An overview of Houston Museum of Natural Science

The Houston Museum of Natural Science aims to preserve and advance general knowledge and to promote enjoyment of natural science and related subjects. In addition to its 4 floors of permanent exhibitions and regular traveling exhibitions, the museum includes a planetarium, an IMAX theater, and the Cockrell Butterfly Center. The museum also maintains the George Observatory in Fort Bend County and has a satellite site in Sugar Land. Over 2 million visitors pass through its doors each year.

Over a dozen permanent exhibits examine many fields of science ranging from astronomy and energy to Native American culture and paleontology. Permanent exhibits include the Cullen Hall of Gems & Minerals and the Lester and Sue Smith Gem Vault, which display a fascinating collection of gems and minerals, the Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife, which is dedicated to the animals, plants, and topography of Texas, and the Alfred C. Glassell Jr. Hall of Paleontology, which has a collection of over 450 fossils and fossil replicas. The Isaac Arnold Hall of Space Science has many exhibits and artifacts from the space program, including its timeline and history. The Challenger Learning Center, which offers a realistic mock-up of Mission Control, was added in 1988 in memory of the Challenger crew.

Many of the museum’s permanent exhibits are designed to appeal to children under 13. Several are interactive. At Fondren Discovery Place, which includes replicas of Tutankhamen’s tomb and the Corliss steam engine, children are encouraged to touch all exhibits so that they can investigate science in action. The museum also offers a selection of fun labs, family events, and sleepovers, as well as a summer camp, although many of these activities are available only to museum members.

The museum’s Mixers and Elixirs social series is popular among young professional singles. The evening begins at 6 pm, with dancing to a live band and a cash bar starting at 7 pm. Mixers and Elixirs is held every Friday night during July and August, except holidays. Admission is $20, and includes food and drink tickets.

Dining options at the museum are limited to a McDonalds in the Grand Entry Hall. Food and drink are not permitted inside the museum.

The museum gift shop offers fair trade handicrafts, books, gems, jewelry, minerals, and fossils, as well as museum clothing and pins. Some gift store items can only be bought online. Gift bags are available with orders placed at least 2 weeks in advance. Museum members receive a 10% discount on all purchases.

General admission to the Houston Museum of Natural Science is $15 for adults, free for members and children under 2. Admission is free on Tuesdays after 2 pm. Traveling exhibits, lectures, and educational seminars and fun labs have additional fees, which are often discounted for members. Package deals are available online. Visiting the George Observatory is free, but there is a $5 charge (children under 12 free) to enter the Brazos Bend Park in which it is located, as well as a $5 fee to use the telescopes.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science can be found in Hermann Park at 5555 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, just across the street from Miller Outdoor Theater. Hours of operation are Monday to Friday 10-4, weekends 10-5. Exhibitions are open Tuesday 9-8, all other days until 5 pm. The planetarium is open Monday to Friday 9-4:30, and until 5 pm on weekends. The butterfly center is open 9-5 everyday.