Originally from Los Angeles, CA, my girlfriend and I have enjoyed our visits to various spots across the country, whether it be a bit north to San Francisco or a bit further west to Chicago. While over time, the bustling cities, friendly faces, and expensive tourist traps between locations tend to blur together into a warm amalgamation of fond memories, it is the culture we experience that never fades. And what better way to truly experience Houston’s culture than eat a delicious meal at the Waffle House followed by a trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
We were graciously provided all-access passes to each of the museum’s exhibits (special thanks to Latha Thomas, who helped set this visit up for us), and while we made a careful plan to visit each of the exhibits for a set amount of time, we quickly found that we lost track of time in each of the immersive exhibits until the museum was near closing and we still had left several chunks of the museum relatively unexplored.
We began our day exploring The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes, a cute and interactive tribute to the most famous detective of all time (for me, I could not stop thinking about a 2009 Robert Downey Jr. reading aloud the various signs and clues of the exhibit). To our surprise, we were handed a booklet for us to stamp, color, and note in solving a murder case that has particularly stumped the local London police. Whether that meant shooting a laser gun through different obstacles to notice the trajectory of the bullet, breaking ceramic sculptures different ways to recreate the crime scene’s, or splattering blood on a window from different attacks (I cannot emphasize enough how incredibly hands-on the exhibit was), what started out as a cute recreation of a crime scene turned into my girlfriend and I getting into heated debates on whether the footprints in the sand indicated that the body could have been dragged away to a river or not. The exhibit perfectly embodied the humor and wits of Holmes throughout his secret notes hidden for those particularly curious enough to find them or his scattered audio recordings throughout the many different immersive areas. By the end, once we had solved the murder case by finding each of the clues (for the record, my girlfriend was right about nearly every clue while I was incredibly wrong about almost everything I fought so hard to justify), I took a brief second to realize that I just spent over an hour solving a fake murder case and being completely immersed in it the entire time. Around me, I could see others solving the same clues their own special way, and whether it was a family with children, a group of adults (which surprisingly seemed even more into solving the case than the children there), or detectives who preferred to ride solo, everyone seemed completely engrossed in finding the truth and nothing but the truth (or if you were me, you tried really hard to find the truth only to realize you are not at all as smart as Sherlock Holmes nor your girlfriend and probably never will be. I am serious here – little kids a quarter my height got more clues right than me. How?!).
I would soon realize that this level of immersion carried itself throughout each of the Museum of Natural Science’s many exhibits. Whether we were examining hundreds of rare gems and stones at the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals, learning about the intricacies of the mummification process from a knowledgeable guide in the Hall of Ancient Egypt, being swept into space in the Burke Baker Planetarium showing of the dome-film “Passport to the Universe” (which was narrated by Tom Hanks and if that fact alone doesn’t make this a must-see film then I don’t know what will), exploring the different impacts and effects of energy production across the world at the Wiess Energy Hall, or taking cheesy pictures of us running from the prehistoric fossils densely clustered across the Morian Hall of Paleontology in the first floor of the museum, we never stopped having a blast walking around an incredibly well put-together collection of exhibits, each more fun and engaging than the last.
My experience at the Houston Museum of Natural Science was nothing short of fantastic, and while every museum across the world aims to teach its viewer something new, each lesson here came through a unique collection of images and interactive mediums that had me pulling my girlfriend through each room to find out more. Whether you are sleuthing with family in a day of solving mysteries, taking your partner to a beautiful showing of the galaxy, or adventuring alone though different ancient cultures and rituals, the Houston Museum of Natural Science will not disappoint. I for one, in my few weeks left in Houston, am already planning my next visit.