Perot Museum of Nature and Science

If you are looking for the perfect family escape from the heat, try the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. The PerotPerot Museum (480x640) takes science and makes it fun. Packed with five floors of adventure, discovery, and mystery; Perot is everything a science museum should be.

Texas-centric

One of the features I particularly enjoy about Perot is how, whenever possible, the exhibits relate to life here in Texas. The Discovering Life hall boasts dioramas and information about Texas ecosystems, like the Blackland Prairie. Our own Edwards Trinity Aquifer illustrates water cycles, and the Shale Voyager (a 4-D theater experience) takes you into the heart of the Barnett Shale. Even the dinosaur exhibit highlights critters who once roamed our area. The Texas linkage helps kids understand the science on a more personal level.

Encouraging the next generation

In each exhibit hall, you’ll find monitors featuring scientists telling their story. Many of the scientists talk about a middle school class or science project that ignited their passion. It’s a fantastic way to inspire kids to think about a career as an astrophysicist or pedologist (that’s a soil scientist). Several of the featured scientists include women, subtle encouragement for girls to pursue STEM careers.

Call to action

Throughout the museum, placards challenge you to explore even further with projects you can do at home. Interested in astronomy? Check out SCOPE, a citizen scientist project where you classify stars based on the spectrum of light they emit. Concerned about climate change? As a citizen scientist, you can help monitor the budding and blooming of plants at Project BudBurst. There are over a dozen citizen scientist projects highlighted throughout the museum – what an awesome way for kids to participate in real scientific research!

Hands-on

Each exhibit hall combines information with hands-on activities. Make a rainbow, play the Prey/Predator video game, or experience an earthquake. Kids (and adults) don lab coats and goggles before conducting experiments on fruit flies in the Bio Lab. A real kid favorite is the Robot Arena where you can build and program robots.

More is less

My family found the Perot overwhelming. It is five floors. And it is packed with exciting activities — too many activities. Sensory overload set in for my family after exploring two floors of exhibits. Limiting your visit will improve your experience. If you have older kids, the top three floors work well. For little tots, the Moody Family Children’s museum is ideal. If your kids love video games, interactive activities in the Texas Instruments Innovation and Engineering hall will be a sure winner. My advice is not to try to see the entire museum in just one visit.

Samsung tablets

For all you techies, a digital visitors guide is available from Google Play. Bring your android phone or check out a Samsung tablet in the museum lobby. If borrowing a tablet, you’ll need to leave a personal id, like a driver’s license.

Museum admission discounts

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science does not have a free day, but Perot does have numerous discounted admission programs. They include free admission for military and military veterans, and educators. You must present documentation at time of purchase (see the Perot website for more details). During summer months (Monday through Friday), admission is $10 after 4 p.m.

When you go

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 12 to 6 p.m. Paid parking is available in nearby lots.Perot Frog (640x480) There is an outdoor children’s play area for little kids — though even adults may be tempted to play leapfrog in the frog park. An onsite Café is open daily serving pizza, burgers, and sandwiches.

 

Dallas Dozen: Free Family Fun

The FREE iBook, Dallas Dozen: Free Family Fun, is packed full of places to explore. It’s your boredom-busting guide for the summer.

Dallas Dozen Free Family FunThe book is written for families wanting adventure without spending a lot of money. All locations are either in or near the Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) Metroplex. Dallas Dozen:  Free Family Fun covers places you may already know about like the Dallas Museum of Art, and others you may not, like Mineral Wells Fossil Park.

Plan an expedition to Ladonia to search for fossils, attend a Star Party in Rockwall, or visit a Buddhist temple in Garland. It’s a great guide to use for trying something new with your kids. Nervous about taking your 5-year-old to an art museum? Are you someone who believes the only way to camp is in a hotel room? The book has helpful tips for “first-timers” so that your art museum junket or camping experience aren’t too daunting.

Almost all listed activities are free. There is a Worth the Splurge section in some chapters to highlight inexpensive opportunities you will not want to miss.

Dallas Dozen: Free Family Fun is available on iBooks and Nook at no cost. A Kindle version is also available for a nominal $.99.

Have fun exploring the DFW area!

Dallas Farmers Market

You can still buy fresh produce at the Dallas Farmers Market as it undergoes its North Texas Ramblings Dallas Farmers Markettransformation. And while you’re shopping, stop in at Ruibal’s for your spring plants and flowers. Finish your outing with lunch at Pecan Lodge.

Times Are Changing

Operated since 1941 by the City of Dallas, the farmers market recently sold to DF Market Holdings. According to the Dallas Morning News, the private company will invest over $64 million to renovate the area for mixed use to include retail, apartments, restaurants, and a fresh produce market. Redevelopment is already underway, with Dallas Farmers Market Shed 1 demolished, refurbished, and now open for business.

Market Shed 1

With a new roof and floor, Market Shed 1 houses a much smaller farmers market. You’ll still find half a dozen produce vendors. The produce prices for fresh fruits and vegetables rival what I pay at the grocery store. Unfortunately, not all the items are local.

In addition to produce, we found local honey, fresh eggs, a pickle vendor specializing in Texas BBQ pickles, artisan cheese from Waco, and the standard jams and jellies. There was even a vendor with massive bones and other treats for your four-legged, dog-friends.

A small number of crafers have stalls in the shed. Yumscents sells soaps, scents, and handcrafted shaving kits (Yumscents lavender eye pillows are a steal at $7.95). Finally, a few food vendors sell breakfast burritos, tamales, and roasted corn.

