The Adventures of Archie the Wandering T. rex: England

by Karen Whitley

Man am I one lucky dinosaur. When I was adopted last summer from the Museum Store at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, I had no idea I was on my way to becoming a world traveler, a globetrotter, an adventurer if you will. Just call me Lemuel Gulliver! (Like from Gulliver’s Travels? Get it??)

Well, actually, I was given the name Archibald… (Pretentious much?) But you can call me Archie. While my cousins and friends all waited to be adopted, I packed my suitcase (let me tell you, not so easy with short arms) and began my new life. A life filled with far off places, daring swordfights, magic spells, a prince in disguise… eh, maybe not so much. Let’s just say my human watches a little too much Disney.

To celebrate, my new family and I went off on a summer vacation! I did worry about the airplane, I mean flying dinosaurs….it’s not natural. But luckily everything went smoothly. The food wasn’t great and all, but I did get to catch up on some movies, and they even gave me some wings! I’m telling you, wings on a dinosaur… Not natural. Before I knew it, we had set down in Merry Ol’ England. Did you know they have a queen and princes (I wonder if they are in disguise), but no king? Guess I’m the king around here!AirportLondon is such a busy city! Taxi drivers zooming in and out, people filling the sidewalks, lines of big red buses everywhere. There was so much to see and do: from walks in St. James Park and Kensington Gardens (and ice cream), to Westminster Abby, Buckingham Palace (and ice cream), St. Paul’s Cathedral, LEGOLAND (and ice cream), and more (plus more ice cream)! The adventure never stopped! Here are just a few highlights from this great country.

There was this old clock that everyone was taking photos with… Big Ben, I’m told. Do you think I can get people to call me Big Archie? I won’t lie; for a clock, it was pretty spectacular. I reminds me of the Chronophage back home at HMNS.Big BenOM NOM NOM!! Look at me, I’m eating the clock! Godzilla IRL! LOL! JK…Eating Big BenThen we went on this giant Ferris wheel called the London Eye. We got a really cool bird’s-eye view of London, but for some reason people kept taking photos of me, even people in the pods next to us. Guess they had never seen a blue dinosaur before. It ain’t easy being blue.London EyeHey look, there’s the clock thing again! See it to the right?London Eye 4I even went on my first boat ride down the Thames to see the London Bridge (eh, not that impressed…) and the Tower Bridge (now THERE’s a bridge!), where we ended up at the Tower of London.Tower Bridge 2You’ll be happy to know that the ravens were present and accounted for when I left. I did try to eat a few, but since apparently that would have been disastrous to the realm of England. They kept them pretty safe. What do you think, would I make a good guard? (I’m pretty good at standing still…)Guard TowerWe did leave London to go out into the country to visit Leeds Castle in Kent, which was amazing! I mean, it has a moat. Who doesn’t love a moat?Castle LeedsThere was a tricky maze, which is not easy when you’re nine inches tall (Ok, eight and a half, but who’s counting?), but I didn’t let it stop me. Here’s me in the center of the maze!Castle Leeds Maze 2My final adventure in England was at King’s Cross Station where I journeyed onto Platform 9 3/4. They even sorted me into a house, Ravenclaw… They seemed to think it was where I belonged before I ran through the wall. Hmmm, magic, princes, a far off place… All we needed was a sword fight. Maybe my life is turning out like a Disney film, after all.Harry PotterSpeaking of Disney, tune in again in a couple of weeks as I tell you about my adventures in Paris that includes a trip to Disney! As for this trip to England, that’s about all the stories I have to tell. Until next time!

Oh, I almost forgot. I’ve got a big family still waiting to be adopted at the HMNS Museum Store! Stop by and meet them all, including my big brother! If they’re lucky, maybe you’ll take them on adventures, too!

Editor’s Note: Karen is Birthday Party Manager in the HMNS Marketing department.

Behind the Scenes: HMNS Birthday Planning

by Karen Whitley

People always tell me that I have the best job and that I must love it. My response each time? “Absolutely!”

Planning and hosting birthday parties at such an awesome venue as the Houston Museum of Natural Science, it doesn’t get much better than that. Of course, people think all we do all day is party, and while there’s definitely some celebrating going on, a lot more happens behind the scenes to make sure each and every party runs smoothly. It’s not all cake and presents.

