Aerial of visitor center

The Visitor Center (previously the McKay Natural Awareness Center) was constructed in 1977, with a 16,000-square foot addition built in 2001. Rainwater from the roof is channeled to rain gardens to prevent contributing to stormwater runoff.

In October 2020, a new solar array of 66 photovoltaic modules was installed to replace a solar thermal collector put on the original building in 1977. The new modules are projected to produce 32,300 kWh in the first year of operation, with a planned operational life of 30 years. An online dashboard displays real-time energy production information. A solar photovoltaic tile system installed on the  2001 addition remains in place. Watch the solar installation video on YouTube»

In the Visitor Center you’ll find:

  • A reception area with restrooms and drinking fountains, a friendly volunteer to answer questions, and information about the Arboretum
  • A theater featuring murals by world-class nature artist Victor Bakhtin and an orientation film on Arboretum history and the importance of ecological restoration
  • A public browsing library of non-circulating books about plants, animals, birds, ecosystems, and restoration ecology
  • A bookstore, art gallery, auditorium, and classrooms

The Arboretum Visitor Center is an accessible facility. There are five accessible parking spots in the main lot (two in the north section, three in the south section). There is an accessible path through the Native Plant Garden near the building. Visitors may use wheelchairs on trails at their discretion. The Arboretum is unable to provide wheelchairs.

Visitor Center Spaces

Arboretum BookstoreThe Arboretum Bookstore carries a broad selection of nature, gardening, and science titles for all ages and interest levels, as well as nature-inspired gifts, Arboretum apparel, and home decor. Go to the Bookstore page for more information.


The Steinhauer Trust Gallery
 celebrates Wisconsin’s natural heritage and the human connection to the land through visual arts by showcasing the creativity and talent of artists inspired by nature.
 Go to the Art Gallery page for information about the space and the selection process.


The auditorium and classroom may be rented for university, nonprofit, and private events. Go to Facility Use for more information.