Kid-friendly Museums and Galleries in Reno

Reno is a great city to explore art and learn about science with your little one! With a handful of popular kid-friendly museums, Reno also has iconic public art, hidden gallery spaces, historic buildings and a living plant museum worthy of endless visits.

There is something for everyone. Reno’s cultural offerings can be educational and fun, providing an interesting experience for you to enjoy with your child.

I’m sharing my favorite museums, galleries and historical sites in Reno, costs associated with them and some tips for bringing your child into a gallery or exhibition setting.

Fine Art and Architecture

Nevada Museum of Art

Cost: $10 General Admission / $1 Children 6 to 12 years / FREE Children 5 and under

As the only accredited art museum in Nevada, this museum has high quality and seasonal exhibits plus wonderful programs for kids and the community. The building is designed to resemble an abstract version of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert geography. The artwork collections are valuable so you will need to prepare your child to view objects on display that they can’t touch. (see tips at the end of this article!)

Hands ON! Second Saturdays offer free admission once a month to families; my two-year-old loves it! They have crafts, music and a friendly atmosphere. Don’t miss the Sky Room (top floor) and outdoor space, offering some of the best panoramic views in Reno.

I would recommend becoming a member if you plan on visiting more than once a month. For $65 per year, you can have free admission for your family and enjoy many discounts on classes, events, and performances.

Stremmel Gallery

Cost: Free

This gorgeous contemporary gallery in Midtown is an award-winning architectural space with finely curated artwork. The building is designed to resemble an abstract version of the Sierra Nevada mountain range with a playful cluster of colorful cubes. You will find paintings, drawings, and sculptures by mid-career and established American and European artists.

The artwork is extremely valuable so you will need to prepare your child to view objects on display that they can’t touch. (see tips at the end of this article!) This gallery is also dog-friendly for your well-behaved pup!

McKinley Arts & Culture Center

Cost: Free

This ornate and historical building (built in 1909) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It houses many of Reno’s local non-profit arts organizations (the Reno Phil, Reno Chamber Orchestra, City of Reno Cultural Affairs Division among others) Inquire within the offices at the front entrance to be admitted into the two small side galleries that house community art.

If you visit before the current exhibition closing date of April 5th, you will see the amazing work of Northern Nevada’s Doral Academy grade school students: batik prints, paper-mâché animal heads, watercolor and pastel paintings.

Historic U.S. Post Office and Reno’s Basement Marketplace

Cost: Free

This historical building (completed in 1934) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. No longer a post office, but a retail space for West Elm, it has been carefully renovated to preserve period details. This West Elm features several Reno-based artists and makers in its product assortment.

To find more local craft, follow a stairway leading downstairs to the “Basement” Marketplace. This stairway is accessible from inside West Elm (or a stairway on the loading dock side of S. Center St.). You can visit this building easily with your child, it is spacious and there is a lot of open space to explore. You can learn about and support local entrepreneurs that have set up shop!

Just steps away from West Elm and the Basement Marketplace there is Burning Man art on display for the public at City Plaza. Located downtown at the corner of First and S. Virginia St., you will see two former Burning Man pieces.

Believe is a 4-foot-thick steel typographical environmental art piece spanning 70 feet. Space Whale is a life-sized stained glass and steel sculpture of a humpback whale mother and calf. These art pieces are unique and it’s fun to view art at this scale with your child!

History and Engineering

National Automobile Museum

Cost: $12 General Admission / $6 Children 6 to 18 years / FREE Children 5 and under

This museum is one of the most surprising on my list because I am not a car enthusiast, however, I love this museum! You will find a fleet of meticulously restored cars (200+ in count), some owned previously by celebrities, spread over four galleries. Cars exhibited are built from the 1890s to the 1950s and onward. You will be surprised by not only the number of cars on display but the incredible detail. Galleries are linked by historic themed streets and faux shop fronts with displays of vintage advertising and fashion.

This museum requires a lot of walking, so bring the stroller. You will need to encourage your child to stay out of the roped off areas and prepare your child to view objects on display that they can’t touch. (see tips at the end of this article!) While you’re there, visit their special exhibit Be an Astronaut, you can introduce your child to simulator pods built to look like space capsules!

