Houston Museum of Natural Science is set in the northern corner of Hermann Park, which is the focal point of the city’s prestigious Museum District. As with most of the more than twenty museums and similar institutions in this district, the Houston Science Museum is one of the finest in the United States, rivaling the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. It was established in 1909, when it was located in Downtown Houston. It moved to its current location in 1969 after being part of the grounds of the Houston Zoo, which is also located in Hermann Park.
It is bound to keep everyone enjoying family vacations fascinated for hours regardless of their age. Admission is free on Tuesday afternoons from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Permanent Houston Museum of Natural Science exhibits include an IMAX theater, Burke Baker Planetarium, and the Cockrell Butterfly Center. Guided and self-guided tours are available, and there are supervised youth activities and summer camps.
The Houston Museum of Natural Science Cockrell Butterfly Center showcases dozens of species in a stunning rainforest habitat set in a dramatic glass cone conservatory. These exotic creatures are raised in specialist farms in tropical areas. They arrive at the Butterfly Center in cocoons, and transform into colorful butterflies at the center. Two halls are devoted to other wildlife. The Evelyn and Herbert Frensley Hall of African Wildlife reveals realistic scenes of both the wildlife and the ecosystems of the continent—from the rainforests of Central Africa to the great Serengeti grasslands and Okavango Delta in Botswana. The Houston Museum of Natural Science exhibits in the Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife displays the river otters, mountain lions, alligators, and other species native to the state, including some that are now extinct.
Searching for Eternity: Life and Death in Ancient Egypt is another of the Houston Science Museum exhibits. Here you will find 4,000 years of history, including mummies, amulets, coffin ornaments, and other artifacts from this ancient civilization.
One of the most intriguing of the Houston Museum of Natural Science exhibits is the Foucault Pendulum, which was exhibited for the first time at the 1851 World’s Fair in Paris. It is named for its French physicist inventor, and demonstrates the rotation of the planet earth. The position of the perpetually swinging pendulum appears to change with each seven-second swing, but it is actually the earth that is turning under the pendulum. The Challenger Learning Center opened in 1988. It chronicles early space exploration and commemorates the Challenger disaster when the space shuttle of that name exploded after take-off in 1986. If you are interested in space exploration, you might also want to visit the nearby Johnson Space Center, home of Mission Control.
Other Houston Science Museum halls include gems and minerals, the Hall of Paleontology, Hall of the Americas, the Discovery Place designed specifically for children, and the chemistry and energy halls. Special celestial events are held both at the planetarium and the state of the art IMAX. The Houston Museum of Natural Science is known not only for its permanent exhibits but also for its acclaimed traveling exhibits. At any given time you can explore the Birth of Christianity, the extraordinary terra cotta warriors from Xian in China, the exquisite jeweled eggs that Faberge crafted for the tsars of Russia, or the life of Mongolian Genghis Khan.
Image: Greater Houston CVB