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 said, "No."
Even a pile of birthday presents are not enough to tear children away from the hundreds of fun things to do at this new museum in Reno, NV.
The Truckee Connects watershed exhibit at the Discovery — Photo courtesy of Christina Nellemann
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 affect Nevada's future. The idea for the museum came from local historians, educators and parents.
"Locals are so proud of the museum," said Patrick Turner, Discovery marketing manager. "People have a hard time believing that it's in a small city like Reno."
Reno locals Jacob and Amanda, visiting the museum for a birthday party with their three young children, were in the Nevada Stories room.
"This place is so great to visit when it's cold outside," Jacob said.
"It's educational and a great distraction for the kids," Amanda added while their 1-year-old dug around for buried objects in the archeological exhibit.
The Cloud Climber — Photo courtesy of Christina Nellemann
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 it's 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 watching over them all is a model of Nevada's oldest resident: the 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 mining truck’s huge 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.
The Discovery gift shop — Photo courtesy of Christina Nellemann
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 only Spark!Lab available in the United States, the Spark!Lab Smithsonian area is open to show children how to plan, create and even market their own invention.
In the Under the Stars room (my personal favorite), visitors can have fun with Nevada outdoor adventures like camping, fishing and backpacking. There is a place to learn how to pack a camping backpack, an area to play with a digital fish pond and even a spot for staring at the starry ceiling that changes as the real sky changes.
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.
The Discovery — Photo courtesy of Christina Nellemann
Other areas of the museum also make it easier for parents: there's a picnic area with vending machines, chairs, and tables where lunch can be brought in. The museum even 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, and a gift shop full of educational toys that is open for corporate or special events. One particular pre-holiday event had adults roaming the museum and scaling the Cloud Climber like toddlers. This attraction is truly for all ages.