TRAVEL HERE: PEROT MUSEUM OF SCIENCE & NATURE IN DALLAS
Getting My Second Look at The Perot
Not quite a year ago I had the opportunity to attend a UTD alumni function downstairs at The Perot. I was glad to go, because lines still wrapped around the building on weekends and you had to order tickets in advance. We’re a little more spontaneous when it come to museum visits, so we were eager for a peek. While there, we enjoyed the Musical Stairs and amused ourselves in the Sports Hall, but we weren’t allowed in the upper floors, so we put it on our “later list.”
A Perfect Sunday Afternoon for Strolling
A few Sundays ago the day was bright and we made our way downtown after church. Since we’re DMA members, we took advantage of our free parking there and strolled over to The Perot where things were pretty quiet. Dallas buildings are all comparatively modern, because we’re still a pretty new city in the big scheme of things, but The Perot’s deconstructed exterior takes modern architecture to a new level. I don’t know whether I like it or not, but you’ve got to give it creds for being different.
Starting at the Top – The Expanding Universe
Inside, we only had to wait in line for a few moments. Tickets in haned, we were directed to the escalators which led to the top floor, Level 4. This must be a new trend, because just weeks before, at the new Briscoe in San Antonio, we were directed to start at the top. I think it’s smart. After seeing a floor or two it’s easy to say, “Let’s come back later,” but if you’re on your way down anyway, why not carry on.
We entered the Expanding Universe Hall and sure enough, they’re following another trend I’ve noticed: more information than you can possibly absorb, thrown at you willy-nilly, from the walls of the museum. Obedient soul that I am, I started at the first display and began reading, only to be interrupted by my husband who was ready to move on to another section.
I was reluctant at first, because the museum walls hit one of my curiosity nails right on the head, comparing the knowledge of prehistoric man (as in Stonehenge and star charts in China) with the nonsense the Greeks spouted when they arrived on the scene. “How did we lose all that knowledge and where did it go,” is one of my perpetual questions. I can imagine a Dark Ages previous to what we call history, but even in the knowledge-starved Middle Ages there was an undercurrent of learned people keeping the flame alive. The man on the street might not have known much, but there were people who did.
However, the exhibit did not answer my burning question. I’ll just have to keep watching Ancient Aliens. The exhibit went on to discuss methods used to observe stars today and gave a run down of what they’re seeing out there now. The hall wound up with a Journey Through the Solar System, but that was very crowded, so we moved on to the T. Boone Pickens Life Then and Now Hall.
Taking a Look at Life Then and Now
Life Then and Now is a sort of natural history museum with fossils, bones and stuffed things. These kinds of exhibits are not my favorite and on this particular day I enjoyed it less than usual. As we perused the fossil remains of early life, a very loud proponent of evolution was just ahead of us adamantly vocalizing his disdain for Creationism, in rather crude and offensive remarks. Obviously the guy didn’t realize it’s possible to intellectually embrace the fact of dinosaurs roaming the earth, without having to toss faith in God out the window. We tried detouring the guy, but he seemed determined to follow me around saying things that made me want to punch him. You’ll be glad to know I behaved myself.
Flying Above It All
On a mezzanine above the dinosaur bones is the Rose Hall of Birds. This was a madhouse. About midway along the mezzanine a motion sensor camera allows kids to pretend they’re soaring, while controlling a bird flying on a screen in front of them. This is a real winner with the younger set, but it does create gridlock among the exhibits. We headed to Level 3 which proved to be our favorite part.
Digging Into the Dynamic Earth
The Rees-Jones Foundation Dynamic Earth Hall was my semester of Geology 101 condensed into a few exhibits, but we ride an earthquake simulator back in Nacogdoches. Like other interactive exhibits, the earthquake simulator, was very busy – so we just watched. But not very long, because the Lyda Hill Gems and Minerals Hall was calling me. I love rocks, minerals and gemstones. The color and variety of the specimens was fascinating, so I really couldn’t get enough. When I’d been through them all, I wanted to return to the beginning and start again, but I didn’t. I’d taken so long that Bill went through the Tom Hunt Energy Hall alone. He wanted to ride the Shale Voyager, so I dragged myself away from all the pretty rocks. The Shale Voyager didn’t seem to be quite as thrilling as the earthquake simulator and maybe that’s why the line wasn’t as long. They wanted participants to accept that they’d been shrunk down to fit inside a drill bit and I wasn’t able to suspend my disbelief.
Almost Downward Spiral
Maybe I was getting tired, but Level 2 wasn’t as compelling to me as the other levels seemed. There were lots of hands-on exhibits, but it wasn’t anything that made me want to get my hands on them. There was also a section about the Texas Blackland Prairie, but it would have been a better fit on Level 4 with the Life Then and Now Hall.
Then we hit the Musical Stairs and revisited the Lower Level. The special exhibition, Animals Inside Out, took up most of the space, but I had no interest in seeing plastic encased animal guts. We also stayed away from the Children’s Museum, since children aren’t our thing. However, the Sports Hall was just as much fun as it had been on our first visit, but much more crowded, so we left the games to the kids. One hint I will give you, ride the elevator back up to Level 1. It’s harder to trip a light fantastic up the stairs than it is down.
So, do I think you should go to The Perot? I absolutely do. I also recommend you choose a weekday for your visit, so you won’t have so much competition for the participatory exhibits. I can’t decide whether being kid-less was a blessing or a curse. The blessing came because we didn’t have anyone throwing a fit when we walked past the lines waiting for the soaring bird experience or the earthquake simulator, but it would have been fun to see what some of my grand-nieces and nephews thought about it. Have you been? What did you think?