Dinosuar centerpiece (Bollingmo Party)

Each year, the HMNS is host to hundreds of birthday parties. In 2015 alone we hosted more than 520 parties. That’s an average of 10 parties per week! We have even hosted up to 20 parties in one weekend! Phew, that’s exhausting just to think about. As exciting as parties are, though, it all begins in the office.

Every week we field dozens of phone calls and emails from parents interested in hosting a party with us. From parents requesting date availability and more information about our parties, to parents who are already booked and want to discuss their party, we are happy to talk to you and assist in any way we can. I have once even measured every single counter, table, wall angle, and even the freezer space for a parent.

Bunch of Balloons

Once a parent is ready to book, we try to keep the process as smooth as possible for them while we deal with the various paperwork. Who wouldn’t love a little less paperwork? After a parent is sent the confirmation email, they are all set to go. We will even send a reminder email closer to the date. Yes, parents have forgotten that they have their child’s birthday coming up, but no worries, we’ve got you covered! If you’re looking to add one of the entertainment options we have, we will facilitate the whole thing for you as well. My desk is a mess so yours can stay clean. That’s the story I’m sticking with.

Booking a party is just the beginning. Since every party comes complete with tablecloths and a craft, we have to make sure we have enough supplies on hand. That involves a word most adults wish to avoid — inventory! Did you know that for our dig pit craft where kids get to dig up small plaster dinosaur teeth, we make those teeth in house? Each and every tooth is made by one of our party coordinators during the week. We can use up to 200 teeth each weekend!

Dig pit

So how many supplies does it take to run more than 500 parties a year? Here’s just a few numbers:

  1. 10,000 coloring pages. We used to print these in house too, but yay for outsourcing!
  2. Over 4,000 signs pointing guests the way to their party room. Yes, they do exist!
  3. 3,000 tablecloths. If you lay the tablecloths end to end, we use approximately 26,000 feet! That’s almost five miles, or 88 football field lengths for the football fanatics. Me, I prefer baseball. Go ‘Stros!
  4. Over 2,500 Ziploc bags, popsicle sticks, and plastic cups. Add a little glue, paint, and borax and what do you get? Slime!
  5. 1,700 plaster dinosaur teeth. Emphasis on plaster.
  6. 860 butterflies released into the Butterfly Center rainforest.
  7. 800 Pounds of sand. Did I mention the arm work-outs we get?

Birthday Card

When the day of the party arrives, we make sure we get here early. I once remember what is was like to sleep in on a Saturday. Fond memories. The signs go up, the tables are set, the crafts are prepared, and then we wait for the call from arriving parents. Once we get the call, the party coordinator will take a cart to the garage to pick them up. I think we can all agree that we enjoy the cooler months. We load up the parent’s supplies on the cart and take them to the room. Let me say to all the parents, you sure know how to pack an ice chest to *cough* maximum capacity.

After that comes the easy part. Two hours of a coordinator running the party, keeping the attention of about 20 children, giving a dinosaur tour that three-year-olds can understand, wrangling all the children and their parents through our exhibit halls and making sure we have no wanderers, and even getting to practice knife-cutting skills on uniquely shaped cakes.

Mary Tour

Do you know how many shapes a cake can come in? My personal favorite was the giant pyramid where all the kids wanted the flavor on the bottom of the pyramid. Who knew we would learn about structural engineering as well. Once the party ends and we help escort the party parents back to their car, we generally have about 15 minutes to clean and reset the room to do it all over again!

Shery Zachariah 4

In all actuality, hosting birthday parties can be a lot of work on our end, but we wouldn’t change a thing. The joy we get in being able to be a part of a child’s special day, it really is priceless. We have even had the chance to watch some children grow up in the museum, as they come back each year to have their party with us. Seeing a child light up as we walk though 100-million-year-old dinosaur fossils, a living rainforest, ancient mummies, and more… that’s what makes this job so amazing. Well, that and the cake.

Editor’s Note: Karen is Birthday Party Manager for the HMNS Marketing department.

