I was recently invited to a media preview day at the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science, and, in an attempt to provide some insight about the place that was actually, well, useful, I enlisted my nine-year-old daughter Audrey to accompany me as a junior reporter. Sure, I could have cruised through the museum solo and reported back on what I thought was “must-see,” but I had this sneaking suspicion that I would somehow miss the mark, that a kiddo’s perspective was essential in this particular situation.
Audrey was more than up for the task, and good thing, as my suspicion turned out to be right on the money. Had I embarked on this adventure without my trusty sidekick, I would have come back and told you that the Lyda Hill Gems and Minerals Hall is the most brilliant, riveting, absolute “do not miss” attraction in the entire joint. Yep, the very same Gems and Minerals Hall that junior reporter Audrey explored for oh, about 5 seconds, deemed, “neat,” and then promptly exited, eager to get another turn on the “Earthquake Shake.”
The Perot is engaging and hugely impressive (not to mention just plain huge at 180,000 square feet). Audrey and I spent three full hours there and barely scratched the surface. We could have easily whiled away an entire day exploring and participating in the exhibits. So to help you plan your visit in advance of the official opening this weekend, Audrey has pulled together a top-ten list from her afternoon at the Perot.
Herewith her favorites…in her own words:
1. The Ginoromous Escalator – “This is the longest escalator I have ever been on. It’s way longer than the one at NorthPark, like 10 times longer. I like how you can’t really go anywhere between floors…you just have to keep going up and up and up. I would come here just to ride that elevator.”
2. The Space Area — “Everything in the space exhibit is awesome, but I really like that the dad from Marley & Me is talking while you walk around and look at all the stuff. (Ed: Owen Wilson narrates an exhibit about the “Big Bang.” I wish that she had said “the guy from all those stellar Wes Anderson movies,” but you take what you can get.) The bowling ball game that helps you figure out how heavy you would be on different planets is also really cool. I wanted to stay and play with it longer, but my mom said we would never see the entire museum if I kept messing around with the bowling balls, so I had to move on.”
3. The Bird Flying Game – “You put on 3D glasses, put out your arms, and fly…like an actual bird. It feels totally real, except for when you run into trees it doesn’t hurt. Which is good. I would do it again, but it makes me feel a little car sick. I bet there’s going to be a really long line for this when the museum really opens.” (Ed: I think you nailed it Audrey.)
4. All The Hanging Stuff — “All the mobiles and atoms hanging from the ceiling look really neat. There’s lots of interesting stuff to look at even when you aren’t doing the activities. My favorite are those molecules in the big lobby area. They move when you walk under them. I love those things.”
5. The Earthquake Shake — “This was the coolest thing ever. You stand on the platform, pick a small earthquake or a medium earthquake or a big earthquake, and it shakes you around…just like a real earthquake. It’s crazy and fun, but not scary. I think a real earthquake would be more scary than fun, so maybe they should have made it scarier. I wanted to do this over and over, but my mom wanted to look at the gems and rocks. Gems and rocks are her favorite thing. I think they’re pretty, but they are not fun. At all.”
6. The Piney Woods, Blackland Prairie, and West Texas Desert — “The area where you could learn all about the ecosystems in different parts of Texas was interesting because you got to do things that made you feel like you were really there instead of just having someone tell you about it. Like in the piney woods area you could smell the types of flowers that grow there. You could also smell a skunk. It was not a good smell. I’m going to make my little sister Millie smell it when she comes here. She’s going to hate it.”
6. The Huge Dinosaurs — “The dinosaurs and fossils were really interesting…and really huge. We asked one of the museum experts how to tell the difference between a real fossil and a fake one that they make, and he said that the real fossils are sitting in holders and usually don’t have metal rods through them. They don’t want to ruin the real fossils with the metal rods. After I learned that, I went around and looked for all the real fossils. I was surprised that there were so many in the museum.”
8. The Music Room — “The little room where you can go in and make music was neat. I think all the grown-up men really liked it too because they were all crowded in there, and they wouldn’t leave. They just kept playing with the instruments, and I almost didn’t get to go in. But after a really, really long time, they finally left.”
9. The Science Lab — “This was like a grown-up science lab with lab coats, gloves, official equipment, and a scientist to help you do the cool experiments. This is the thing I wanted to do the most, but the museum was about to close, so I only got to look at the stuff. I think if those men hadn’t been playing with the instruments for so long I probably would have been able to do it. They should put a time limit on the instrument room.”
10. The Getting Old Game — “In the body area, you can play a game around a table where pictures of things in your life sort of float around and you grab the ones that you think will help you live the longest. You can pick from things like “being stressed out” and “having friends” and stuff. Having friends is good. Being stressed out isn’t good. It will make you die way sooner. I need to tell my mom this information right away.”