A Day with Dragons

Dragons represented from cultures around the world are on display at the Wilbur D. May Museum. | Luke Allen

There are many amazing museums in the Tahoe-Reno area that feature exhibits that are fun for everyone in the family. One that recently caught my attention was “The Lost World of Dragons” exhibit at the Wilbur D. May Museum in Reno, Nev.

For centuries, dragon legends have been present in the folklore of many cultures around the world. This exhibit details the history of these legends and the differences in symbolic interpretation.

The museum, located inside Rancho San Rafael Regional Park, is part of the May Center, a tribute to local renaissance man, Wilbur D. May, and his commitment to philanthropy and education. The museum hosts the Wilbur D. May collection from his global travels; it also includes other temporary exhibits such as “The Lost World of Dragons.”

For centuries, dragon legends have been present in the folklore of many cultures around the world. This exhibit details the history of these legends and the differences in symbolic interpretation. Eastern folklore depicts dragons as serpentine creatures that represented good fortune. On the other end of the spectrum, in Medieval and Western cultures, they are typically portrayed as winged lizard-like monsters that breathe fire and create havoc and destruction. Whatever the meaning, dragons have fascinated people young and old and they continue to do so today. My son, Anikin, is also fascinated by them and I thought the exhibit would be the perfect destination for a family outing.

We enter the exhibit with my husband, Luke. It is open and spacious, with high ceilings and is decorated with stone accents and natural foliage. We walk down a little stone path, across a bridge that overlooks a water feature that looks like a creek bed where Luke and Anikin spot two turtles in the water

The exhibit is filled with large animatronic dragons that look eerily realistic perched atop pedestals representing images from different cultures. Interactive stations designed for kids tell the stories of dragons. Our attention is drawn to a wall display with rotating blocks. Each block is a section of a larger picture. We have fun flipping them around to make a complete dragon image appear.

We pass a coloring station with lots of vibrant colors and dragon stencils to choose from. Several small kids are happily coloring, and I hear one making dragon sounds as he colors. Continuing around the exhibit, we find a puppet theater and spend a lot of time creating our own shows. Anikin and Luke also try out one of the digital animation stations with interchangeable backdrops and dragon figures that they use to create an animated story.

Then we discover an animatronic, serpentine dragon imprisoned in a cage. This dragon appears to be breathing and gives us the feeling that it could be alive.

We come across a virtual reality experience that allows participants the opportunity to ride on the back of a dragon. Anikin is very excited and wants to do it. Unfortunately, we quickly learn that he is not allowed because the age requirement is 13 and older.

On the other side of the museum is the year-round exhibit of the Wilbur D. May collection. May was a local Nevada rancher, aviator, soldier, world traveler, philanthropist and artist. He collected many artifacts during his travels including African tribal masks, Asian pottery, antique firearms and other weapons. May’s collection of artwork is on display along with some of his own paintings and drawings.

HIs collection of animal pelts, busts and bones from his hunting adventures stand out in the collection. It is noted that this passion for hunting was fueled by his sense of adventure but also by his desire to learn more about animal diversity and to pass on this knowledge to others.

Even though we didn’t have time this trip to check out the Wilbur D. May Arboretum & Botanical Garden and botanical gardens, we make a plan to come back another time.

“The World of Dragons” exhibit runs through May 12 with extended hours every Friday for the “Dragons After Dark” series. Admission is $10 for adults and $9 for seniors and children. | washoecounty.us