A group of small children were busily playing in the flowing water of the Truckee Connects interactive watershed, one of the exhibits at the Nevada Discovery Museum. A young mother came over to one of the boys to tell him it was time to open his birthday presents. Without looking up he forcefully told her “No.”
Even a pile of birthday presents is not enough to tear children away from the hundreds of fun things to do at this new museum in Reno, NV.
The Discovery, as it’s called by locals, is located in downtown Reno and aims to offer a fun, interactive science and art space for every age. All of the exhibits and galleries tell the historical, geographical and recreational story of the state of Nevada. Children can study about the native tribes of Nevada’s past and learn how green building and solar energy affects Nevada’s future. The idea for the museum came from local historians, educators and parents.
The central area of this bright, white building is the Cloud Climber. This two-story jungle gym represents an important part of the water cycle and is just a really cool place to play. The Cloud Climber towers above the Truckee Connects which is an 80 foot long working model of the local Truckee River. Children can divert the water coming down from Lake Tahoe, use hydroelectric power to light up homes, water the crops in rural portions of Nevada and puddle around in the terminus of the river: Pyramid Lake. Flying high above the Cloud Climber and the Truckee Connects are two gliders and overlooking them all is a model of Nevada’s oldest resident: a bristlecone pine.
In the Nevada Stories room, children can visit a native Tule Hut, learn how the railroad and wagon trains shaped the Silver State, and experience the life of a Comstock miner. A huge mining ore truck tire is available for climbing and dark caves are ready for exploring. In the Build It! room children can interact with an earthquake shaking table, visit the electrical bowels of a house, and play with various wind and solar experiments. On one exhibit, if all alternative power sources are working at once, they light up a giant Reno sign.
In Da Vinci’s Corner, children can interact and play with the inventions of the famous Renaissance artist and on Wednesdays and Fridays, a floor-to-ceiling clear canvas is available for art projects. The Spark!Lab Smithsonian area is shows children how to plan, create and even market their own invention and is the only Spark!Lab currently available in the U.S. In the Under the Stars room (my personal favorite), visitors can have fun learning about Nevada outdoor adventure like camping, fishing and backpacking. There is an area for learning how to pack a camping backpack, a digital fish pond and a star filled ceiling that changes when the real sky changes. In addition to their current rooms and exhibits, three additional sections of the museum are scheduled to open soon including Body Works, Music Works and Flight Works.
The Little Discoveries room is for children under the age of five. This “softer” area has a treehouse and slide, a working mine elevator and ore car, a mine tunnel, a geothermal station that blows foam balls into the air and a quiet place for nursing mothers.
Other areas of the museum also make it easier for parents: there’s a picnic area with chairs, tables and vending machines where lunch can be brought in. The museum has plans for a restaurant in the spring of 2012, but the picnic area is still very popular. The Discovery also offers three private party rooms, school field trips, educator resources gift shop full of educational toys and is also open for corporate or special events. One pre-holiday event had adults roaming the museum, discover learning and crawling around the Cloud Climber like schoolchildren.
The Discovery hours and admission prices:
Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00 am-5:00 pm
Sunday, Noon-5:00 pm
For holiday hours, please see the website
Daily admission is $8 per person, children under 1 year are free
The Discovery has regular art and science classes that are free for members and $3 for non-members.
Photos by Christina Nellemann