Local: Wilbur May Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

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You will hear me sing the praises of Rancho San Rafael a few times over in this blog because I believe it to be one of the best parks in Reno! Located in Northwest, close to the University and accessible off of the McCarran loop, it has plenty of space for people to stretch out an explore in a safe open environment. I love that I can let Dakota run around and not worry about busy streets or panhandlers you often find at other parks in the Reno area.

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Ride or di(nosaur)

The Wilbur D. May Arboretum and Botanical Gardens are a beautiful collection of gardens and paths mixed with some old ranch buildings, streams and a small park. It used to host a theme park before my time in Reno (Great Basin Adventure Park) but you can still see the bones of it. Entry is free (to the gardens) and hours vary by season so check the link below. During the summer it’s good to go early because the dinosaurs in the park area get very hot! Going early, before 11, also ensures you will beat the kids who are there for various summer camp festivities. Although there are tons of trees some areas are open and that Reno sun will beat down on you… so don’t forget the sunscreen & a toddler trucker hat (affiliate link).

The Dino park boasts some amazing…… uh, Dinos! Life size and fun for photo ops these are the gem of the gardens for toddlers. A full sized prehistoric slide is hard to find these days! Now this isn’t your average safe slide, it’s a metal beast like the ones we grew up on so be there to catch your kid at the end because the speeds can get up there. The park is complete with fake “bone dig” areas, swings and ribcage climb. I’ve never seen more than a few kids here at one time so enjoy the uncrowded mornings exploring.

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“Turkeys bite”

Follow the trails to the left and you will run into the turkeys. Yes. They have actual real live turkeys here. And you can ask Kota about it… these suckers are mean! Every time we go near anything in a cage he turns to me and says in a matter of fact tone, “turkeys bite”. You can only guess how he found that one out! There is also a less nibbly rabbit in cage by the old stables as well. Mini-petting zoo experience to be had here, just adding to the adventure. I usually choose this area to have a snack because it is well shaded and there are benches available.

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Freedom! (what toddlers really want?)

What I like most about this place is how uncrowded it is for the amount of fun it boasts. There is enough stuff to keep a toddler interested but just enough space to roam without losing sight of them. I swear every time I come here I find some new cove of treasure like a path I haven’t taken before or the community garden.

Be sure to check out their schedule as they have different operating hours in the winter and occasionally they host events in the evening like the beautiful Dragon Lights Festival.

Tips & Insights:

  • I had a gentleman (volunteer gardener) warn me of coyotes when Dakota was 12 months and just started his toddling. I personally have never seen one, but that didn’t stop me from carrying him like a protective mama bear the whole first time we walked the gardens. I would hate to see what Kota would do to a coyote now…that sucker might just have met his match with my two year old!


  • Also I wanted to note there’s been a bit of controversy over some of the displays at the museum using language that is no longer appropriate and not being culturally sensitive. Since I’m a social worker in my day job I would suggest not taking your children to the museum, but supporting the grounds and gardens instead. Do your homework on this one if you would like to visit the museum, which isn’t toddler friendly anyway, so it’s not part of this review!
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Community Garden. Gold Member.
  •  Easy to find restrooms (right by the gate) and easy parking right out front! Don’t leave home without a water bottle & some snacks! I’m a big fan of these CamelBak Water Bottles (affiliate link). They are insulated & the parts are all replaceable (affiliate link), prolonging their little water bottle lives… I actually own two in the SAME DESIGN for Kota that he uses at daycare so he knows it’s “his”!



1595 N. Sierra St.
Reno, NV 89503
(775) 785-4153



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