Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Houston Museum of Natural Science

If you're planning a trip to Houston or just looking for something fun and educational to take the kids to then look no further than The Houston Museum of Natural Science. This HUGE museum has it all....dinosaurs, art, mummies, hands on exhibits, simulation rides, and much more. Located on the edge of Herman Park right next to the Houston Zoo this museum has four floors of exhibits to check out. Not to mention the butterfly center, the planetarium, and the large screen theater! You could quite literally spend an entire day here. So, what makes this museum so special?...


A little bit of history 

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 and acquired most of it's primary collection between 1914 and 1930. The museum was first housed in Houston's City Auditorium then at the Central Library for seven years before being moved to a site in The Houston Zoo in 1929. Construction of the current museum began in 1964 and was completed in 1969. In 2012 the museum opened it's new 230,000 square foot paleontology hall (dinosaurs) which more than doubled the size of the original museum. Millions of visitors flock to the museum every year for the state of the art exhibits and to see the large display of dinosaur skeletons. 


Permanent Exhibits 

With your basic admission charge you get access to all of the permanent exhibits housed at the museum. There's a total of 16 permanent exhibits with my favorite being the Hall of Paleontology. You also get access to The Hall of Ancient Egypt (real mummies), The Energy Hall (lots of hands on fun for the little ones), and so much more! Once you take a tour of all the permanent exhibit halls you will see it's totally worth the price of admission. 


Special Exhibits

While the permanent exhibits at the museum never change, the special exhibits are only there for a short time and change every few months or so. I've been to several special exhibits including Titanic and Ancient China. Currently the museum is showcasing Death by Natural Causes which has been extended until January 6th because of it's popularity. Check the website before you decide to visit to see what special exhibits are being showcased at that time. All special exhibits are an extra charge.


Extras

If you're looking for something extra you can check out The Butterfly Center, The Planetarium, and The Giant Screen Theater. All of these are an extra charge but if you're wanting to make this a whole day event then you should totally check out at least one if not all of these. Every time I go I say I'm going to see the butterfly exhibit but I have yet to do so....next time it's happening for sure! 


FYI:

-Price of admission is $25 for adults, $15 for children and seniors for the permanent exhibit halls

-The museum is open daily from 9am - 5 pm with Free admission to the permanent exhibits Thursdays from 2pm - 5pm

-Special exhibits are an extra $5 and up depending on the exhibit but with admission to these you also get access to all the permanent exhibits

-The planetarium admission is $9 for adults, $8 for children and seniors

-The butterfly center admission is $9 for adults, $8 for children and seniors

-The giant screen theater admission is $12 for adults, $10 for children and seniors

-The website says parking is $20 for all day parking but I've never once paid for parking at the museum. 


Helpful Hints:

-Make sure your flash is turned off when taking pictures in the paleontology exhibit. A guard had to remind me of this since I didn't see the sign. 

-Arrive at the museum as early in the day as possible especially on the weekends. It can get really crowded.

-There is no photography allowed in the award winning photography section. This should be a no brainer but apparently it's not.

-There is free 3 hour parking directly along the street in front of the museum so if you don't think you'll be longer than that you can park for free.

-Don't forget to stop at the large gift shop before leaving. There are many souvenirs to choose from. 

-For guests who have trouble with stairs there are elevators located throughout the museum. 

-If you have small children this museum may be a bit too old for them since there is a lot of reading involved. The Energy Hall is your best bet with children under 5. It's very hands on and visual so even the little ones can enjoy it. 


A trip to Houston is never complete without a visit to this amazing museum. I've been many times and every time I discover something I didn't see before. If you have a few hours to spare you should at least check out the permanent exhibit halls. You won't be disappointed! Have you been to The Houston Museum of Natural Science? How was your experience? What was your favorite museum exhibit? I'd love to hear your stories and see pictures of your trip. You can post them on my Facebook page @melwashereblog or email me at melwashereblog@gmail.com

Until the next adventure,
Mel Was Here 













Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Top 10 Things To Do In Houston, Texas

If you're planning a trip and wanting to visit a large city with lots of culture and fun attractions to see then look no further than Houston, Texas. As the most populous city in the state and fourth in the whole country, Houston has plenty to do. Living only an hour outside of Houston has granted me the opportunity to visit this large city numerous times over the years so making this list was really easy for me :) 

A little history for you (because I'm a super history nerd): Houston was founded on August 30, 1836 at what is now known as Allen's Landing. Named after former General Sam Houston, the general who won Texas' independence from Mexico at the Battle of San Jacinto, Houston was briefly the state capitol before it moved to Austin. Now a thriving mega city, Houston is home to over 2.3 million people!!! So, what all does this HUGE city have to offer and what are the best things to do when visiting here?.....


