While many children learn by performing hands-on tasks, school systems have yet to figure out how to incorporate gardens, imagination workshops, and towering aqueduct mazes into their budgets. With 90,000 square feet of hands-on exhibits, the Children's Museum of Houston sparks creativity by allowing kids to explore 14 learning stations. Ranked No. 1 among the 10 best children's museums in the nation by Parents magazine, named one of the 12 best children's museums in the country by Forbes.com and one of the 10 best by USA TODAY, and voted Best Museum in 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2014 by the Houston A-List Poll, the museum has accrued a lot of praise. The Huffington Post has also given a nod to the Children's Museum of Houston, which encourages children to explore their curious nature with a variety of interactive exhibits. Exhibits include the interactive EcoStation, a solar-powered outdoor utopia with activities such as stream creation and leaf rubbing that inspire kids to think about environmental responsibility. At the Invention Convention workshop, kids can explore engineering possibilities with building blocks, propellers, and even basic robotics. The sprawling cityscape of Kidtropolis invites children to participate in a simulated economy. The experience requires them to earn paychecks, budget money on pretend debit cards, vote for political candidates, and learn how to obsessively check milk expiration dates at the onsite grocery store.
Albert Friedrich poured the first foamer at The Buckhorn Saloon in 1881. Early in his bartending days, Friedrich began accepting horns and antlers in exchange for whiskey and beer, leading to a unique collection now exhibited in The Buckhorn Museum. The historic tavern claims that Teddy Roosevelt once recruited Rough Riders from among its patrons, and it is also rumored as the place where Pancho Villa plotted the Mexican Revolution. An original handcrafted marble-and-cherry-wood back bar and other historic furnishings still reside in the saloon, where guests now swig locally brewed beers and challenge each other to taser duels. Visitors come face to face with the taxidermal heads and other artifacts from more than 520 species, including a 1,056-pound black marlin and a prehistoric irish-elk skull and antlers. The museum also lays claims to a preserved whitetail deer and the rattlesnake rattle artwork of Friedrich’s wife, which guests can show to their own pet snakes as a cautionary example of what happens to misbehaving reptiles.
Adjacent to The Buckhorn Museum, The Texas Ranger Museum houses Texas Ranger paraphernalia such as sawed-off shotguns, badges, and photographs. At Ranger Town, young whippersnappers delight in glimpses of life during turn-of-the-century San Antonio, as depicted by a re-created jail, smith, and telegraph office, as well as the Bonnie and Clyde exhibit, where a '34 Ford V8 Deluxe sits anxiously awaiting its next adventure. On their way out, visitors can drop in at a museum gift shop that traces its own origins to 1920, when it was a curios store.
On a single day in the middle of World War II, actions in three isolated incidents represent an ethical lesson taught to this day at the Dallas Holocaust Museum. On that day—April 19, 1943—three Belgian men attacked a train destined for Auschwitz, freeing its passengers; the occupants of the Warsaw Ghetto united in revolt; and at the Bermuda Conference, officials from the British and American governments declined to take action against ongoing atrocities in Europe. The Dallas Holocaust Museum’s main exhibit locates a crucial distinction in presenting these three events: the difference between "bystanders" and what the museum calls "Upstanders." The exhibit was created in the hopes that every visitor would become an "Upstander," moved not only to remember a horrific past but also to take action when faced with modern threats to human rights.
A self-guided audio tour relates the heroism of those who stood up on that date in 1943 as museum guests explore artifacts, photographs, and a full-size boxcar. Special exhibits that often focus on photography supplement the permanent installation, and testimonies from volunteer survivors and liberators provide a firsthand perspective on the historical tragedy and its lessons. Along with exposing more than 30,000 students and 22,000 walk-in visitors to its messages annually, the museum advocates engagement with the world through educational programs designed for everyone from educators to law-enforcement officials.
The percussive sounds of water drums and rattling gourds echo across limestone bluffs and the grassy banks of a meandering creek. A cedar-post fence creaks in the breeze. An elegant Victorian farmhouse towers over livestock corrals. Pioneer Farms' themed history sites sprawl across 90 wooded acres, immersing visitors of all ages in exhibits and living demonstrations of Texas history. The grounds also serve as a haven for historic 1800s buildings, many of which were transplanted from their original plots throughout the state and reconstructed with rubber cement.
Offering a snapshot of central Texas's Native American population, an authentic Tonkawa encampment dating back to 1841 welcomes guests to visit tepees and dance to tribal music under a centuries-old oak tree. An 1873 Texian farm, which includes a log-and-board cabin on its original site, provides livestock care and tractor-throwing demonstrations, and the restored rural village of Sprinkle Corner introduces visitors to carpenters, blacksmiths, a general store, and a 19th-century stagecoach house from which more than 12 horse-drawn wagons convey passengers across the farm throughout the day. Wild animals raise their heads above lush grasses near Walnut Creek, and the Scarborough Barn allows children to meet their favorite farm animals. Visitors can further connect to history and nature through the farm's many programs and classes, including workshops focused on traditional blacksmithing, cooking in the buildings' original kitchens, and basic photo red-eye correction using squid ink.
Owners Maarten and Hanna Vanderstoel created Van Grow Studio of the Arts to promote creative thinking and problem solving in children through artistic crafts. Boasting degrees in fine arts and studio arts, respectively, Maarten and Hanna teach most of the classes and prepare the curricula for all of the studio's camps. TCU graduate Alma Worrell manages the open studio and paint-your-own-pottery rooms, which are also accessible to adults. Van Grow's upbeat instructors nurture creativity and confidence across three age groups, offering classes, parties, and workshops to pique a wide range of interests. Courses foster each student's individual vision, rather than a mastery of technique, and help to develop motor skills, self-esteem, and the ability to sculpt gummy-bear replicas of Rodin's The Thinker.
Valu Auto Care Centers' ASE-certified technicians look under the hoods and slide beneath undercarriages to identify and fix automotive maladies. The centers keep cars rolling smoothly and efficiently through several services, including air-conditioner tune-ups, muffler repair, state inspections, and oil changes. Valu Auto Care Centers has repaired cars for the past 20 years at locations in both Florida and western New York.