A Family Visit to the Houston Museum of Natural Science

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Cockrell Butterfly Center at the w:Houston Mus...Cockrell Butterfly Center at the w:Houston Mus...

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The Houston Museum of Natural Science is located in the Museum District of central Houston, at the north end of Hermann Park. Founded in 1908, it is one of the most attended museums in the United States, hosting more than two million visitors annually. This puts it in the same attendance category as the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

My family of four recently visited the HMNS during Spring Break. I have to report that we all had a great time and the children remained highly engaged with the museum displays, despite the large school holiday crowds. The facility is large enough and the exhibit areas are varied enough that it never felt too packed with people. We explored the permanent exhibits and the butterfly center (pictured) during our time there, but those alone took all morning and the early afternoon for us to complete.

The main museum building is four floors high, with an attached IMAX theatre, a planetarium and the aforementioned butterfly center. Portions of the main museum are dedicated to various traveling exhibits. The permanent exhibitions include halls dedicated to energy, chemistry, paleontology, American and African wildlife, gems and minerals, malacology (shells) and North and South American artifacts. An education center for school groups and a space science center are located on the lowest level. There are also two gift shops and a McDonald’s restaurant on site.

The only real complaint I have about the museum as a whole, would be the multiplicity admission fees. The permanent exhibits cost $15 for adults and $9 for kids 3-11, with the exception of the butterfly center, which is $8 for adults and $6 for kids. The planetarium is an additional $7 or $6 and the IMAX theatre shows are $10 or $8 for non-first-run movies. Special exhibits, like the current Genghis Khan or the Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story, are $22 and $18 respectively for adults and $18 and $16 respectively for children. This can add up quickly for a family of four of modest means, like my own. The best value is to purchase a Family Membership which costs $85 per year. It covers two adults and up to four children or grandchildren age 18 and under. Membership allows for free admission to the permanent exhibits plus discounts on most of the other ticket prices.

The Houston Museum of Natural History is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Hours of operation vary by season, but usually begin at 9am Monday through Saturday and 11am on Sundays. Parking is available in the adjacent garage for $10 or $5 for members. See the museum website for more details.

WIRED: Varied exhibits, great displays for kids, space to accommodate large crowds.

TIRED: Admission prices can be steep for non-Members.

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