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Day trips: Plenty of activities at Reno museum, park and planetarium

by Nancy Hamlett

Plan for a full day of wonderful activities when you travel to Reno and the Nevada Historical Society, Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center and the Wilbur D. May Museum Arboretum and Botanical Garden.

It sounds like a mouthful, but it’s actually a diverse day of history, the stars and nature.

The Nevada Historical Society is an interesting blend of exhibits and research materials. Newly modeled, the historical society has two exhibits for Nevada and history buffs.

According to Peter Bandurraga, director of the historical society, it takes about an hour to visit the exhibits. The Wilbur S. Shepperson Gallery hosts the permanent exhibit Nevada: Prisms and Perspectives. Artfully displayed in several sections, the exhibit addresses specific topics.

Living on the Land examines agriculture since the Native American presence in Nevada, and the impact of emigrants and immigrants is examined in Passing Through. Nevada mining comes in all forms and sizes in Riches from the Earth, and a study of gambling since its legalization in 1931 is the focus of Neon Nights. Finally, since the federal government owns 87 percent of the state, the historical society documents the Federal Presence. Part of the Wilbur S. Shepperson Gallery display is Dat-So-La-Lee’s exquisite baskets. Dat-So-La-Lee was a Native American woman from the Washoe tribe who is now world renown for the workmanship, detail and perfection of her baskets. According to Bandurraga, they are priceless in value. Several of the baskets were stolen years ago and were just recently found and returned to the Historical Society. The baskets are treasures of art and can only be truly appreciated in person.

The exhibit in the second gallery is Nevada Wide. The panoramic photography of the Silver State will be on display until July 5. Photos, many of them from the Nevada Historical Society’s archives, depict the history of Nevada towns and frontiers. Be prepared to shake you head in amazement at pictures of Reno at the turn of the century and booming mining towns that are now little more than ghost towns.

Even if you aren’t in the mood for research, the library is well worth the stop. With extensive print materials, maps and over 350,000 photos, it documents the formation of Nevada and its history.

Don’t forget a stop in the gift shop. It’s an excellent source for books about Nevada and the west, gifts, cards and an impressive selection of Native American jewelry. It may be a good time to get a jump on Christmas shopping.

Right across the parking area for the Nevada Historical Society is the Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center.

If you are a few minutes early for one of the shows, stop in the hands-on interactive Astronomical Museum with astronomy, earth and science exhibits. Do you want to know what you would weigh on Juniper? See panoramic photos taken by the Mars explorer, or if you are a Jeopardy fan, try your luck with the Space and Science quiz.

Current attractions in the 30-foot domed planetarium theater are The Search for Life in the Universe, narrated by Leonard Nimoy, and Speed, an exploration of the role if speed in our life. Show time length for both features is approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. Call the show information number listed separately for information on the new presentations effective May 1, the Seven Wonders of the Constellation Night Sky and The Explorers – Polynesian Navigators.

A small space and science related gift shop is in the lobby. Plan your trip so that you can picnic at the Wilbur D. May complex. The museum excursion, before or after your picnic, exhibits the artifacts collected by May, a big game hunter who traveled the world. The changing exhibit is currently Bears, with the special treat of two bear cubs visiting the museum daily until 3:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 2:30 p.m. on Sundays. One entry fee covers the cost of both exhibits, and it will take about an hour to explore all of the global wonders.

The Arboretum and Botanical Gardens were initially created in 1982 to research and demonstrate the botanical possibilities of the high desert environment. Pleasant walkways meander through groves and gardens, skirt creek-side meadows and open into outdoor courtyards. Rest at secluded benches and soak in the colorful flowers, birds and wildlife. It’s so peaceful you’ll hate to talk in anything louder than a whisper.

Over 25 gardens areas are dedicated to specific types of flora, including the Song Bird Garden scaled to simulate a backyard suitable for attracting birds, the Rose Garden, and the Xeriscape Demonstration Center. Exploring the gardens is best done at a leisurely pace. Take as much time as your day trip allows.

Now, it’s time to go home, but be sure to keep all the pamphlets and information you gathered in a convenient place. This is one day trip that you will want to repeat.