1. The Houston Museum of Natural Science

This is one of my absolute favorite places to visit in Houston! They have permanent exhibits and special exhibits that change every few months or so. There is something to do for people of all ages here and it is a great place to take the kids to teach them about history, science, and nature. If you have really small children you have to pay a visit to the hall of energy. With lots of hands on activities they are sure to be entertained. Love dinosaurs? The new paleontology exhibit is a MUST! There are life size bones bolted together to create huge dinosaur skeletons. Can you guess which ones are real and which ones are replicas? Price of admission is $25 for adults $15 for children and seniors. 



2. Downtown Aquarium

In all the times I've been to Houston I've only been here once and I regret not visiting more often. Such a unique experience. Not only is there a really cool aquarium to walk through, but there are white tigers at the end of the exhibit! Don't miss the opportunity to pet and feed the stingrays. I wasn't sure about this one but it turned out to be an amazing experience. Be sure to ask staff the proper way to feed them or you'll end up getting splashed. There is a restaurant on the upper level that I highly recommend. The food is amazing and the view is spectacular! Before leaving for the day be sure to visit the rides and attractions outside including the train which turned out to be a really cool tour! Price of admission is $20.99 for adults $19.99 for children. This is for the all day adventure pass which I highly recommend.


3. Space Center Houston

Do you have a passion for all things space? Or maybe you're just interested in visiting a really cool hands on museum? Space Center Houston is a great way to spend at least half a day. I've been here twice and both times were a blast. Touch a piece of the moon....go inside an actual rocket....take a ride on a space rocket simulator. So many activities and information on space that this place is not to be missed. If you're wanting to do the tram tour be sure to get in line early. The lines get really long for this one and it's something you won't want to miss! Price of admission is $29.95 for adults $27.95 for seniors $24.95 for kids.


4. Houston Zoo

I LOVE zoos! Every city I visit I always go to the local zoo, if there is one, to see the many different animals and exhibits they each have to offer. The Houston zoo is one of the best I've been to. This zoo is really large and has everything from tigers to flamingos and everything in between. One of the best things about this zoo is the large Children's Zoo they have. There are many hands on activities for the little ones here and even a carousel. All throughout the year they even have holiday themed events like zoo boo for Halloween and zoo lights for Christmas so if you're visiting during a holiday you should check out one of these popular events. Don't miss a ride on the Hermann Park train which is located right outside the zoo. It's a fun and unique experience people of all ages will enjoy. Price of admission is $19 for adults $12.50 for seniors $15 for children.


5. Hermann Park

If you're looking for some nice family time in the heart of Houston then look no further than Hermann Park. Located right next to the zoo this park has everything from picnic tables, running trails, playgrounds, gardens, and even a huge lake with paddle boats. Bring a picnic lunch for the family and set up next to the playground so the kids can play and have fun. Take a ride on the Hermann Park train. Do a turn around the lake in a paddle boat. There's so much to do here. I've been here several times but I have yet to enjoy the lake although this is definitely on the bucket list. Admission to the park is free but there is a small fee to ride the train and the paddle boats. 


6. The Galleria 

Coming to Houston and looking to do some shopping? The Galleria is the place for you! Spanning more than 2.4 million square feet and housing more than 400 stores, The Galleria is the largest shopping center in Texas and fourth largest in the US. I've been here several times and it's definitely a shopping lovers dream! One of the most unique things about this mega mall is the large ice skating rink inside. Take a turn on the ice or just sit and watch others as they enjoy the fun. The Galleria is especially pretty around Christmas with all the lights and decorations but if you don't like large crowds go during the week. I went the day after Christmas one year and I could barely walk around there were so many people. Admission is free but there is a fee to ice skate. 


