This is how you can best experience the Houston Museum of Natural Science

The Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) is not just a museum; it is an institution. Among its 433,000 square meters, the museum has five floors of permanent halls and rotating, traveling special exhibitions. And it’s known for Burke Baker Planetarium, Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, Cockrell Butterfly Center, and two satellite sites: George Observatory and HMNS at Sugarland.

For tourists and Houstonians alike, this popular Museum District attraction is a big hit and makes for a fun outing. If you’re planning to visit, we’re spotlighting 13 rare and extraordinary experiences you’ll find at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

See a rare pendulum at work

A must-see exhibit at this museum, which was founded in 1909, is the Herzstein Foucault Pendulum. Named after a French physicist, the pendulum is suspended from a 60-foot cable and demonstrates the Earth’s rotation. Only a handful of these pendulums exist around the world. Other locations include New York City, Oregon, Colorado, California, France, England and Russia.

See also  Global superstar singer-rapper Drake flexes into his beloved Houston as part of a new tour with 21 Savage

See one of the largest blue sapphires in the world

In the Lester and Sue Smith Gem Vault, the crème de la crème of rare jewels, the Siren of Serendip sapphire, dazzles in a necklace that also features 913 diamonds. The magnificent sapphire weighs 422.66 carats and is considered one of the five best sapphires in the world. Discovered in Sri Lanka, before it was cut and polished, the sapphire originally weighed 2,670 carats.

See the Mona Lisa of minerals

As for another beauty, The Alma Queen is a brilliant red rhodochrosite on display in the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals. And get this – it’s known as the Mona Lisa of the mineral world because of its sculptural composition. In 1965, this gem was extracted from a Colorado mine, and it is one of the most famous specimens in mineralogy.

Come face to face with preserved mummies

The Hall of Ancient Egypt spans 10,000 square meters and includes jewellery, crafts, tools, weapons and preserved mummies from 2500 BC. to 200 AD

See a giant, record-breaking black marlin

When you enter the Alfred C. Glassell, Jr. Hall, you can’t help but notice a giant black marlin. The 1,560-pound marlin was caught in 1953 by Alfred Glassell, a millionaire oil magnate, philanthropist by day and adventurer by night. He set a world record that still stands today for the largest black marlin caught with rod and reel.

Morian Hall of Paleontology in Houston, Texas.

Morian Hall of Paleontology in Houston, Texas.

Photo courtesy of HMNS / Photographer Mike Rathke

Admire a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil with the most complete hands and feet of any T. Rex discovered

Prepare to be mesmerized in the Morian Hall of Paleontology, all 30,000 square meters of it. Known as one of the largest and most dynamic palaeontology halls in the world, it is as massive as the dinosaurs that occupy it – equivalent in size to the length of a football pitch. Sure, the 450 casts and fossils are impressive and all, just like “Wyrex,” a Tyrannosaurus rex with the best-preserved and most complete hands and feet of any T.rex ever discovered, but looking at the prehistoric relics on display hunting and fighting in action mode is also super unique. The curator is world-renowned paleontologist Dr. Robert T. Bakker, who was also a consultant for the “Jurassic Park” films. In fact, the Dr. Robert Burke character in “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” was based on him. How cool is that?

Discover African animal species rarely seen by humans

The Frensley/Graham Hall of African Wildlife encompasses seven biomes representing 120 specimens in African wildlife and conservation, but what makes this really neat is that you can see many species including Gerenuk, Giant Forest Hog and Guenons that are rarely discovered in museums.

See Texas wildlife unique to the Lone Star State

The Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife is known for having the most species of Texas wildlife in one exhibit, and includes more than 425 specimens on display. From modern-day specimens like alligators to extinct passenger pigeons and endangered species like ocelots, this exhibit is truly unique to the Lone Star State.

A butterfly with black and white wings sits on a purple flower.

A butterfly with black and white wings sits on a purple flower.

Mike Rathke

Walk among 1,500 live butterflies fluttering through a tropical rainforest

Everyone wanted to surround you with 1500 colorful butterflies? You can at the Cockrell Butterfly Center which is home to 60 different species of butterflies. Unlike most butterfly pavilions, this one also has a conservatory in the rainforest. The three-story glass structure was built around a 50-foot waterfall and simulates a tropical rainforest. The temperature is typically between 75 and 80 degrees with humidity of 70 to 80 percent.

Visit galaxies in the same planetarium used to train NASA astronauts

Since 1964, The Burke Baker Planetarium has presented astronomical programs to millions of visitors, and it’s everything you need in a planetarium and then some. It features Digistar 6, the world leader in digital planetarium software and projection, and uses a digital cloud library to include the latest discoveries. A visit here allows visitors to feel as if they are floating through galaxies. For ultimate bragging rights, this domed theater has been used to train NASA space shuttle astronauts in star field identification.

George Observatory telescope in Houston, Texas.

George Observatory telescope in Houston, Texas.

Photography courtesy of the Houston Museum of Natural Science / Photographer: Mike Rathke

See stars through the largest telescope in the country available to the public

One of the museum’s two satellite facilities, the George Observatory, located in Brazos Bend State Park, has a giant 36-inch Gueymard Research Telescope. It’s not to be missed – in fact, it’s the largest telescope in the country accessible to the public. Channel your inner astronomer as you marvel at the solar system while chatting with astronomers who act as guides.

Experience a larger-than-life IMAX adventure

If you’re in awe of the visuals and sound quality of the six-track sound system at the Wortham Theater, Houston’s first IMAX, you’re not alone. That’s because 3D images are projected onto a screen that measures 80 feet wide and six stories high. Here you can get up close and personal with sea lions on display, explore the Great Barrier Reef and even take a holographic adventure with dinosaurs.

See the largest private collection of Fabergé in the world

Do you have Faberge? When renovations are complete in fall 2023, visit the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals to see the McFerrin Fabergé Collection – the largest private collection of Fabergé in the world. It has over 600 pieces that were originally made as gifts for royalty, and over 70 eggs. Highlights of the exquisite eggs include the Imperial Diamond Trells Egg from 1892, the Nobel Ice Egg from 1913 and the Kelch Rocaille Egg from 1902. A hallmark of jewel Peter Carl Fabergé’s Imperial Easter Eggs was to include a small surprise, such as a mechanical animal figure, inside in the egg for the recipient.

Find it: Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, TX 77030; 713-639-4629

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *