Yesterday, media members were invited to poke around the Perot Museum of Nature and Science ahead of its Dec. 1 opening to the public. Essentially this meant romping, child-like, amid five levels of immense and interactive hands-on exhibits of all stripes, aimed at teaching about everything from dinosaurs to basic computer programming.
Inside, the 180,000-square-foot facility just off Woodall Rogers doesn’t seem as expansive as it looks from outside. But there were a ton of attention-getting educational doodads to please kiddos and adults alike — my favorites included a machine you could stand on that simulated an earthquake; a touchable faux tornado; and a science lab for isolating cheek cells under a microscope.
The $185 million museum built entirely with private donations has five floors of public space and stands about 14 stories high. The lobby floor of the distinctive building located on almost 5 acres just north of downtown has open glass walls so visitors can look out into the landscaping.
Sadly, the most recognizable feature from the building’s exterior — that glassed-in escalator with a view of the city skyline — was out of order when I got to it.
A walk down to one of the floors features musical steps. In one display, visitors can pick a virtual competitor to race against — Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones, gymnast Emily Richardson, a Tyrannosaurus Rex or a cheetah — and then see how their times and average miles per hour compare. Another lets visitors design a virtual bird by custom-picking different features. There’s also an animated experience that shows visitors how the solar system was created, a virtual 9,000-foot journey down a gas well and the opportunity to feel the force of a tornado.
The current display in a space for traveling exhibits tells the tale of the museum’s construction, and even includes the remnants of a Model T discovered as they prepared the site for construction.
As part of the preview festivities, we also got to see the state-of-the-art Hoglund Foundation Theater in all its 3D glory, as well as sample nibbles and sweets from the museum cafe and samples of short ribs and scallops from house caterer Wolfgang Puck. So, between the eats and exhibits, the Perot Museum was a feast for just about every sense.