7. Children's Museum of Houston

I've personally never been here but I have heard so many wonderful things about this place I had to include it in this list. A super interactive hands on experience for the little ones, this place is not to be missed if you have small children. There are fun learning exhibits that teach math, science, and fitness. One of the most popular exhibits here is the challenge rope course. Kids will love this rope obstacle course. One of the best things about this place is you can't get in without at least one child in your party. This is for the safety of the children and to help prevent child predators from entering. This however is the main reason I've never been seeing as I've only recently become a stepmom and have no children of my own. Price of admission is $12 per person.


8. Houston Museum of Fine Arts

This is another museum I've never been to but have heard great things about. This museum was founded in 1900 and has more than 65,000 works from the art of antiquity to present day art. If you are an art lover then this place is a must for you. I've only recently added this to my bucket list as I've never been much of an art lover before but I'm trying to broaden my horizons LOL. Don't miss the sculpture garden that is always free to visit. Admission is $15 for adults $10 for seniors $7.50 for children. Kids under 12 are always admitted free of charge. Admission for everyone is free every Thursday! 


9. National Museum of Funeral History

I'm sure you just read that and asked "WHY". One thing I love to do when visiting new places is to seek out weird and unusual museums or places to go. This museum houses the largest collection of funeral artifacts in the US and even has memorabilia from famous funerals such as Elvis Presley and John F Kennedy. I have yet to visit this place but it is at the top of my bucket list! Not only is it quirky but it's loaded with history which I LOVE! Price of admission is $10 for adults $9 for seniors $7 for children. 


10. Holocaust Museum

This is the only museum I've ever visited that made me cry. I was here 19 years ago as a senior in high school and I couldn't even imagine enduring the pain the people in the pictures did. This museum is dedicated to educating the public on what happened to the Jewish people during WWII and to hopefully teach tolerance of other cultures and religions. A visit to this museum is certainly eye opening to say the least. They are actually in the process of expanding the museum and the new and improved museum is scheduled to open Spring of 2019. I'm planning to pay another visit once it does open to see what's changed and if there are any new exhibits to check out. Admission is $12 for adults $8 for Seniors. Not recommended for children under the age of 10. 


Bonus: Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a seasonal event that takes places from the last of February to the middle of March every year (February 25-March 17, 2019). Not only do people from all over come to compete in Rodeo style competitions, there is also a HUGE shopping area with livestock shows and of course a large carnival outside for the kids. One of the best things about visiting Rodeo Houston is the food. There are so many types to try but is it really a trip to the Rodeo without barbeque?! I haven't been in quite a few years but I'm hoping to be able to visit again soon. Prices vary for the Rodeo depending on the day and which seats you want. If you have a rodeo ticket your admission to the park is free. If you just want to visit the carnival and livestock show then the price of admission is $15 for adults $5 for children. 


Houston is such a large diverse city that there's no way a visit here will be boring. With so much to see and do you're sure to have a blast no matter what you decide to do. A little helpful hint when traveling to Houston: plan ahead and allow extra time to drive to each location. Traffic in Houston is a nightmare and I've never been without at least some road construction or an accident holding me up for 15 minutes or longer. Have you been to Houston? What's your favorite thing to do? Any places not mentioned that I should add to my bucket list? I'd love to hear your stories. You can send me a message or comment on my Facebook page @melwashereblog or send me an email at melwashereblog@gmail.com Have a wonderful day! 

Until the next adventure,
Mel Was Here 















Tuesday, October 16, 2018

8 Places To Take The Family This Halloween

It's that time of year again!!! The weather is getting colder, the days are getting shorter, and Halloween is almost here. I've always loved Halloween because I can dress up in anything I want and it's totally okay (ok maybe not anything but almost LOL). While dressing up and getting candy is the BEST part of Halloween, what else is there to do? The answer is A LOT!!! I've put together a list of my 8 favorite places to take the family for a fun filled Halloween. 


