. Sparks, whose ranch was nearby. This gesture of respect and admiration was made just as an anti-railroad rebellion boiled up in the legislature, eventually resulting in the creation of the Public Service Commission to regulate tariffs.
Family oriented and hard-working, Sparks was so solid and dull that it sometimes became the butt of local jokes. Early example: "Reno is so close to Hell you can see Sparks."
In 1907 a reform-minded city council outlawed the popular local pastime of driving up to a saloon in a buggy and having drinks at the curb. Other than the endless banging of the boxcars in the switching yard and the clanging and hissing and whistling and squealing of the through trains in and out of the station, everything was quiet in Sparks for nearly 50 years as the little city grew slowly with the railroad. Sparks eventually achieved a place in history by having the longest single-sided street (B Street, now Victorian Avenue) in America.
In the 1950s Sparks changed. Acre upon acre of brown composition roofs blossomed up out of the brown dirt as one curbed-and-guttered subdivision after another appeared in the grazing lands of the northeast. For more than a dozen years the growth continued, and Sparks became even quieter as a residential community in which the railroad played a much diminished role. In the 1970s Sparks began to grow in a new and unexpected direction. Family farms and pasturelands south of the city were transmogrified into lowrise warehousing, small manufacturing plants and light industry connected by an asphalt grid of new streets.

Now Sparks is changing again. John Ascuaga gave Sparks its first skyscraper, and now the homely old business structures of Harriman are being replaced or restored to a confectionary Victorian dream of luxury and romance they never aspired to 90 years ago. B Street -- oops, Victorian Avenue -- is bright with lights and lively with public events the year around now.
Some of the architecture may be more Walt Disney than Queen Victoria, but there's no doubt that the vivacious scene downtown reflects a brighter, more inviting character for Sparks than ever before.
In Sparks any discussion of food starts (and sometimes ends) with John Ascuaga's Nugget, where huge hotel towers and an immense parking garage were built on the enormous success of the eight restaurants -- the Rotisserie Room, the Oyster Bar, Trader Dick's, and others -- in this otherwise unremarkable gambling hall. Some of Nevada's best food is served at the Nugget, but there are other enjoyable options in Sparks as well.
The Silver Club across the Avenue has a grand buffet and restaurant, and Jack's Coffee Shop down the street serves a classic menu. You can pull your rig in at a truck stop and join the truck drivers in feeding at platters of hearty fare: Sierra Sid's is on McCarran just north of the freeway; the Alamo is just south of the freeway between the Sparks and Vista Avenue exits at the far eastern side of the city. BJ's Barbecue in the Silver State Plaza on North McCarran is a local favorite, and Jose Jose on Prater Way two blocks east of Rock is authentically Mexican.
Enlightening the atmosphere on Sparks' east side is Wild Island, a water park devoted to providing enjoyment exhilarating or soothing as you please. The mountain peaks against the western sky seem especially lovely and far away from the splashing sprays of water and the eager voices of the children, and the summer sky is never brassier than when observed from an innertube meandering around on the long, slow sissy ride around the perimeter of the park. To experience the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat in the mildest possible way, you can also stop in at Adventure Golf next door and go a round or two. The nearby factory outlet stores are eerily open and empty.


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