Top 5 Ways to Make Spirits Bright at HMNS

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The streets are aglow with beautiful lights, and everyone seems to be just a little bit more jolly! It can also be a stressful time. The kids have only been on break for two hours and they are already bored, there is wrapping that needs to be done, a mile long grocery list to complete and if you hear Jingle Bells one more time you may scream! To help you get in the holiday spirit, HMNS has chosen the best ways to make the most of your holiday vacation at the Museum and make memories that will last a lifetime.

1. Walk off those holiday cookies by visiting HMNS’ special exhibits

Ahhh the holidays, everywhere you look there is something delicious to eat and little time to hit the gym. Did you know that if you walk the entire Museum you will have walked about two miles? No joke! Just ask our staff- walking the Museum is an excellent work out. And the best part of it is that you are having so much fun you don’t even realize it until you check your trusty fitness tracker. While you are getting a head start on your New Year’s resolution to be more active, you can see some pretty great special exhibits!

The Mummies of the World


One of our most popular special exhibits, Mummies of the World portrays an once-in-a-lifetime collection of real mummies and artifacts from Europe, South America and Ancient Egypt! Portraying both natural and intentional mummification, this compelling collection includes ancient mummies dating back as far as 4,500 years. A fascinating mix of old and new, Mummies of the World bridges the gap between past and present.

Cabinets of Curiosities


Cabinets of curiosity first became popular in the Renaissance and reached their pinnacle of popularity in the Victorian Era. As an homage to its own history, the Houston Museum of Natural Science presents its interpretation of the cabinet of curiosity. Our guests have the unique opportunity to peruse various objects of curiosity and wonder, up close and in a personal way. And don’t panic when your youngster reaches out to touch something in this exhibit- we ask you to PLEASE TOUCH the objects displayed!

Amber Secrets, Feathers from the Age of Dinosaurs


Amber Secrets, Feathers from the Age of Dinosaurs features over 100 of some of the most exquisite specimens dating as far back as 99 million years ago. Plants, fungus, vertebrates and invertebrates such as insects, spiders, scorpions, snails, millipedes and centipedes are represented. Each polished translucent gem provides a window to the time of the dinosaurs

2. See the beautiful Christmas trees in the Grand Hall

When you first enter the Museum you can’t help but notice the beautiful Christmas trees that line the Grand Hall. These striking trees have been decorated by organizations throughout Houston, each giving their own unique spin on the Christmas tree. From HMNS’ own Youth Education Department’s “Very Venomous Christmas” tree to a tree that invites you to adopt a feline companion, decorated by our friends at Save a Purfect Cat, to a tree decorated with hand-made ornaments from children with American Diabetes Society. This year there are fifteen, 10-12 foot trees that will definitely have you singing O’ Christmas Tree!


The organizations that decked the Grand Hall also include:

HMNS Volunteer Guild
Senior Rides & More
Ukrainian-American Cultural Club
Undies for Everyone
Girl Scouts of San Jacinto
HMNS Membership Department
Tourette’s Association of Texas
Texas Children’s Hospital
Theater Under the Stars- The River Performing and Visual Arts Center
Children’s Art Project
Houston Conchology Club
Medical Bridges

3. Trains over Texas

Houston’s newest holiday tradition has pulled into HMNS station and it is a must see! Trains Over Texas is the largest indoor “o” scale model railroad in Texas! The multiple trains crisscrossing the state will visit important and unique places in the state’s geology and physiography. Destinations include oil country salt domes, prairies and wetlands of the Texas coast and state and national monuments such as Enchanted Rock, Pedernales Falls, The Balcones Escarpment and Big Bend National Park. Along the routes to these geologic wonders the trains will also pass through Galveston, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio with other surprises along the route. The exhibit is delightfully decorated for the season and promises to bring holiday memories to you and your kin!


4. Mystery of the Christmas Star planetarium show



Journey back over 2000 years ago and discover the Mystery of the Christmas Star. This stunning planetarium show seeks to discover a scientific explanation for the star the wise men followed to meet baby Jesus. The modern retelling of the Nativity will charm and enchant audiences of all ages.

5. Shop the Museum Store



While you are at HMNS be sure to stop by the Museum Store! The store is sure has something for everyone on your holiday shopping list! From kitchen science for the cook in your family to your friend who has a knack for decorating to the future paleontologist- you will be able to finish your list in one trip! On a tight schedule and can’t make into the store during your visit? No worries there! Shop online and receive 25% off your purchase of $100 or more with the special code: HOLIDAY!


Add Holiday Cheer to your Home with Designer Trees at Jingle Tree

HMNS Sugar Land

Give. OWN. Be Merry. Kick the holiday season off with Jingle Trees at HMNS Sugar Land! At Jingle Tree you can give, OWN and be merry when you bid amongst festive company on a silent auction of dazzling, pre-decorated trees. Nineteen designer trees are up for bid, each with a unique theme such as “Holiday Kitchen” and “Candyland.” The trees were unveiled on Tuesday at the Strolling Luncheon. Bidding continues as you mix and mingle at the Jingle Jangle Happy Hour on Thursday, November 20, or you can bring the kids over for Cookies with Santa on Saturday, November 22. More information on the Jingle Tree events can be found below.

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Can’t make it out for any of the events? Don’t worry you can view the trees and bid online here.

