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The Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas: wall to wall fascination

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Perot Museum of History and Science in Dallas, Texas

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On a recent trip to Dallas, we had the good fortune to visit the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. Of the two campuses, we went to the primary one in Victory Park. It was an amazing place, inside and out! A Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate designed this remarkable building, and it definitely stands apart from all other buildings. The interior is just as interesting--wall to wall fascination on all 4+ floors!

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When you approach the museum, you enter a magical play-scape for children (and adults!). A Musical Forest allows you to create soothing sounds with hands or mallet, frog sculptures in a piney forest are part of the Leap Frog Forest, and a 37' petrified Indonesian tree all cluster around a shallow Cascading Stream, irresistible on hot days. Just inside the museum is Wolfgang Puck's Café, which serves snacks and meals made from local ingredients. It is a marvel of automation in itself.

The museum shop isn't filled with only the advertising tee shirts and stuffed animals you would expect; it is a perfect source for intriguing scientific and brain stimulating toys and gadgets for kids of all ages. The museum's free wifi makes it easy to stay in touch--that is, if you can tear yourself away from the most entertaining and instructional collection of exhibits I have ever seen under one roof. They even offer the free use of electronic tablets to enhance your visit.

From the outside of the building, you see an oddly angled glassed protrusion on the side of the building. That is the escalator, adjacent to a fully glassed wall giving a breathtaking view of the city. From this vantage point you can also see the top of its strangely slanted roof, which is covered with green foliage and plants. To look at the floor plan guide, it would appear that navigating from exhibit to exhibit and floor to floor would take careful planning and map scrutiny. Rather, it is an effortless and natural flow that seems to draw you to everything that is important on each floor, then up the musical staircase (each step plays a note) to the next floor. Everything is so open and voluminous that it never seems crowded or confusing. Another interactive feature of this amazing place was a an entertaining motion sensor light wall. But that was only part of the sensory overload.

Perhaps the most mind- and sight-boggling exhibit is the "Journey Through the Solar System". It is like being in a planetarium, but much more colorful, with constant movement and instruction showing our expanding universe. You truly feel as though you are in the captain's chair of a starship! Virtually touring the solar system gives an unique perspective of what is so far away. Spectacular videos are played on the rounded interior walls. it is an awesome experience!

Sharing this floor is the towering Alamosaurus dinosaur, standing a huge 2 school busses high by 2 school busses long. It is the world's only complete skeleton of this extinct beast. It is hard to imagine many other venues having the room to display this life-sized dinosaur, which truly dominates a large portion of that level, and the one above.

Level 3 blinds you with bling, showing an extensive display of gems and minerals, as well as a "ride" through a Shale Voyager. Here you discover what is involved in getting natural gas out of the shaft. These voyages last 8 minutes, and run continuously. You can then crank open a giant geode to discover the purple amethyst crystal inside. Moving on, experience the movement of an earthquake on the Earthquake Shake. You can control the intensity while trying to maintain your balance on the shaking platform.

On Level 2 you discover an entirely different experience. The most intriguing exhibit on this floor, to me, was the Bio Lab. Here you get a medical school view of the human body. I still don't know how I feel about this display, but it is instructive and completely unusual. There are life-sized "slices" of an actual human body encased for display, showing, not an artist's rendering, but the exact placement of all organs, bones and other parts of a human being. It seemed compelling when I first saw it--so lifelike! Then, when I read that "the display" had indeed been alive, it brought kind of ghoulish aspect to the exhibit. They do require that children be with an adult and be over the age of 8. I far exceeded that, and it got to me!

Interactive exhibits include Dancing Water Molecules, where your movements create a water ballet, Robot Arena, where your designed robot can be programed to interact and race with those others create, a "create your own bird" exhibit, and an artistic spinning wheel, where your splotches of colors and letters drawn on a monitor spin to form a unique design. But probably the most fun for many kids and adults is the sports complex on the lower level. In front of a CCTV camera, you can "compete" in the sport of your choice (jumping rope, tennis, basketball, baseball, etc.) then go to the many computer monitors set up outside the "stage" to see a slow motion rerun of your competition. To get really competitive and blow off steam and excess energy, participate in the Sports Run, where you race against a friend or relative, or the virtual speedy athlete or animal of your choice, for a distance of 7 feet.

Restrooms are conveniently located most anywhere you look in this open, airy floor plan packed with fun, amazement and discovery for the entire family. Complimentary wheelchairs are provided when needed. Covered parking is located across the street, and makes the walk to the car a short one. The Perot Museum of Nature and Science was made possible by the family of the well-known Texan and presidential candidate, Ross Perot.

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