The Best Giant Robot Bugs in Houston

Categories: Museums

Photos by Lynda Rouner
When I was a kid my favorite thing every year was the Houston Museum of Natural Science's annual Dinomation. This was long before we had the amazing Morian Hall of Paleontology, and our dinosaur offerings were far more meager. Once a year, though, the museum turned into forest full of jerky, but still convincing prehistoric beasts brought to life as animatronic statues.

It was pretty much the best thing ever.

The Houston Zoo is offering something similar through the end of August in the form of Extreme Bugs. The difference is that instead of showing us behemoths from before the time of man, the robots are common insects and arachnids. Bascially, the Zoo decided to recreate Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and while there are a few flaws, it's still an impressive sight.

The animatronics themselves are fantastic in their scope and majesty. An Emperor Scorpion is one of the very first of the robots to be encountered, and it is terrifying even for a grown person than can spot the pneumatics under the plastic. The poisonous tail towers easily twenty feet in the air, maybe more, and the front claws are the size of a motorcycle.

It's like a '50s horror movie come to life. A Madagascan Sunset Moth looms huge, flapping it's beautifully colored wings slowly and elegantly (The bright, diurnal moth is often mistaken for a butterfly according to the plaque in front of the giant). You're even allowed to control the movement of the giant Stag Beetle, which I encourage everyone to do while cackling madly and screaming, "Nothing in the world can stop me now!"

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Superhero Sequel at the Children's Museum

Categories: Museums

Last year the Children's Museum of Houston hosted the Summer of Epic Adventure, a superhero-themed series of days and activities that my four-year-old dragged me to at least four times. It was such a big bit that the Museum decided to go for a sequel, and all joking aside it was a lot of fun last year so I couldn't wait to try it again.

For the most part, the expansion has worked well. Various big-name costumed heroes have been signed up to appear, and my daughter certainly wasn't going to miss a chance to hug Spider-man when he was in attendance last week. Super Why will be the next one on August 16.

Funny thing about Spider-man. I'd always read that such costumed performers were supposed to avoid too much physical contact with children and stick to high-fives mostly. Spidey just picked the girl child right up, which delighted her, so maybe things have gotten a bit more trusting.

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Places in and Around Houston That Feel Like You've Stepped Back in Time

Photo by Eric Mueller
A car would help to visit these places, but it doesn't have to be a DeLorean.
Sometimes the pace of modern life can get to anyone, and we long for a simpler time. Unless you have a time-traveling DeLorean, your only option for really reaching back in time is to find places that keep elements of the past alive.

Fortunately for us would-be time bandits (okay, if you can travel back in time, I don't condone stealing anything), there are a few places in and around Houston that will give us a taste of a bygone era without the need for an expensive time-traveling 1980s sports car to get there. Places like...

1. Yale Street Grill & Gifts, 2100 Yale

This Heights diner is one of the oldest left in Houston, occupying a space in what originally was the Yale Pharmacy. The diner area is exactly what one would expect from an old-fashioned malt shop, and the food and drinks are excellent diner fare. The area that used to be the pharmacy is now an antiques mall, so there's cool stuff to browse through if that's your thing. I'll be there for an old-fashioned burger and milkshake. The atmosphere is pleasantly anachronistic, and worth the lines that form on weekends.

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Menil Collection Exhibit 'A Thin Wall of Air: Charles James' Opens & Other Musings on Fashion

Photo Courtesy of The Menil Collection
The Menil Collection opened a new exhibit this weekend dedicated to one America's greatest fashion minds. A Thin Wall of Air: Charles James is an homage to the work of couturier Charles James and one of his most supportive patrons John and Dominique de Menil. On display are pieces from Dominique de Menil's personal collection of James fashion and decor created by James for the de Menil's home in Houston.

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Dust Off the Tiara, BVLGARI: 130 Years of Masterpieces Exhibit Opens at HMNS

Categories: Fashion, Museums

Photos by Keith Luter, Jr.
and this is just the entrance...
Bulgari, in partnership with the Houston Museum of Natural Science, has debuted BVLGARI: 130 Years of Masterpieces. The one of a kind showcase of Bulgari pieces from the early days of founder Sotirio Bulgari to the modern era will run through to October 5.