Entrance small
Bidding ends Saturday, November 22, at 1:30 p.m. after Cookies with Santa. The winners will be notified by text.

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The trees may be picked up Saturday, November 22, from 1:30 – 3:00 p.m. or Monday, November 24, from 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Tree wrapping (for self-transport) or home delivery (includes wrapping) are available at an incremental charge.

Jingle Tree brochure small

Jingle Jangle Happy Hour
Thursday, November 20
5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Come out for our Jingle Jangle Happy Hour to mix and mingle as you bid on your favorite trees!

Cookies with Santa
Saturday, November 22
11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Bring the kiddos out for Cookies with Santa while you take advantage of the final day to bid on our Jingle Trees! Final Chance to Bid.

O Tannenbaum! The HMNS halls are officially decked — see it in pictures!

They’re here! The trees have arrived, and they look absolutely fabulous!

The decorators arrived at 9 a.m. Friday morning and began to gussy up the trees amid carolers, cookies and kids — lots and lots of kids. What is just out of the frame of the picture below is the 1,500 kids that arrived on field trips while the decorating was underway. All in all, a busy morning at HMNS!

HMNS Holiday Trees 2012We hope you can come in to see the trees in person, but in the meantime, here are a couple of my favorites:

Oh, The Webs We Weave

I like bugs, so I was immediately drawn to the spider webs on this tree.  The story next to the tree explains why the spider is associated with a traditional Ukrainian Christmas.

HMNS Holiday Trees 2012

Every Critter Under the Sun

This next tree was decorated by the Museum’s volunteer guild, which is also responsible for organizing the holiday tree project. I love the colors, and most of all I love the fact that nearly every known critter is represented on the tree!  Where else can you find a Christmas tree with crayfish and coelacanths, I ask?

HMNS Holiday Trees 2012

Shell We Celebrate?

The Houston Conchology Society always has a beautiful tree, and this year is no exception! Each of the letters and snowflakes are covered in tiny shells like those used in sailor’s valentines.

HMNS Holiday Trees 2012And, drum roll please . . . the tree you may (or may not) have been waiting for . . .

Let’s Get Chemical

HMNS Holiday Trees 2012If you look carefully at our chemistry tree, you can just make out the “H P P Y Ho Li Dy S” banner made up of element symbols for Hydrogen, Phosphorus, Yttrium Holmium, Lithium, Dysprosium and Sulfur.

If you have no idea what Holmium is or what Yttrium can be used for, you should check out the Welch Chemistry Hall. Can’t make it in? Learn how to make these fun chemistry crafts here or check out some fun chemistry kits at the Museum Store — now online just in time for the holidays.

Have a chemical Christmas with these chemistry-themed holiday crafts

In our department, you can’t escape science – not even for the holidays.

Have a chemical Christmas at HMNSEvery year during the holiday season, the museum provides pine trees to local non-profits to decorate and spread their organization’s message. Our department is usually given a tree to decorate in a manner that expresses some aspect of the museum.

This year, we have dedicated our tree to chemistry, as we will have a revamped Chemistry Hall in the near future and want to celebrate. And because we know you like science as much as we do, we have compiled all sorts of fun kid- (and adult) friendly chemistry projects that you can do at home. Ours have all been made into ornaments for our tree, but the sky’s the limit!

Check out these links and have your own Chemical Christmas:

Marvelous Marbled Ornaments
Christmas Chromatography
Borax Crystal Ornaments
Amazing Snow Powder
How Does the Periodic Table of Elements Work?

Want to come check out the trees for yourself? Visit the museum from Nov. 30th through the first week of January. Can’t make it? Stay tuned for pictures of all the trees the first week of December!

But in the meantime, enjoy the trees from previous years and this chemist’s version of a holiday classic, “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” John F. Hansen’s version appeared in the St. Louis section of the American Chemical Society in 1978.

‘Twas the night to make crystals, and all through the ‘hood,
Compounds were reacting as I’d hoped that they would.
The hood door I’d closed with the greatest of care,
To keep noxious vapors from fouling the air.

The reflux condenser was hooked to the tap,
And the high vacuum pump had a freshly filled trap.
I patiently waited to finish my task,
While boiling chips merrily danced in the flask.

Then from the pump there arose such a clatter,
That I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter.
Away to the fume hood! Up with the door!
And half of my product foamed out on the floor.

Then what to my watering eyes should appear,
But a viscous black oil which had once been so clear.
I turned the pump off in a terrible rush,
And the oil that sucked back filled the line up with mush.

The ether boiled out of the flask with a splash,
And hitting the mantle, went up with a flash!
My nose turned quite ruddy, my eyebrows went bare,
The blast had singed off nearly half of my hair.

I shut the hood door with a violent wrench,
As acid burned holes in the floor and the bench.
I flushed it with water, and to my dismay,
Found sodium hydride had spilled into the fray.

And then the fire got way out of hand,
I managed to quench it with buckets of sand.
With aqueous base I diluted the crud,
Then shoveled up seven big buckets of mud.

I extracted the slurry again and again
With ether and then with dichloromethane.
Chormatographic techniques were applied
Several times ’til the product was purified.

I finally viewed with a satisfied smile,
One half a gram in a shiny new vial.
I mailed the yield report to my boss,
Ninety percent (allowing for loss).

“Good work,” said the boss in the answering mail,
“Use same condition on a preparative scale.”