ONE TANK TRIP — Trek through time, space: Houston science museum: Wonders of Earth, beyond
HOUSTON — Whether walking among prehistoric fossils, gazing upon mummified, Egyptian remains or wandering through a swarm of butterflies, there is something for all ages at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
The destination is a surefire way to elicit awe from patrons old and young who get to see and learn about the planet’s wonders.
According to the museum’s head “Discovery Guide” Alex Ruff, the museum welcomes a couple thousand people a day through summer. Weekends are busiest.
“Every Thursday, people can get in free from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. for our Museum After Dark,” Ruff said. “We experimented with it last year and it did really well. Now, we are having it throughout the summer from June to August.”
The museums usual hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Apollo 11 Anniversary (Price of admission)
Even regular museum visitors regularly find new exhibits on display. A giant moon installation hangs over the main lobby. Using high-resolution images, attendees can see the moon’s every detail and crater. Its installation is part of the museum’s celebration of the 50-year anniversary of the lunar landing.
“We also have a virtual reality experience that will take you to the surface of the moon,” Ruff said. “Across from that is our In Focus exhibit, which is social media station. We also have Apollo 11 playing on the giant movie theater. We also have a show in the planetarium and we are going to have a lecture on the anniversary (July 20). We’ll have all sorts of things going on.”
Art of the Gunsmith ($30 for adult, $20 for child)
One of the special exhibits currently on display is Art of the Gunsmith, which is concerns 15th, 16th and 17th-century firearms from Germany, France, Spain and Poland.
Death by Natural Causes ($30 for adult, $20 for child)
Death by Natural Causes has been at the museum for a few years, but Ruff said the exhibit will run through September.
“It shows all of the weird and wacky ways death is all around us,” he said.
Biophilia (Price of admission)
Biophilia is an art exhibit using different animals to show the true beauty of nature. The area is set up like an art exhibit where artists use the bodies, shells and feathers of animals to create displays. In one of the descriptions at the display’s entrance, the artist describes Biophilia as an instinctive kinship with the rest of the living, breathing world and literally translated to “love of life.”
Gems and Minerals (Price of admission)
Ruff said his favorite exhibit is Gems and Minerals, which showcases the planet’s natural beauty in dimly lit area with spotlights to make the gems and minerals sparkle and shimmer.
“I can spend hours in there,” he said. “Our gem exhibit is the most unique in the world. It’s not just a stuffy room with rocks in it. It’s individualized and really cool. The president, who is also the curator of the hall, wanted to give it an art feel and really show its natural beauty. A lot of other places just have it in a case.”
Dinosaurs (Price of admission)
Ruff said the biggest hit is the museum’s dinosaur exhibit, which is the third-largest of its kind in the country.
“It’s unique because of the space,” he said. “We’re able to incorporate millions of years of dinosaurs in to one space.”
Museum goers are able to walk back in time starting at the earth’s oldest fossil dated 4.5 billion years ago and up through the Jurassic period to Neanderthals.
Dinosaurs are displayed to represent the way they acted in the wild, whether they are hunting or trying to escape from being the hunted. Each time period also has a mural with it to help illustrate how the animals looked and behaved when they were alive.
“The timeline allows people to walk through time and see how the earth progressed,” Ruff said.
Hall of the Americas (Price of admission)
Ruff said he believes the Hall of the Americas is one of the most underrated displays in the museum.
“I feel like when people go to the third floor, they are drawn to Egypt,” Ruff said. “Our Hall of the Americas shows where our ancestors came from and the first Americans and things like that. Hopefully, one day, given enough pending donations, we’ll be able to upgrade that hall and make it more elaborate. It shows how cultures and civilizations have grown over thousands of years.”
The hall features many displays of Mayan art, architecture and videos about Mayan life.
Hall of Ancient Egypt (Price of admission)
The hall is another museum mainstay filled with ancient tools and artifacts used by Egyptians along with slabs with art and hieroglyphs on them. The main attraction is the numerous mummified remains, synonymous with the timeframe.
The butterfly center ($12 for adult, $10 for child)
Upon arriving to the museum on can see a glass dome to the side. The dome is home to a 50-foot waterfall and is made to simulate a rainforest environment. The dome is also home to hundreds of butterflies.
List of other exhibits that are free with the price of admission
- Fabergé: The Art of Presentation
- Alfred C. Glassell, Jr. Hall
- Wiess Energy Hall
- Herzstein Foucault Pendulum
- Cabinet of Curiosities
- Frensley/Graham Hall of African Wildlife
- Welch Hall of Chemistry
- Earth Forum
- Hamman Hall Of Texas Coastal Ecology
- Vintage Texas Wildlife Dioramas
- Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife
- Strake Hall of Malacology
The museum has a McDonald’s and a sandwich shop in the main lobby.
Tickets to the museum cost:
- Adults: $25
- Children and seniors (62 +): $16
- Children ages 2 and under: FREE
- College students with ID: $16
- Military (with ID): $10
- Groups (10+): $10
- School Groups (Pre-K–12th Grade): $4
The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily except for Thursday, which is the day for Museum After Dark (free admission from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.).
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