From Toddlers to Teens, the Houston Museum of Natural Science Entertains and Engages
The coolest museums engage, entertain and educate all ages. And just how does the Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) measure up to those lofty goals? Well, check, check and check! Hands-on exhibits and the colorful inhabitants of the Cockrell Butterfly Habitat will leave your little ones mesmerized. Massive dinosaur skeletons arranged in dramatic action poses will have your tweens and teens finally looking up from their mobile phones (well, at least until they feel the need to get a selfie with that fearsome triceratops). And parents will be quietly high-fiving the fact that everyone is having fun (not to mention learning a little something to boot).
Covering more than 400,000 square feet, HMNS can seem a bit daunting. But, families can ensure maximum fun and minimal foot fatigue by honing in on the exhibits best suited to their travel party. Here are some top picks to make planning a visit easier, no matter what age group you're trying to entertain.
Don't miss the Cockrell Butterfly Center, a three-story rain forest habitat that is home to more than 50 species of free-flying butterflies. These delicate, colorful creatures and their naturalistic setting—complete with 50-foot waterfall—will captivate the littlest guests. Photo Tip: To attract butterflies, dress in bright colors, dab on a bit of flowery perfume or lotion, and find a place to stand quietly. Before you know it, you could have a tiny traveler perched on your shoulder or head.
Nearby, the Brown Hall of Entomology is full of fascinating creepy crawlers like hissing cockroaches, whip scorpions and giant prickly sticks (insects whose camouflage gives them the look of a brown, dried-up leaf). There's also a giant beehive that kids can play inside, as well as insect picture books and puzzles.
Kids & Tweens
For kids age 5 to 12, be sure to check out the Morian Hall of Paleontology. This space is jam-packed with prehistoric beasts. But, unlike traditional museums that display their dinosaur skeletons in stagnant, lackluster rows, HMNS positions its most ferocious residents in thrilling theatrical tableaus. Predators and prey are in motion—chasing, eating and escaping as they struggle for life. This innovative approach allows families to embark on an intriguing "prehistoric safari."
Because younger kids have a peculiar fascination with poop and other bodily functions, you'll want to swing by the coprolite display (aka the famed "Wall of Poop") in the Permian section of Morian Hall. Coprolites are fossilized feces, and HMNS has a display case chock-full of them. Poop Proficiency: Impress your kids by knowing the difference between poo samples from meat-eaters (straight, smooth coprolites) and vegetarians (coiled, lumpy fossils).
In Weiss Energy Hall, the Energy Jukebox will have kids dancing. The jukebox features PowerPlayz, a collection of 10 toe-tappingly catchy songs whose lyrics explore conservation, renewable energy, biomass, thermonuclear fusion and more.
Journey down the Nile and travel back thousands of years in time in the Hall of Ancient Egypt. The enduring mysteries surrounding the lives of the early pharaohs, their colossal pyramids and temples, and their intricate burial customs have long captured the imagination of pop culture. Teens entranced by movie depictions of mummies will be thrilled to come face to face with three real-life specimens. Intricate jewelry, hieroglyphic tablets, tomb relics and more give visitors an in-depth look at ancient Egyptian culture.
The recently updated Burke Baker Planetarium features a state-of-the-art Digistar 6 projection system. Enabling visitors to fly through the universe, experience the vastness of space, roam planetary surfaces, and navigate asteroid fields, the Digistar system has enough bells and whistles to impress even the most tech-savvy teens. Did You Know?: The planetarium's domed theater is used to train NASA astronauts in identifying star fields.
Ways to Save on HMNS Admission
Houston CityPASS tickets are a great way to visit HMNS and four additional top Space City attractions at a savings of . Each Houston CityPASS ticket includes prepaid admission to Space Center Houston, Downtown Aquarium, Houston Museum of Natural Science, a choice between the Houston Zoo or the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and a choice between Kemah Boardwalk and the Children's Museum of Houston. Bonus: Through Feb. 28, 2021, the usual 9-day validity on Houston CityPASS tickets has been extended to 30 days! This makes CityPASS an even smarter purchase for those who are planning staycations.