1. The Mall

I know you probably just read that and asked WHY? Well, it's because the mall offers a safe place to bring your children for some trick or treating fun. The last time I went to the mall on Halloween the stores were giving out candy to all the little kids who were dressed up. I'm sure not all malls across America do this but if you live near one that does it's worth a drive so your little ones can get some candy.


2. Haunted House

Is it every really Halloween without a visit to a haunted house?! There's just something fun and exciting about getting the crap scared out of you LOL. No matter where you live there's sure to be at least one haunted house set up. They range from big expensive ones (Screamworld and Phobia in Houston) to little ones (Conroe fire department has one this year) and the prices vary from place to place. This may not be something for really small children but if you have teenagers who might be a little too big for trick or treating then this is certainly a fun safe alternative. 


3. Scary Movie 

Scary movies and Halloween go together like peanut butter and jelly. They perfectly compliment each other. Sure you can watch scary movies anytime of the year but there's just something about Halloween that makes me want to pull out all my scary movie DVDs and binge watch them :) There are theaters who play classic scary movies to celebrate Halloween so check with your local theater to see if they are doing this. It's a fun idea for parents with older children. Also, the new Halloween movie is hitting theaters this Friday....just in time for Halloween! 


4. Pumpkin Patch

For parents with small children, going to a pumpkin patch is always a fun way to celebrate Halloween. You can take pictures of your children with the pumpkins and even buy one and bring it home for some fun pumpkin carving! Some places even have corn mazes and other fun activities for the little ones. P6 Farms in Montgomery has a pumpkin patch and corn maze every year for Halloween. If you live in the area it's worth a visit. 


5. Amusement Park

One of my favorite things to do for Halloween when I was a teenager was going to Six Flags Fright Fest. The whole park was decorated for Halloween and after dark workers dressed as zombies would chase you through the streets. There were even haunted houses set up throughout the park. While the one I went to is no longer there (yeah I know it's a bummer) there are parks all around the US that participate in this Halloween event. Six Flags over Texas is one of them so if you're looking for some amusement park fun this Halloween be sure to check it out. 


6. Zoo

Yes you read that right! Many zoos across the country have special Halloween exhibits for the kids to promote safe Halloween fun. Houston Zoo hosts Zoo Boo every year with fun activities for kids. They even get to dress up and go trick or treating! Along with the Halloween activities your kids can walk through the zoo and see all the animals. If you're an animal lover then this is certainly an activity you will enjoy! 


7. Renaissance Festival

There may not be one of these going on everywhere this time of the year but in Plantersville they have a Halloween themed weekend which happens every year the weekend before Halloween. You and the kids alike can dress up in costumes and walk through the streets of the Renaissance era. Shows, shopping, and great food make this a really fun Halloween experience. Don't forget to have your picture taken as you enter then you'll be able to purchase one as you leave for a nice little souvenir of your visit. 


8. Local Fall Festivals

It doesn't matter where you live there is always a fall festival near you. Whether it's the city that puts it on or one of the local churches there is always a fun festival to take the kids to. Cleveland hosts a truck or treat party every year where your kids can dress up and get candy from the locals who have decorated the trunks of their cars for Halloween. This year I'm taking the family to my company fall festival....I may even dress up this year :)  


No matter what you decide to do this year for Halloween make sure it's a safe environment for your family. If your kids do get candy be sure to check it thoroughly. Many local hospitals offer free Xray checks of your children's candy to make sure there's nothing sharp or dangerous in it (yes unfortunately we live in that type of world). So, what are your plans for Halloween this year? Have you been to any of the places listed above? I'd love to hear your stories and see pictures of past and present Halloween costumes. You can post them on my facebook page @melwashereblog or email me at melwashereblog@gmail.com


I hope you have a safe and Happy Halloween! Until the next adventure,
Mel Was Here  


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Rainforest Cafe: More Than Just A Restaurant

One of my favorite things about traveling is getting the opportunity to eat at new and exciting restaurants! Before leaving for a trip I always do my research so I can try new places each time. Who doesn't like variety? I mean I could save money and just hit up McDonald's every time, but where is the fun in that?! If you're planning a trip to Galveston and looking for a place to eat that's both unique and fun then look no further than Rainforest Café. 


