Dinosaurs Live at Heard Natural Science Museum

Dinosaurs Live! A thunderous roar shatters the forest stillness. Beware; beasts not seen for millions of years stalk the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary in North Texas Ramblings - Dinosaurs Live Heard Natural Science MuseumMcKinney. Young paleontologists recently discovered Dilophosaurus, Apatosaurus, and the infamous Tyrannosaurus Rex roaming the trails at the wildlife sanctuary. Sighted along a half-mile trail through forest and meadow, nine different dinosaurs roam. These life-sized dinosaur replicas roar and move delighting young dinosaur enthusiasts. View the creatures first hand now until February 15, 2015, as the Heard hosts Dinosaurs Live.

Billings Production in McKinney makes the animatronic creatures. The Heard dinosaurs are part of over 200 Billings’ dinosaurs found at zoos and museums throughout North American. The robotic dinosaurs are uniquely adapted to operating outdoors. A hinged steel structure within the fabricated body allows dinosaur heads and limbs to move. A computer program further enhances dinosaur movements making these monstrous creatures look and act almost real — Jurassic Park Texas style.

While the dinosaurs draw the crowds, there is much more to the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary. Once you’ve explored the dinosaur trek, take a stroll through The World Conservation exhibit to see modern day animals. Some animals are native to North America and others like the lemur are from exotic locales. Many exhibit animals imprinted with humans and cannot be released into the wild. Seized from an illegal animal breeder, some animals found new homes at the wildlife sanctuary. There are mongoose and capybara, the world’s largest rodents. An albino raccoon calls the Heard home,too.

Be sure to visit the Heard Natural Science museum basement. You’ll find small mammals, reptiles and amphibians. The Heard museum exhibits change periodically. Its permanent collection includes Texas snakes, geology and habitat dioramas. The museum is ideal for families with small children.

The Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and on Sunday from 1 until 5 p.m. Pets are not allowed in the sanctuary and there is an admission fee. The trails around Dinosaurs Live are accessible with a stroller, however all trails within the sanctuary are on natural, unpaved surfaces — challenging for wheel chairs and strollers. Picnic areas are available. The Heard Natural History Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary is at 1 Nature Place in McKinney. Contact them at 972-562-5566 or through their website at heardmuseum.org.


Hangar Hotel

Strains of Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade softly compliment the evening’s last light as Hangar Hotelwe sip cocktails on the veranda.  The sun appears as a glowing orange orb resting on the hilltops as a Cessna makes its landing approach on the airfield in front of us.  Now, Chattanooga Choo Choo entertains us with its upbeat melody.  Closing our eyes, we travel decades into the past.  Such is the mood set by a stay at the Hangar Hotel in Fredericksburg.

Officers’ Club. Staying at the Hangar Hotel is like stepping back in time to a Bachelor Officer Quarters from World War II.  A converted hangar on the edge of Gillespie County Airport houses this elegantly simple hotel.  Large ceiling fans, antique switchboard, and palm trees greet guests as they check in.  Off the hotel lobby is the Officer’s Club, open weekends.   Rooms are furnished in rusty reds, mossy greens and rich browns.  Weathered leather chairs, vintage style dresser and armoire furnish the room.  Every detail, from drapery pattern to reproduction phone, transports you back in time.  The black and white tiled bathroom completes the setting.  There is even a green, wool army blanket on the bed.  The room television is the only concession to the 21st century.

Details. The Hangar Hotel is located at 155 Airport Road, Fredericksburg. Room rates begin at $119 (weekdays) and $179 (weekends). The hotel offers senior (over 65) and military discounts.  To make a reservation, call (830) 997-9990 or visit the hotel website at hangarhotel.com.


Congress Avenue Bats

Now is a great time to visit Austin and see some of the city’s unique, seasonal visitors. In fact, the city’s population swells by an additional 750,000 between March and October. It’s not a hoard of legislators or even lobbyists besieging the capital. These seasonal visitors north texas ramblings congress bridge batsare Mexican Free Tail bats, and their home of choice is beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge, just blocks from the Texas State Capital.

Bat Bridge

The winged mammals took up residence after a bridge modification in the early 1980s. The bats fit nicely into slots cut underneath the bridge. Each spring, pregnant bats arrive in March to give birth. According to Bat Conservation International, Congress Avenue Bridge is one of the largest urban bat nurseries in the United States.  The bridge can support as many as 500 bats per square foot!

