Start your tour with the Space Show. Afterwards, follow the wondrous interactive Cosmic Pathway, which spirals around the sphere and down to the main level, chronicling the 15-billion-year evolution.
(The sphere itself is even used to create a point-of-reference scale that puts the universe into better perspective than the entire semester I spent in undergrad astronomy.) Other must-sees include the Big Bang Theater, which re-creates the theoretical birth of the universe; the Hall of the Universe, with its very own 151?2-ton meteorite; and the Hall of Planet Earth, which focuses on the geologic processes of our home planet (great volcano display!). You’ll need a minimum of 2 hours to fully explore the Rose Center.
The rest of the 4-square-block museum is nothing to sneeze at, either. Founded in 1869, it houses the world’s greatest natural science collection in a square-block group of buildings made of towers and turrets, pink granite and red brick—a mishmash of architectural styles, but overflowing with neo-Gothic charm. The diversity of the holdings is astounding: some 36 million specimens ranging from microscopic organisms to the world’s largest cut gem, the Brazilian Princess Topaz (21,005 carats). Rose Center aside, it would take you all day to see the entire museum, and then you still wouldn’t get to everything. If you don’t have a lot of time, you can see the best of the best on free highlights tours offered daily every hour at 15 minutes after the hour from 10:15am to 3:15pm. Audio Expeditions, high-tech audio tours that allow you to access narration in the order you choose, are also available to help you make sense of it all.
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