Friday, December 28, 2012

Totally Texas -- A world of wonder

Perot Museum of Nature and Science

2201 N. Field St. (at Woodall Rodgers Freeway)

Dallas, TX 75202


Much as the boys loved the Museum of Nature and Science in its former incarnation at Dallas’ Fair Park, they were wild with delight at its new downtown version. Yes, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science really is as astounding as the hype says. But there are some things you need to know. In the interest of public service, we bravely visited during winter break to give you the inside story.

Okay, we were desperate to get two very (make that very, very) active six-year-olds out of our hair after they exhausted the play opportunities of Dallas’s once in a lifetime Christmas Day snowstorm.

You’ve seen the beautiful exterior of the Perot Museum -- the inside is still more stunning. Even my fear of heights couldn’t keep me from snapping pictures of downtown from the glassed-in escalator and its landings. The new space gives the museum opportunities it could never have from the historic buildings at its previous Fair Park location. (Although Fair Park will continue to house the museum’s wildlife dioramas and paleontology laboratory.)

The museum now has six levels of exhibit space, including the lower level housing the Children’s Museum and the level 4 mezzanine Rose Hall of Birds. The boys’ favorites? Level 2, with skeletons of dinosaurs and other extinct monsters, including moasaurs from the seas once covering North Texas and Level’s 3’s Earthquake Shake simulation of a 9.5 quake and minerals hall with its virtual tour of a Mexican crystal cave.

The boys also loved the entry courtyard playground with lighted frog sculptures and level 1 with its dinosaur skeleton (both free, if you’re still feeling the pinch of holiday expenses). The museum’s free first level also gives you access to the museum’s café and gift shop, important for those like my family members who’ve inherited a dominant shopping gene.

Now for a few cautions. The museum is crowded. Granted, we hit the perfect storm:
new attraction plus kids out of school plus weather too inclement for outdoor play. But these will be givens, at least for the remainder of winter break, so plan accordingly. 

In extremely crowded situations, the museum limits access. When we arrived in the early afternoon, we faced a two-hour wait for nonmembers or anyone without previously purchased tickets. Museum staff don’t expect such long waits in the future, but to avoid the possibility, consider buying tickets ahead of time through

I tried to buy discounted parking online, only to find myself thrown out because the museum’s parking lots were full, as we learned afterward. Also be aware that neighboring parking lots may raise their prices to take advantage of the museum crowds, and take cash in small bills. If your prefer public transportation, several DART stations are within a few blocks of the museum, although a few blocks through downtown traffic can be intimidating for those traveling with small children.

We ended up jumping the line by buying a membership. Considering that we’ll recoup its cost with only two visits -- and that the membership cost is lower than for some neighboring attractions -- we were satisfied. Plus, membership gave us discounts at the café and gift shop, important for little boys eager to carry home souvenirs of a memorable day.

And if your family needs another outing but you’re maxed out from holiday expenses, consider the Dallas Zoo. It‘s offering Penguin Days $5 admission for everyone January 1 through February 28. It’s also readily accessible by DART. Even on bad weather days, the boys like the enclosed reptile house with its albino alligators. For additional information and discounts, see

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