By Thurs. we switched from "camping to somewhere in Texas" to visiting the Space Center in Houston. And we were all thankful for that - because it was another hot weekend! By Friday, Aaron and I booked our hotel and purchased our City Passes - which allowed us to see/do so much more. We would highly recommend going this route if Houston is ever on your list of places to visit.
It includes 5 attractions - so we picked the Space Center, three museums and the aquarium. Arriving early allowed us to squeeze multiple museums before dinner. By checking hours and miles, we coordinated seeing what we wanted - all into 3 days. And as if that wasn't enough, we threw in swimming at the pool, bowling, glow-golf, and the Kemah boardwalk. Sure we felt like collapsing by the end of each day - but that's what hotel beds are for.
Day 1: The Health Museum. As it's name suggests, here is where for a few hours, kids can really get a close-up on about everything and anything cool and "gross" about our bodies. Our journey began at the mouth, where we entered this exhibit full of interactive lessons. Where are our voice boxes? How loud can you scream? What does our brain control? How are our bones connected? Where is my small intestine? How are babies born? (that was an interesting conversation...) Why do some people wear glasses? What is DNA? and so on...
The 4D movie was a bonus - where we learned how viruses attack our systems. (The kids thought getting sprayed was pretty gross). As a parent, I thought the 30+ hands-on exhibits were smart. Many were geared for young kids to play with - but I'm afraid it was too fun to learn anything. The kids wanted to watch things go, move, light up. Which is why stop 2 was more age-appropriatly perfect....
Stop 2: The Children's Museum.
My. Oh my. Three floors of complete and utter... play! My kind of play - from chemistry labs, to water works, climbing to inventing - this is the place for little explorers. In the 4 hours that we spent here, we couldn't cover it all. But we did get to try some of the hands-on science experiments like making polymers and hot air balloons to test in a wind tunnel.
I've never seen a "jungle gym" quite like this (on left). 3 stories tall - it was mesmerizing just to look at.
Downstairs was dedicated to dress up - a mini city where you get "play money" - to spend in the "restaurant" or "grocery store." Out of money? Get a job. As a vet, a forensic scientist... you name it. You get a paycheck. Go to the ATM and withdraw the money you just made. It's really beautifully planned (nicely funded I'd say). This is Ava inside of an ambulance.
Definitely plan to spend a whole day here. I know we will next time!
3rd Stop: Downtown Aquarium
We picked the aquarium as our last stop because we were already in downtown... and it had lovely late hours... oh and did I mention carnival rides? The tour through the exhibits went by quickly... we paused to watch the white tiger for a bit, had dinner upstairs, and then headed for the rides and lights outside.
Day 2: The Space Center!
On our way there, Ava said, "Mommy. I'm sorry you never got to be an astronaut." She remembered. That was something I had shared with her a very long time ago.. maybe at night when we looked at the stars in her bedroom. She must have been 4. Space has always been my wonder. When I was a kid, I would cut up pictures from my science textbooks (Sorry P.S. 91) and paste them into my journal. My sister had already warned that astronauts must be of a specific height and weight... have 20/20 vision. When I came home with my new pink eye-glasses from the optometrist, I knew it was over. I was 12.
It tickles me that Ava remembered this story - the timing couldn't have been any more perfect. Maybe she sensed my nerdy, "I've watched Space Camp a hundred times," excitement. Maybe...
I'll be honest and admit that I didn't know much about the Space Center before going. Did you know the training facility where they train - is an exact replica of the international space station? And it's huge. Here's just a small corner.
They are working on proto-types for vehicles that will last longer and do "more."
We drove by the Mission Control Center on the tram tour, and heard over and over, "Failure is not an option." (I think this is going to replace my "dream big" motto at home).
Being inside of a space shuttle... just blew my mind away. A little surreal even. I'm just so thankful the kids got to see what I so often wondered about at their age. At their age. I can't believe I can say that already.
The rest of the museum caters to families with small children - where they could bounce and play on exhibits and ride crafts that simulate space travel. We watched a space shuttle launch in the theater, played in the jungle gym for a few hours, and of course - ate Dippin Dots.
Day 3: Kemah Boardwalk
We took the kids here while on a trip to Galveston when Ava and Noah were just 2 and 1. (They were so little!) Here's a photo I remembered taking with Ava...
So we had to stop and take another of us now:
Sniff...sniff... Kemah has definitely improved in 4 years - including more attractions...
But we stuck with the same things - getting wet!
2nd Stop: Museum of Natural Science
This one caught off us guard. It's exceptional and a must do in downtown. Newly remodeled, the museum boasts a new paleontology hall the size of a football field and more than 30 dinosaurs!
Yup. This would be a prehistoric megalodon. Yikes!
Beyond dinosaurs (which were really cool), the permanent exhibits are geared to teaching kids about the African wildlife, The Americas, Egypt, Texas Wildlife, Chemistry, Earth, Malacology (too bad we couldn't find anything like it on our last beach trip), and Gems and Minerals! I wish I took more pictures of these natural beauties (stones and minerals of imaginable color and radiance). But photography isn't allowed in most areas. Although I did get one of Ankh-hap, whose approximately 2,400 years old. (oops).
The kids think mummification is really cool (and "frankie") and the topic always comes up always around Halloween time. It's not just a tale kids... they did this for real! And seeing in person - is what learning is all about!
If you're planning a trip to Houston - all of this is completely doable in a weekend (we also took the kids bowling for the first time after the Space Center). But if you'd like to take it slow, the Space Center, Museum of Natural Science and Children's Museum are our favorites!
Happy weekending... and learning!