They also offer Science Saturdays is every month on the 2nd Saturday from 9:30am-1:00pm. This program is for kids 8-12 years old and adults are welcome. Cost is $12 per person. It includes workshops, live presentations, Ipad stations, and more! Preregistration for Science Saturdays is required.  

Nature and Science

Wilbur D. May Arboretum & Botanical Garden

Cost: Free

If you haven’t visited Rancho San Rafael Regional Park gardens, best described as a living plant museum, you must go! With over 4000 native and adaptive plant species growing among 13 acres of winding paths, these gardens are not only beautiful, but they are also educational. There are 94 small gardens, groves and water features.

There are many educational programs, including Little Sprouts nature programs for toddlers, bird walks, tree talks and weekend family nature walks. You can celebrate Arbor Day at the gardens.

Note: the gardens are not dog-friendly.

Fleischmann Planetarium (at UNR)

Cost: Exhibit hall: Free / Planetarium: $8 General Admission / $6 Children 3 to 12 years

Fleischmann Planetarium is part of University of Nevada, Reno. It is open to the public and offers a small exhibit hall, store and educational planetarium shows. This historical building (opened in 1963) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Its Populuxe style of architecture depicts motion (reminiscent of boomerangs, flying saucers, and atoms.) It’s fun to introduce your child to different types of architecture and this building is memorable.

The exhibit hall itself is quite small, but you can walk your child through the different stations that focus on learning about our solar system, deep space, the earth, and the moon. Note that Planetarium shows are for ages 3 and up.

The Discovery (Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum)

Cost: $12 General Admission / $10 Children 1 to 17 years / FREE Children 1 and under

The Discovery is a landmark in Reno for learning and all things science and tech for your child! There are exhibit rooms, workshop and activity areas, party rooms, a picnic area, and a museum store. Toddlers will love permanent exhibits like Art Alcove and Little Discoveries, as well as Nevada Stories and Under the Stars. My son was obsessed with climbing through the cave, a natural history display.

Also for toddler age, you can visit the museum on Wednesday mornings between 9-10am for Small Wonder Wednesday when the museum is open to ages 5 and under only.

For ages 5 and up, you will be able to participate in much more the museum has to offer. A lot of the exhibits are designed for school-age children.

A popular draw is The Cloud Climber, a three-story jungle-gym, netted for safety. The selection of exhibitions and events is vast, you’ll want to explore their website in depth.

If you plan on attending more than once or twice a year, you should consider a dual ($70 per year) or family ($119 per year) membership to take advantage of discounts and members-only events.

Tips for Preparing your child to visit a Museum or Gallery

Visiting a museum, art gallery, arboretum or historical building can be a fun-filled learning experience for your child. It’s a way to get to know your city and learn and explore along the way.

Research shows the starting your child early with these experiences can help promote their interest in the arts. I’ve shared some easy tips for planning cultural outings with your child.

  1. Prepare ahead of time. Read up on location, parking, fees, hours, current and permanent exhibits. Decide what you want to see ahead of time. Look for special family and kid-friendly days that have hands-on activities.
  2. Talk with your child about behavior that is expected and being considerate to others. The items on display are valuable and cannot be replaced, rules to be followed (like not touching artwork or not drinking liquids in the galleries) are for adults as well. Most places encourage photography but it’s always good to ask. Adjust expectations and praise often!
  3. Have fun. Talk about design concepts your child will recognize, like color, shape, and pattern. 
  4. You can go at your own pace, make your visit short, take breaks, go outside when possible and know when to head home!

See you out there Northern Nevada Moms!


 

Maureen Lowe is a Bay Area native that relocated to the high desert mountains of Southwest Reno with her family in 2017. Mama to her active pup and toddler boy, Maureen is a textile designer and graduate of CCA San Francisco. With a lifelong love of nature and the arts, Maureen has made it a mission to explore Reno’s scenic trails and cultural offerings to find kid and dog-friendly outings that work in all seasons. Follow her on Instagram @maureen.lowe.


 

We are delighted to work with a talented pool of writers and we love our contributors. To learn more about becoming a contributor for Nevada Moms, head to our contact us page.