Bat Moms and Pups

At dusk, the mother bats leave their individual pups up under the bridge and fly off to hunt. It’s this dusk flight that draws a different type of animal — tourists — to Congress Bridge. To avoid predators, the bat colony begins its nightly hunt in mass.  As the bats emerge, they form an aerial river of winged mammals flowing out from under the bridge. The bats head east to forage on bugs, nightly consuming 5 to 15 tons of insects helping to keep mosquito populations in check.  After an evening of bug hunting, mom returns to the bridge.  She finds her pup by its unique sound and smell.

Around July, the young bats join mom in the nightly flight. It’s a perilous endeavor for the little critters. Aerodynamically, the bats begin flight by dropping from their perch. If grounded, they are not able to get airborne again. Each night several of the little bats plop into Town Lake. The lucky ones get plucked out of the water with nets by the tour boats and placed on the bridge pilings. Here they can climb high enough to drop and attempt flight again.

Bat Viewing Tips. There are several ways to view the Congress Bridge bat colony. Capital Cruises Austin offers nightly boat excursions. This is a great way to see the bats up close. Reservations are required and can be made at 512-480-9264. You can see the bats from land, too. The east side of Congress Bridge just before dusk is an ideal viewing location.  You can also see the bats quite nicely along the Ann and Ray Butler Hike and Bike trail just below the Four Seasons hotel. Bat Conservation International’s website at batcon.org posts current time frames for the bats’ nightly appearances.

Jesus with Cowboy Boots

Texas is filled with quirky statues and landmarks like Jesus with Cowboy Boots in Paris, Texas.

North Texas Ramblings Jesus with Cowboy Boots in Paris Texas The Evergreen Cemetery has served the area since the 1860s and is still used today. The cemetery is chocked full of statues and monuments to prominent (and not so prominent) area families. Gustave Klein, a German craftsman, sculpted many of the statues including the unique Babcock monument. Willet Babcock commissioned the statue in 1880 for $2500. And while many like Weird US mention the monument, no one is quite sure why Jesus is depicted wearing cowboy boots. Open daily from dawn to dusk, Evergreen Cemetery is located at 560 Evergreen Street.

Paris Texas

Looking for a great day trip? Try Paris. Paris Texas, that is. Just 100 miles northeast of Dallas, you can take your picture at the Eiffel Tower, explore antique shops, and visit the Sam Bell Maxey historic site.

Eiffel Tower, Cowboy Style

Erected in 1993 by the Boiler Makers Local #902, the Texas Eiffel Tower is just 65 feet tall. What the tower lacks in height, it makes up for with its jaunty, fire engine red, cowboy hat. North Texas Ramblings Eiffel Tower at Paris TexasStart your trip to Paris with a picture next to the iconic city symbol. The Texas tower is located adjacent to the Love Civic Center, 2025 S Collegiate Drive.

Sam Bell Maxey Historical Site

Operated by Texas Historical Commission, the Sam Bell Maxey house gives visitors a glimpse at life in early Paris. Maxey had the home built following the Civil War. A prominent Confederate general, Maxey went on to represent Texas as a two-term senator. His family continued to live in the house, until it was donated to the City of Paris in the 1960s. As a result, all the household furnishings are original to the family. You’ll see period pieces from the post-Civil War era to the early twentieth century. In total, the home contains thousands of artifacts including Maxey’s impressive book collection. The Maxey house was one of just a few grand homes spared during the 1916 fire which decimated over half the city. Located at 812 South Church Street, guided tours are given on the hour from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., daily (closed Monday).

Find a Treasure

Commemorating the great fire of 1916, the Culbertson Fountain anchors the city plaza. Surrounding the town square are half a dozen antique and gift stores. Some, like Lillian Kelley’s Design (4 North Plaza) combine a gift shop with antique store. Others like the Antique Mall (2 West Plaza) host independent dealers. Four times a year at the Paris Horse Auction grounds, area vendors hold the Horse Flea, a market of antique, vintage and handmade items. Check for upcoming dates on the Horse Flea Facebook page.

Paris Bakery

All that antiquing works up an appetite. Before returning home, grab a bite to eat at the Paris Bakery. The café offers sandwiches, salads, soups, and baked goods. The small café prides itself on serving fresh food made with locally produced ingredients. Take advantage of their daily specials. There is no children’s menu, but staff are happy to accommodate youngsters with off-menu items. Paris Bakery is located across from the courthouse at 120 North Main.