by Janet Ross
Reno is blessed with a terrific trio of unique museums. Those same museums share a number of benefits for the visitor. Namely:
Let's begin with the National Auto Museum - the Harrah Collection. Once upon a time, casino mogul Bill Harrah began collecting automobiles. At one point he had so many they filled a huge warehouse on Glendale Avenue in Sparks. Eventually the Holiday Inn Corporation acquired Harrah's Casino and his auto collection. Holiday Inn didn't really want all those cars and was prepared to sell them, in effect breaking up one of the premiere automobile collections in the world. What could have been a disaster became the opportunity to create what exists today, "One of America's Five Greatest Auto Museums" (Autoweek Magazine).
The National Auto Museum operates as a nonprofit corporation "formed solely for educational purposes. Its mission is to collect and preserve the automobile for future generations … to tell the story of the impact of the automobile on American society ..."
This translates to five galleries of automotive history, beginning in the 1890s and continuing to the 1950s and beyond. There's a movie theater where you can watch a film of Harrah's life. You'll walk period street scenes and can even take your own photo, posing in vintage costumes, sitting in a spiffy 1926 Model T Ford. Additional Harrah history is located in a special exhibit in Gallery 2.
More than 200 automobiles are on display throughout the Museum and the Lobby highlights a gold DeLorean to whet your appetite for what follows. If you have a love affair with the automobile, plan to explore every inch of this incredible facility and to spend several hours doing so.
You'll find the National Auto Museum at the corner of Lake and Mill Streets in downtown Reno. Parking is available on the east side of the building, but there are entrances both east and west. The Truckee River runs along the north side of the Museum, making the setting exceptionally attractive. Open daily (except for Thanksgiving and Christmas), the Museum lacks a restaurant but there are several nearby, and the gift shop does have a freezer stocked with ice cream bars. Audio and guided tours are available. Call 775/333-9300 or check the website, www.automuseum.org, for additional information.
The concept for The Discovery - Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum was originally as a handson science center for children; The Discovery has now expanded its focus for the entire population, regardless of age. Located in a building that formerly housed the Reno City Hall, the 67,000 square foot space has been transformed into a light, bright , twolevel exploratorium. You'll enter on Center Street, just next to a convenient bus stop. To the right of the lobby there's a gift shop that qualifies as a kiddies' paradise. To the left, there's a large area set aside for dining; however food and drink are not allowed in the museum's galleries, so it's bring your own and consume in this dedicated location.
Moving on, there's a large gallery devoted to the State of Nevada. Circling an open atrium are a number of interactive rooms where children and/or adults can do everything from build an arch from large, soft blocks, to create a work of art, or experience one of Leonardo Da Vinci's inventions.
Down a long flight of stairs (or by the elevator) you can access the crazy Cloud Climber, difficult to describe, but a must for any adventuresome child. Nearby is the Under the Stars exhibit. The atmosphere in this wonderfilled Museum is exciting and enthusiastic. With the purpose of "inspiring curiosity, creativity and the joy of lifelong learning", The Discovery is sure to brighten one's outlook.
Located at the corner of Center and Liberty Streets in Reno, The Discovery is open Tuesday through Sunday (closed Mondays). Admission is discounted on Wednesdays after 4p.m. For additional information call 775/786-1000 or check the website at www.nvdm.org.
Our third museum is my personal favorite, the Nevada Museum of Art. Housed in a unique building, an abstract homage to Nevada's Black Rock Desert, NMA is a treasure trove for art in its many forms. Exhibits tend to change quarterly and they range from small to major, from works by local artists to creators of international repute. The Museum supports the popular E.L. Cord school with classes from basket making to book arts, drawing, photography, ceramics and more offered throughout the year. The Museum's auditorium hosts a series of lectures coordinated with exhibits.
Unique gifts for all ages are available in the gift shop, while guided tours are available three times a week. Dining in the Museum's handsome atrium is provided by Chez Louie for lunch and a musical Sunday brunch. Relatively new to NMA is its Center for Art & Environment Library, available on open days from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
The Nevada Museum of Art is located at 160 West Liberty Street in Reno, with parking on the east side of the building. Open days are Wednesday through Sunday. The Museum is open late on the First Thursday of each month with live music and cocktails. For more information call 775/329-3333 or check the website at www.nevadaart.org.
All three Museums can provide hours of education and entertainment. They are perfect for giving outoftown guests an unexpected experience. Museum memberships are well worth the investment. Why not add a visit to one, or the entire trio, to your current bucket list?