The very first Rainforest Café was opened at The Mall of America in Minnesota in 1994. Today the company (owned by Landry's) has 24 restaurants all over the world. Each restaurant is similar but unique in the different layout and animatronics used at each location. The Galveston location even has a ride! The River Adventure Ride takes riders on a boat ride through the jungle where you can spot many different animals (animatronics) and have your picture taken for a nice memory of your family trip to Galveston :) 




Walking into the Rainforest Café is like entering into another world. Set up to look like a real rainforest, this unique restaurant makes visitors feel like they are eating lunch/dinner in the middle of the jungle. The animatronics move and make animal noises as if they are really alive! The best part....every 30-40 minutes or so the whole rainforest comes alive. The lights go dim, lightening flashes, you can hear the sounds of thunder, and all the animals get active at the same time making this a truly unique experience that you have to see at least once in your lifetime!


FYI:
-Opens at 11am every day
-Located right on the Seawall
-Free Parking in back of the restaurant
-The River Adventure Ride is $6 per person



Helpful Hints:
-The gift shop is HUGE! Don't miss the opportunity to grab yourself a souvenir

-Be sure to order a Volcano Cake (dessert) If you love chocolate you'll thank me later :) 

-There are great photo opportunities at the front entrance (seawall entrance) so if you park in the back be sure to walk out front before you leave to get cute snapshots with the family.

-If you have small children request to sit in the front by the aquarium. Sitting next to the animatronics or in the back by the waterfall might be too much for little ones. My 2 year old son was terrified of all the animals and the crashing sound of the waterfall made him keep his hands over his ears the entire time. 



Eating at the Rainforest Café is a great addition to your Galveston vacation. Both unique and entertaining this is certainly an experience you will never forget! Have you been to the Rainforest Café in Galveston? What did you think of the food? The atmosphere? I'd love to see pictures and hear your stories. You can hit me up on my Facebook page @melwashereblog or email me at melwashereblog@gmail.com Can't wait to hear from you :)



Until the next Adventure,

Mel Was Here    

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Galveston-Port Bolivar Ferry

If you're planning a trip to Galveston and looking for something free to do with the family then a ride on the Galveston-Port Bolivar ferry is a must! More than a simple little boat ride, you can dolphin watch and feed the seagulls all in one trip. How cool is that?! Millions of people ride the ferry every year. While many use this free service for work, there are so many others who simply ride for fun. No Galveston vacation is complete until you've taken a ride on the ferry :)


The ferry service has been around since the 1800s when companies would only take paying customers from one side to the other. The state of Texas purchased two ferries from a privately owned company and has been operating the current ferry system since 1934. Originally there was a .25 cent fee to ride the ferry,  but this only lasted until 1949 and the service has been free every since. The Galveston-Port Bolivar ferry (SH 87) is the only way motorists can cross the waterway between the Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston Island since there is no bridge. This 2.7 mile trip takes about 18-20 minutes and crosses one of the busiest waterways in the world. You will see evidence of just how busy it is when you take a trip on the ferry and see all the ships coming and going. 



There are two ways to ride the ferry. You can drive on or walk on. If you drive onto the ferry keep in mind that you will have to get off at the other side and get back in line for your return trip. Depending on the time of day and the time of year there could be a wait at either side. If you decide to walk onto the ferry you will be allowed to stay on the vessel for the whole roundtrip. I've done both and in my opinion walking on is so much easier and takes a little less than an hour for the whole trip. 


FYI:
-The ferry runs 24 hours/7 days a week
-Each ferry can carry about 70 vehicles, 500 passengers, and 6 crewmembers
-Busiest months are June, July, and August
-There is free parking for those walking onto the ferry
-Restrooms are locked when the ferry is NOT in motion
-You can only feed the seagulls at the REAR of the ferry

Helpful Hints:
-It is really windy onboard so be sure to hold onto your hat/sunglasses or you might lose them

-The ferry does experience turbulence that can make it unsteady at times. Be sure to hold onto something if you feel dizzy and take Dramamine if you are prone to motion sickness

-The best chance at seeing the jumping dolphins is at the front of the vessel. Watch the water on either side and you may just see a dolphin :)

-Be prepared to be bombarded by seagulls if you bring food to feed them. It may start with a few but before you know it you are swarmed by them....and yes you might get pooped on!


