School & Group Tours

Wilbur D. May Arboretum School Tours


The Wilbur D. May Arboretum is a living museum nestled in the Biggest Little City of Reno, Nevada. The Arboretum has 13 acres of beautifully landscaped garden that are scattered with relaxing water features and stunning vistas. Located in a transitional zone between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Great Basin Desert; the Arboretum lies in a harsh climate where few plants are able to survive without human assistance. These plants withstand an annual growing season that is less than 120 days, temperature fluctuations of 50 degrees or more in a single day, and on average about 7 inches of precipitation. Our mission is to educate our community, to inspire conservation, and to demonstrate how both native and non-native flora and fauna can survive in an arid, high desert environment. Over 4,000 native and adaptive plant species are on display throughout the year and change with the seasons. Visit during the spring and summer to see the flowers come alive and put on a dazzling display, or in the fall as the trees show their true colors. Take your time and explore; like a museum’s rotating exhibits, changing seasons mean no two visits at the Arboretum are the same.


Reservation Policy

Reservations must be made a minimum of two weeks in advance and you must receive a confirmation email to confirm your tour.


Guided Station Tours 
The Arboretum outdoor guided station tours are a wonderful way to teach and engage children with the natural world and their environment. Staff and docents provide a hands-on learning experience at each station (3-4) by involving students and encouraging active participation. Students will have the chance to learn about ancient species of plants, native Nevadan plants, conifer trees, and wetlands. When your group arrives, we’ll divide your class into small groups of 10 or 20.  Each group should have at least one adult per ten students, or two adults per twenty. Email Bill Carlos at or call 775-785-4153 to schedule a tour.

FEES: Guided Tours: $3.00 donation/student. Teachers and chaperones are free. Please mention if you are a Title 1 school.

How long are guided tours?
Our station tour can take up to 45 minutes to hour and a half, but are adjusted according the class schedule and the age of the students.

Self-Guided Tours

Self-guided school tours are scheduled by calling the Arboretum office or emailing Bill Carlos. Scheduling your visit avoids conflicts with guided tours, special events and other school groups. Please call 775-785-4153 or email to make arrangements. Bring your own activities or check out our Junior Naturalist leaflet.

FEES: Self-Guided Tours: $1.00 donation/student. Teachers and chaperones are free.

Please mention if you are a Title 1 school.

How long are self-guided tours?
Self-guide school tours can be as long as teacher needs them to be but, must be scheduled and arranged through the Arboretum office.


Backpack Program-Grade K-5

There is so much to discover at the Arboretum that it can be difficult to know where to begin. The purpose of the Backpack Program is to help you and your students make the most of your time here while also reinforcing Next Generation Science Standards. On this adventure, use your senses, and explore with all types of learning techniques. In keeping with our mission, we hope this curriculum helps students become more engaged with their local environment and develop a connection with nature. Use them however works best for you and your students. Remember as you travel through the Arboretum that there is’t always a right or wrong answer; rather, we encourage curiosity, an open mind, and awareness of one’s surroundings. Rent a backpack that contains items to help students explore and make observations. Please call 775-785-4153 or email to make arrangements.

FEES: $2.00 per backpack. Students and teachers are responsible for any lost items and will be expected to reimburse the Arboretum.

Please mention if you are a Title 1 school.

How long is the backpack program?

Each lesson estimates the amount of time it takes to complete, usually taking about 1-2 hours. However, tours can be as long as teachers need them to be and must be scheduled and arranged through the Arboretum office.

The Lessons: Please email the Arboretum and we will send you the lesson plan’s appropriate for your class. Lessons are for grades k-5.

Planning Your Visit: Policies and Guidelines

Prior to your visit, it is important to let your students know how they can protect the plant collection and educational resources offered by the May Arboretum. Future visitors will be able to enjoy the gardens by following these simple rules. 

  • Stay on the paths.
  • Do not run. 
  • Picking leaves, flowers or fruit is prohibited unless you received permission.
  • To avoid disturbing wildlife and visitors, keep your voices low.
  • No pets allowed.
  • Smoking is prohibited in the Arboretum during tours.

Snacks and Restrooms
Currently, concession stands are not available at the Arboretum or park. If your students bring a snack, allow time for them to eat and use the restrooms BEFORE or AFTER the tour.  Bottled water is allowed on the tour.  If you are planning to eat lunch at Rancho San Rafael you must sit at the non-reservable picnic tables or call facility reservations to book a picnic area or pavilion. Please call 775-823-6501 for available dates and prices.


Accessing the Gardens
The gardens have two access points, a west and east entrance.  The east entrance is off Sierra Street and by the Ranch House, and the west entrance is accessed off Keystone and by the May Museum. Please let staff know which entrance you will arrive at by contacting us at 785-4153 the morning of your tour.  An Arboretum map is found here. Please note that if you enter our address into a GPS unit it will direct you to the May Museum parking lot.