Monday, June 24, 2013
When and why you should make a nerdy excursion to Dallas’ Perot Museum
Trust us, it's not just for 3rd grade field trips.
DOWNTOWN DALLAS We'll say it outright: If you can't find something of interest at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, it might be because you're just not an interesting person. True, the museum has already become a primo field trip destination for thousands of grade-schoolers, but don't let that deter you from making an educational trip down to Field Street, regardless of your age.
The first thing to consider is when to go. The museum has a user-friendly, interactive menu with age-appropriate programming. Often, kids run amok -- and that's a good thing. Other times, adults are the ones making a nerdy ruckus. Here's the basic rundown:
Daily grind: Through August 25, the museum has extended hours. Open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sundays from noon to 6 p.m., the museum plays host to a diversity of characters, and make no mistake, there will be kids. Lots of grade-school aged kids and texting tweens. During a recent visit, we spotted people aged 5 to 75 intermingling in the interactive exhibits. Caution: If you go during the day, you must play well with others -- sometimes loud, crying, shouting others who don't always use their indoor voices. And that's just the 75 year olds.
Late night hours: On the first Thursday of each month (excluding July 4), the museum stays open until 9 p.m. While all ages are welcome, the museum hosts special events like its Lab Remix, an interactive series where teens and adults can "geek out or freak out."
Members-only hours: No, you don't get a jacket. But, those with museum memberships enjoy special access on select dates that's a little less chaotic. Check here for the members-only special late night schedules.
For the 21+ crowd: The museum hosts adults-only programming called Science Cafe and Social Science on select dates. These sell out quickly, and the summer Social Science session is already booked. Get your tickets online, in advance.
Now you know when to go, but will the Perot's exhibits appeal to you, your kids, or your friends? Chances are good that there's something unexpected for everyone. Here are some highlights:
Science is art: Few places in the city drive home the point that art and science are two sides of the same beautiful, imaginative coin. Visual and performing artists dig educational exhibits at the Perot on the human body, animals, and the universe to inspire fresh work and perhaps even offer new perspectives. From the building's breathtaking architecture to the aisles of stones in the Lyda Hill Gems and Minerals Hall, the museum's four stories are filled with shapes, movement, colors, and (perhaps most importantly) wondrous new questions.
Kids pick a career path: Newsflash, parenting is hard. Inspiring, communicating with, and understanding your kids can be a full-time job. The museum, however, opens new lines of communication to discuss your kids' career aspirations. While talking about lab research with a 10-year-old might result in glazed over eyes, showing Sonny Boy the distinct beauty of mitosis through the museum's interactive, immersive, and hands-on exhibits means he might want to follow in your footsteps in hopes of positively impacting the world ... rather than auditioning for Big Brother 43.
Exhibitions apply to the real world: Speaking of the world, it's a big one and at times a scary one. The Perot Museum ensures that its visitors are able to relate the immense material presented to their own lives. For instance, one section discusses the "Ice Age in Texas" to bring home the distant event's effects on the modern landscape. In a Bio Lab, visitors conduct actual experiments where they "find, stain, and examine" their own cheek cells; determine which household chemicals kill microbes (and which don't); and, "isolate and stain giant chromosomes from fruit flies." Who wants to bet that at least one future Nobel Prize winner has already made a trip to the Perot?
You'll learn to think for yourself: Like any establishment dedicated to critical thinking, the Perot Museum does not shy away from controversial subjects. Exhibits on Alternative Energy exploration sit next to Chevron-sponsored, interactive video screens that detail the science of fracking. And, while they always court controversy among Texas political discussions, concepts like the Big Bang, evolution, human anatomy, the Earth's age, and prehistory are taken seriously. However, particular scientific or worldviews are not presented dogmatically. Visitors are encouraged to explore and learn, and to understand the world with a critical eye. Regardless of one's cosmological or ideological beliefs, the Perot teaches the value of adventurous, hands-on discovery.
For grownups, happy hour has a purpose: In Dallas, there is no shortage of great places to imbibe and wind down. But, if your happy hours have seemed lukewarm lately, the Perot's 21+ events offer a new way to break out of the cocktail-and-convo rut by adding a bit of light-hearted intellectual stimulation. Back in April, the museum's Social Science program featured a gastronomy theme and Revolver Brewing Company brewmaster Grant Wood talked about the mad science behind beer-making, replete with samples of the brewery's wheat ale, Blood and Honey, paired with dark chocolate samples from Oak Cliff's Dude, Sweet Chocolate. The last adults-only evening sold out quickly, so reserve a spot for the next Social Science on October 4.
- Neil Young returns to the Meyerson in April
- Mysterious restaurant called Remedy to open on Greenville Avenue
- Theater review: We Will Rock You will blow your mind, and your speakers
- OMG: Adam Lambert and Queen will rock Dallas, together, in July
- Theater review: The [Expletive] with the Hat is masterful and funny, wise and appalling