A ride on the ferry is always a must anytime I'm in Galveston. I love the wind in my face and the smell of saltwater in the air. This trip was my 2 year old son's first time on the ferry and he loved every minute of it. (Even though he kept calling the dolphins sharks LOL) If you're in Galveston and you have at least an hour to spare don't miss out on this free activity that's fun for the whole family. Have you taken a ride on the Galveston-Port Bolivar ferry? How was your trip? Do you prefer to ride on or walk on? I'd love to see pictures of your trip and hear your stories. You can post pics on my Facebook page @melwashereblog or e-mail me at melwashereblog@gmail.com

Until the next adventure,
Mel Was Here 






Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Seawall Urban Park - Galveston Texas

When planning a trip to Galveston one of the top things on most everyone's itinerary is spending time at the beach. With 32 miles of gulf beaches it's easy to see why. But, which beach should you go to? You have Stewart Beach which is popular with families, East Beach (aka party beach), Galveston Island State Park, and many others to choose from. If you're looking for a bit of history, sight seeing, and beach fun then look no further than my favorite spot in Galveston - Seawall Urban Park. 


Seawall Urban Park stretches for over 10 miles and consists of beaches, restaurants, resorts, and fun activities. The Galveston Seawall was constructed after the Hurricane of 1900 (which totally devastated the city and is the deadliest natural disaster in US history) to help protect the island from future hurricanes. The initial segment was constructed from 1902-1904 and was only 3.3 miles long. Construction continued from 1904-1963 which extended the Seawall to over 10 miles long making this the longest continual walkway in the US. Along this popular tourist destination you can find stone plaques commemorating the building of this walkway. 


Access to the beach here is free but you will be required to pay for parking. The cost to park along the Seawall is $1 per hour or $7 for the entire day. Seriously not expensive at all considering you could very well spend all day here with all there is to do. Rent a family bike and ride along the sidewalk taking in the beautiful beach scenery, take a Duck Tour and learn some history of Galveston, spend a few hours having fun at Pleasure Pier, or just take a stroll along the Seawall stopping at the gift shops along the way. And of course spend some time at the beach making sand castles or swimming in the water :) 




My personal favorite place to stop along the Seawall is Murdoch's. This historic building was originally a bathhouse that was built sometime in the 1800s. It was destroyed by the Hurricane of 1900 and was rebuilt the next year with a gift shop added in 1910. It was destroyed yet again by Hurricane Ike in 2008 and now a sparkling new building full of unique souvenirs stands on the site of the original bathhouse building. If you're looking for a small trinket or t shirt to remember your trip to Galveston then a stop at Murdoch's is a must.



No trip to Galveston is complete without at least taking a walk along the beach. Looking for seashells and watching my 2 year old son attempt to make sand castles was the ultimate highlight of my day. There's no greater feeling than the waves crashing at your feet as the salty air breeze caresses your face. I could stand on the beach watching the water for hours getting lost in my thoughts. So, do not miss the opportunity to do the same.



FYI:
-No Glass Bottles On The Beach
-Pets are permitted on leashes
-No alcohol
-Parking is enforced from 10am-6pm

Helpful Hints:
-Even spending an hour on the beach can result in a bad sunburn (I learned this the hard way) so make sure to bring plenty of sunblock.

-There are no parking meters along the Seawall. It's pay by phone so make sure you have your credit card and license plate number ready. 

-Murdoch's sells little pails with shovels for the little ones to make sand castles so be sure to stop by and pick one up before making your way down to the beach. 

-Parking along the Seawall is limited and fills up fast especially on weekends and holidays so be sure to arrive early to get a parking spot or you'll be walking a long way. 


No matter which beach you decide to visit or what activity you decide to do I know you will have a blast. There are so many things to see and do in Galveston that there's no way to not have fun. Have you been to Seawall Urban Park? How was your experience? I'd love to hear about it so please leave me a comment. You can also send pics of your trip to my facebook page @melwashere I love seeing my readers having fun :)

Until the next adventure,
Mel Was Here