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Exploring the Changes at the Children's Museum of Houston

Categories: Museums

Photos by Jef With One F
I had the opportunity to explore the Children's Museum of Houston for the first time in several months, and found that they'd done some significant rearranging.

The first thing that you'll notice is that several of the more fun motion-based exhibits have been moved out into the main How Does it Work? Hall. Previously a lot of them had been housed in the hall outside the Matter Factory, and most of them were very high on my daughter's favorite reasons to visit the museum list.

These include the uber fun spinning table that allows you roll plastic and wooden discs in perpetual motion if you have a daft hand (It's extremely hypnotic, actually). Several of the devices for rolling golf balls down inclined planes are featured in the slightly more crowded hall, and now all the catapult-based interactions are in one place.

It's chaotic and fun, but there honestly doesn't seem to have been a lot of thought put into the arrangement of everything. Maybe it's just because I'd gotten used to the old layout or something, but the whole thing seemed very haphazard.

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Children's Museum Offering Free Vaccinations

Categories: Museums

The practicing of preventing deadly and debilitating illness through vaccination is currently under attack in the United States, but the Children's Museum of Houston has partnered with the Houston Department of Health and Human Services in order to make injections free to children as part of "National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW)".

"The Children's Museum of Houston provides community services through our outreach programs or through partnerships like the Houston Care Van program," said public relations and promotions director Henry Yau via email. "In fact, every August we launch a huge back-to-school vaccination initiative with Texas Children's Hospital. We offer these type of events during our Free Family Night Thursdays so families who could not afford to visit could benefit from the resources we offer."

The children who qualify for the injections are those not currently covered through Medicaid, CHIPS, or private insurance. Vaccines available include Hepatitis A & B, Meningitis, PCV 13, Dtap, Tdap (Tetanus), HPV, Polio and Rotavirus. All are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and interested parties are encouraged to arrive early while supplies last. Admission to the museum is free, and the exhibit halls are open late until 8 p.m.

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Couturier Charles James Honored in the Big Apple and Bayou City

Categories: Fashion, Museums

Photo Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Cecil Beaton, Beaton / Vogue / Condé Nast
If I were to mention the name Charles James to a person on the street, I might be greeted with a look of vague recollection or utter confusion. The man credited with inspiring Dior's New Look and revolutionizing dress construction by incorporating sculptural, scientific, and mathematical approaches exists in the shadows of fashion history, until now. America's Balenciaga will be the center of attention this May as his work is spotlighted in both New York City and here in Houston.

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Bulgari Bring the Sparkle to Houston Museum of Natural Science

Photo by Sergio Calleja via Wikimedia Commons
Jewelry company Bulgari is celebrating its 130th Anniversary and the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences is playing host. Bulgari: 130 Years of Masterpieces will be once in a lifetime exhibition of 150 pieces of jewelry from the Bulgari Heritage Collection representing every period in the brands storied history, from its 1884 founding in Rome until the present day.

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Real Pirate Treasure Comes to Moody Gardens

Photos by Lynda Rouner
Left: A recreation of the ship's bell, used to authenticate the wreck. Right: A recovered rifle
It was a weird fact to learn, but in all the history of nautical archeology there has been one, and only one, completely authenticated pirate ship wreck that has been discovered. It was the Whydah, which sank in 1717 but was discovered by Barry Cliffords in 1984. Now, the surviving artifacts from the ship are on display at the Moody Gardens Discovery Pyramid.

The Whydah started out as a slave ship. It was taken by Captain Sam Bellamy, a sailor turned pirate lord on a quest for the gold needed to marry the woman he loved. He took a fancy to the ship and made it his own personal vessel. Over the course of a year he plundered more than 50 ships using Whydah before deciding to return home with the loot and fulfill his promise to his beloved. A deadly storm made sure his promise was broken, and Bellamy was lost with his ship. Several men survived to bring the tale back to England, and only one escaped death to regale others of the magnificent Whydah.

The tale of Bellamy and his crew, including nine-year-old pirate John King, forms the background of the exhibit, with extremely well done recreations of life at sea in set pieces with mannequins serving as human reminders among the recovered bits of their life as pirates. Cannons, pistols, rifles, and real honest-to-goodness pirate treasure ate all on display along with dramatic audio descriptions narrated by their previous owners.

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