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Houston was once home to AstroWorld, amusement park extraordinaire. Sadly, AstroWorld is gone, but we still have a world-class family entertainment facility – the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Wait, wait, yes, it's a museum, but it's not the kind where you have to whisper and the exhibits are safely tucked behind velvet ropes. Here, kids are encouraged to talk and touch, even to squeal with delight, if they are so moved. Blending education with entertainment, the museum presents a variety of permanent shows and a year-round schedule of touring exhibitions, including world-famous (and not particularly cheap) exhibits like Titanic and Body Worlds. The in-house Wortham IMAX theater is worth it for the trip alone -- ditto the Burke Baker Planetarium and the Cockrell Butterfly Center.
Founded in 1909, the purpose of the Houston Museum of Natural Science has always been to "enhance in individuals the knowledge and delight in natural science and related subjects." To this very day, this purpose is carried out in every project, program and exhibition associated with the museum. As one of the most heavily attended museums in the United States, and one of the most attended venues in Houston, the Museum houses the Burke Baker Planetarium, Wortham GIANT Screen Theatre, Cockrell Butterfly Center and a fascinating variety of permanent exhibit areas that examine astronomy, space science, Native American culture, paleontology, energy, chemistry, gems and minerals, seashells, Texas wildlife and much more. In addition, the museum frequently presents traveling exhibitions on a variety of topics. The Museum also maintains two satellite facilities: The George Observatory in Fort Bend County, which houses one of the largest telescopes in the country that is available for public viewing; and the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land, which has exhibits on dinosaurs; mineralogy; exotic, live frogs and more. The Museum is a major science learning center with over a half million school children visiting annually, including every fourth grade and seventh grade class in the Houston Independent School District.