It was raining intermittently. We'd walked all around Hermann Park already and we had planned to spend the afternoon pottering from shop to shop in Houston Heights, but the weather clearly had other ideas. The humidity was high, and the children were bored. And then we saw a sign, literally: an arrow, pointing to the Houston Museum of Natural Science. "You're never too old to look at a dinosaur skeleton," I declared, remembering the London version of the same museum. "Let's go."
The first thing I should point out is the scale of this place. It's enormous. Even the entrance foyer seemed like a small shopping mall, with a coffee shop and movie theater as well as the usual ticket desk and shop. We bought our tickets (we did not have a CityPass, but if we had, we'd have saved money. I'd recommend that next time), and ventured through the doors, where we were immediately confronted by an enormous scale model of the moon (see photo above). It makes an immediate impact, and the children were excited about our visit straight away.
The museum is set out over several floors, and this fact made me think that the floors would be fairly limited in size. Wrong. It quickly became clear that there was no way we could visit all of the exhibits in the afternoon we had at our disposal, so we decided to focus on three: Paleontology, Texas wildlife, and the Hall of The Americas.
The paleontology exhibition is vast and impressive. Described as a "prehistoric safari", the animal skeletons are displayed as though they're in action - running, jumping, feeding, and leaping. The sheer scale of the exhibition is amazing. The way it's set out means that you're led in chronological order through the eras, but every so often there's a sudden surprise around an unexpected corner. Very clever.
The Texan Wildlife display was similarly huge and expansive, and the Americas exhibition was eye-opening - as a non-US native I was fascinated by all the artifacts from places such as Mexico, providing a layer of detail I wouldn't have otherwise had about American history.
By the time we'd done three full floors, we were tired and had "museum feet" - that curious ache that develops after a lot of slow trudging. We decided reluctantly to abandon our visit, vowing to return another day to do justice to some of the other exhibitions in the space.
On our way out, though, we stopped at the quirky little "curiosity cabinet" to have a look at strange things like sharks' teeth which had been donated by private collectors.
All in all, it was one of the best museums I've visited and I would especially recommend it for school age children because the level of information is so accessible and well presented in an entertaining way.