Be the Party Smarty: Birthdays are awesome, unique & educational at HMNS

Just like clockwork, another year has rolled around and you find yourself in that same old dilemma: what to do for your child’s birthday? What should be a joyous time for you and your family becomes stressful and agonizing: the decisions, the planning, the cleaning! 

So be a Party Smarty and let the Houston Museum of Natural Science host your child’s birthday party! Our one-of-a-kind parties provide a unique experience that your guests will continue to rave about for ages.

Here are the top ten reasons why you should have your next birthday party at HMNS:

NEAR, FAR, WHEREVER YOU ARE
We offer birthday parties at two great locations: HMNS and HMNS Sugar Land!

 

WHAT’S A WEEKEND?
We know you’re busy, and sometimes (especially during the summer) your “weekend” isn’t really a weekend. That’s why our parties can be held any day of the week!

TOO DARN HOT
We are an indoor venue … in Houston. Whether you want to beat the heat, get out of the rain, or stay warm, all of our party rooms are climate-controlled and even pre-decorated!

COMPLIMENTARY “RINGLEADERS”
Nervous about what to do with all those monkeys adorable children running about? Every party comes with a least one party coordinator to help run the show, making it easier for parents to be able to enjoy the party along with everyone else.

STAY AND PLAY ALL DAY
You party guests can make a whole day out of it! Book a party through us and you and your guests will receive access into our permanent exhibit halls following the party.  

FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD!
We have very few restrictions dealing with food, meaning you are more than welcome to bring in anything — whether you make it yourself or have it catered. And you’re not limited to specific vendors either. In fact, we only have two restrictions when it comes to consumables: (1) no alcohol and (2) no heating devices or sparkler candles (for obvious safety reasons).

EASY, BREEZY? BEAUTIFUL!
Having a party at our Museum is just plain easy! From booking to the party itself, we are with you every step of the way. Your rooms will be set up and ready to go, and your party coordinator will even meet you at your car to help bring in any items you may have. The coordinator will also keep everything running smoothly and on schedule, so you do not have to worry about a thing. And best of all, we clean up everything!

SOMETHING FOR THE SCRAPBOOK
Our venue offers one of the most unique birthday experiences in town! From taking a walk through our tropical rainforest in the Cockrell Butterfly Center, greeting ancient Egyptian mummies, seeing out-of-this-world shows in the Burke Baker Planetarium, or roaring with our dinosaurs in the Morian Hall of Paleontology, our parties are one-of-a-kind, memorable experiences.

REALLY “WOW” THOSE SOCCER MOMS — AND THE KIDS TOO, OF COURSE
If you are looking for a way to personalize your party even more, we offer a range of add-ons and options (including our Deluxe parties for the super fans) to make your party the hit of the neighborhood. Whether you want to add party bags to go with your theme, a live animal presentation, face painter, balloon artist, or even our astonishing magician, we can help you get the party you really, really want.

EDUCATIONAL OR FUN? WHY NOT BOTH?
Our parties are both entertaining and educational! Instead of the same old party where the children spend the entire time running around, why not try us and see how we make learning fun?

For more information or to book your party today, send an email to birthdays at hmns dot org (replace “at” and “dot” with the appropriate symbols), or visit HMNS.org.

Happy partying, you party smarties!

Party like an Egyptian: New Ancient Egypt birthday theme makes it easy on your mummy

We’ve got quite the thoughtful gift for your next birthday celebration: a brand new Party Smarty theme for our most petite patrons — Ancient Egypt!

As with all of our Party Smarty offerings, this ancients-inspired shindig includes two hours of noggin-nourishing goodness for 20 kids and 20 parents, with optional add-ons like live animal demonstrations.

In addition to Egyptian-inspired crafts — think sand art and hieroglyphs — we’ll mummify the birthday boy or girl (but skip the burial) and give the whole party a guided tour of our acclaimed new Hall of Ancient Egypt.

Announcing a new Party Smarty theme: Ancient Egypt!

If you’ve got an appetite for even more archaeology, an upgrade to the deluxe party package includes a special sculpting craft for the kiddos to make vases to hold their internal organs toys.

For complete info and pricing on the Party Smarty program, visit our Birthday Parties page on hmns.org or call 713-639-4716.