Friday, December 27, 2013

Totally Texas -- Exploring Perot Museum from inside out

Perot Museum of Nature and Science

Victory Park campus, 2201 N. Field St.



I felt some trepidation on my latest visit to the Perot Museum in Victory Park recently. On my first visit a year ago, the then-newly opened building and its displays were amazing--and amazingly crowded. But the museum has done some major tweaking since then. This time around there were no lines, perhaps thanks to extended hours, online ticket purchases and a policy of timed admissions. My daughter and I practically zipped through fast moving school groups on our way to the Animal Inside Out exhibit, on view through February 17, 2014.

Afterward, we admired the revamped play area, dubbed Leap Frog Forest, with its sturdy new versions of the large enough to climb on amphibians that children had loved nearly to death in their earlier incarnations. Still, a sign cautions visitors to treat the frogs gently and not to hurt their feelings by, for instance, calling them “toads.”

So I can heartily recommend the museum to anyone looking for fun and informative ways to pass the remainder of winter break, as well as all the days to come. My only remaining qualm is price, so I’m listing a series of options for visits, in descending order of cost.

The top of the line option is a bundled ticket for entry to both the Animal Inside Out exhibit and the museum’s eleven permanent exhibit halls. Cost is $27 for non-member adults (ages 18-64). Lower ticket prices apply for members, and for children, teens, and those age 65 and older. My daughter and I spent a fascinated hour in the special exhibit, viewing animal bodies, such as those of the reindeer illustrating this post, preserved in plastic, a process described in the exhibit hall. 

Don't worry, children.  This isn’t what Santa does to naughty reindeer.

Although a notice at the exhibit’s entry states that no animals were killed for the presentation, my daughter’s not-quite eight-year-old twins chose not to view. Nor did their dad, for that matter. And despite the presence of one unflappable little girl, probably age six at most, during our visit, most of the Animal Inside Out presentations will probably be better appreciated by older children, teens, or adults.

For those who aren’t interested in the special exhibit, or don’t have the time, entry to the permanent exhibits only is $15 for non-member adults, again with lower prices for those younger or older. This gets you entry to eleven permanent exhibit halls on four levels. If at all possible, take the glass-walled escalator, offering a breath taking view of the city. But levels are also accessible by elevators and ramps.

Most exhibits are highly interactive, engaging and understandable to both children and adults. The boys’ favorite probably is the sports run exhibit on the lower level below the entry hall, where they raced tested their speed against that of virtual competitors including a Tyrannosaurus rex and a cheetah. And the view from the mezzanine of top level Hall of Birds gives you a literal bird’s eye view of the Alamosaurus dino skeleton (standing two school buses high and long) in “Life Now and Then Hall” of fossils and dioramas on the main floor of the fourth level. In between, you can experience a simulated earthquake, take a virtual tour of the solar system, or design a robot, among other adventures.

The simplest (and no-cost) option is to stay at ground level. Kids can work off their energy on the outdoor play area with its giant frogs and meandering stream. Or come inside to the admission-free first level with its 35-foot-long Malawisaurus skeleton, gift shop and café.

My family wondered what had happened to the previous digs of the nature and science museum at Fair Park. They’ve retained their natural history dioramas (the boys are particularly fascinated by the bats) and hall of minerals, among other exhibits. Normally, entry to the Fair Park exhibits is only $1 for non-members. However, since the Chinese Lantern Festival completely surrounds the science building, you’ll also have to pay for entry to the lantern festival through its January 5 closing date.

At the main museum campus in Victory Park, special holiday hours are 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. December 27-28, December 30 and January 1, and noon - 8 p.m. Sunday, December 29. The museum closes at 3 p.m. New Year’s Eve, and offers extended “First Thursday” hours January 2 until 9 p.m.

For more information about the Perot, special offers for members, or to purchase tickets online, see

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