Expect to see additional vendors as spring moves into summer, and more local farmers set up shop.

Ruibal’s Plants of Texas

Michael Ruibal began selling plants out of a truck at the Dallas Farmers Market in 1984. Now he operates four nurseries in the Dallas area. His market location is kitty corner to Shed 1. Ruibal’s boasts a vast variety of plants. Colorful annuals, perennials, garden pots, shrubs, and even trees are available at the fully stocked nursery that covers two city blocks. A visit to Ruibal’s is a must for anyone getting ready to plant their spring garden.

Pecan Lodge

Alas, Pecan Lodge no longer fills the market air with the sweet smell from its smokehouse. Pecan Lodge, named by D Magazine in 2010 as Dallas’ best new restaurant, and THE place for BBQ, has moved. While Pecan Lodge now has its own restaurant location in Deep Elum, it’s still within a mile of the Dallas Farmers Market. Shop the market in the morning and take a walk over to Pecan Lodge for lunch.

When you go

The Dallas Farmers Market (1010 South Pearl Expressway, Dallas) is open Friday and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.; and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Parking is free and plentiful. Ruibal’s Plants of Texas (601 South Pearl Expressway, Dallas) is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. And Pecan Lodge (2702 Main Street, Dallas) is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; and from 3 to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Economy in Action Exhibit

The Dallas Federal Reserve Bank has a free exhibit in its lobby entitled Economy in Action. The exhibit is chocked full of currency facts. For example, did you know that the North Texas Ramblings photo of Dallas Federal Reserve Bankonly paper currency bearing the portrait of a woman was the one dollar silver certificate? Martha Washington graced that now defunct bill. And did you know that without a central bank in the mid-1800s, there were more than 30,000 different types of currency in the United States?

From interesting information on paper currency, you enter the heart of the exhibit and learn more about the Federal Reserve. Dallas Federal Reserve Bank serves the eleventh district encompassing areas of Texas, northern Louisiana and southern New Mexico. It is one of twelve districts which comprise the central bank of the United States, more commonly known as the Federal Reserve. Look at a dollar bill. If there is the letter ‘K’ on the left side in the middle of the bill, then the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas placed that dollar into circulation.

Clever, multimedia displays discuss the inception of a central bank for the United States. You learn the story of how Dallas forefathers chatted up the United States Postmaster during a train trip to lobby for a Reserve Bank location in Texas.

The Economy in Action exhibit also educates on how the Federal Reserve works, monetary policy, and the roll played by each Federal Reserve District. Play the game show to see how much you know about the Federal Reserve. Or take the Bankers Challenge to understand criteria banks use to determine whether you get your mortgage or business loan. There is even a display to see how good you are at spotting counterfeit money.

When you go

The Dallas Federal Reserve is at 2200 North Pearl Street, Dallas. Security precautions at the building are strict. You must present a government-issued, picture id to gain entrance (passport for international visitors). Everyone goes through a metal detector. All firearms and weapons, including pocketknives, are prohibited. The self-guided tour is available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. The Federal Reserve building is located kitty-corner to Klyde Warren Park, a great place for a picnic lunch. Parking is available around the area in paid lots and on neighborhood streets. The visitor parking at the Federal Reserve building is restricted to group tours only.

African American Museum Dallas

The African American Museum is a Fair Park treasure. Unlike many of the Fair Park buildings, the museum is not an art deco building, but a newer structure built in the 1980s. North Texas Ramblings African American MuseumLight, airy, and spacious, the building’s grand foyer sets the mood. Galleries branch off from the foyer on two levels. Said to be one of the finest in the nation, the ground floor houses an extensive folk art collection.

Special Exhibits

The museum features African American artists. During a recent visit, I enjoyed the gallery featuring Maryland-based, LaToya M Hobbs. Working in a mixed medium of printmaking, acrylic, and collage, Hobbs’ larger than life art is expressive and beautiful. “My work is an investigation of the point where the notions of race, identity, and beauty intersect concerning women of African descent,” writes the artist. The Hobbs’ exhibit will be at the African American Museum through April 30, 2015.

Freedman’s Cemetery

The real gem of the museum is its Facing the Rising Sun exhibit. I was at first skeptical about an exhibit centered on the archeological excavation of a cemetery. From about the 1850s through early twentieth century, much of the Dallas African American community lived north. Just outside Dallas city limits, the area became known as Freedman Town (about where Uptown Dallas is today). Freedman Cemetery was the burial site for the town. The cemetery fell out of use only to be rediscovered in the 1990s during an Interstate 75 expansion project.

Facing the Rising Sun is so much more than just a display of cemetery artifacts. Throughout the exhibit, you’ll find kiosks with monitors. At each kiosk, you can pick topics, like schools, to learn about life for African Americans living in the Dallas area. Learn about Tom Thumb weddings, African American social clubs, and Sunday afternoon teas. It’s a cornucopia of culture from about 1890 through the 1950.

Sculpture Garden

A small, sculpture garden surrounds the museum. The Bottle Tree, made of metal and glass, anchors the outdoor sculptures. The Bottle Tree is the work of students from the Patsy Eldridge of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

When you go

The African American Museum is located in Fair Park at 3536 Grand Avenue, Dallas. The museum is free, though there is a charge for groups of 20 people or more. The museum is open Tuesday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. For more information, contact the museum at (214) 565-9026 or visit their website at aamdallas.org