Fun at the Perot Museum with MAYA: Hidden Worlds Revealed

It’s unheard of that my 10-year-old would even CONSIDER playing hooky from school – but that’s just what she did last week.

(It’s ok though – I suggested it.)  Learning happens outside of school, too.


With Grupo Pakal Mayan Performing Arts Dancers


I was invited by the Perot Museum of Nature and Science to their Media Preview Day for Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed. M’s usual response to these things is “lucky!!!” but this time, she was “super jealous” because world-renowned Maya archaeologist Dr. David Stuart (who deciphered an important part of the Maya code at age 15!) was going to be talking about his most recent discoveries, and the opportunity to talk one-on-one to an archeologist was just too tempting.


Dr. David Stuart, Director of the Mesoamerica Center at the University of Texas at Austin.


I could see the interest in her eyes – it was there last year, when she studied the Mayan numbers system at school – so I offered to let her ruin her perfect attendance record by coming with me for the day.

I’m so glad I did, because we had an amazing day together exploring the exhibit.


Creating our Maya names!


Let me tell you about this exhibit, too! This is the largest special exhibit the Perot has hosted, taking up every inch of their 10,000 square foot special exhibition space with over 200 artifacts and really cool environments to explore all the aspects of Mayan life. It’s actually the largest traveling Mayan exhibition to ever tour in the US. We love the Perot for their immersive exhibits, and this one didn’t disappoint. I confess – we spent over two hours going through every single hands-on exhibit, watching and listening to video, practicing our skills at Mayan numbers, deciphering glyphs (and picking out our Mayan names), decode the Maya calendar (and calculating our birthdays on the Mayan calendar), build corbeled arches, investigating Maya astronomy, and more.



She even tried her hand at Mayan dentistry.

We learned quite a bit about what archaeologists have uncovered about the once-hidden ancient Maya and the unresolved questions about why these ancient cities declined so rapidly. It’s really fascinating: the Maya built elaborate cities without the use of the wheel, communicated using a sophisticated written language, measured time accurately with detailed calendar systems, and had an advanced understanding of astronomy and agriculture.  Even the Maya’s use of ritual sacrifice was addressed (and, like many other exhibits, generated some pretty interesting conversation.)



Maya is designed to give visitors a glimpse at a cross-section of Maya life, and it delivered. We also got a close look at the scientific work being carried out at key Maya sites across Central America to understand exactly what is known of the once-hidden ancient Maya culture.

While we waited patiently to talk to Dr. Stewart (and listened in to some really interesting exchanges), my girl was unable to grab some time to talk to him because he was in such great demand. However, given her tenacity, I’m sure he will be getting an email at University of Texas at Austin with a few unanswered questions.

My Tips


I will warn you now – this is a HUGE exhibit, and if you (or your children) are HALF as curious as we are, make sure you allow adequate time in your visit for this exhibit. There is a lot to see, and even though we thought we hit every single one (my girl was FASCINATED), I feel like we still probably missed something – yes, after two hours. You need a timed ticket for entry, so keep this in mind.

Keep an eye out for the highlight stops to “talk nerdy with the Brainiacs”. They are full of knowledge and are fun to chat with about different elements of the exhibit. In learning of her interest in Maya code, one of the Brainiacs suggested watching the PBS documentary “Breaking the Maya Code” (found on YouTube) for even more info on the subject – which was thoughtful and appreciated.

Don’t skip the interactive exhibits! They are super cool and it’s a fun break for the kids (and the adults.)

Lastly, membership pays for itself if you like attending the special exhibits. The films that we love to see are available at a discounted price, too.

* * *

Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed is the longest running special exhibit they have featured, and it runs through September 4, 2017. That’s a good thing, because, seriously – there is a LOT to see in this exhibit. We’re members of the Perot (we love it that much) and I confess that I often escape to Dallas to explore it on my own (and maybe take in one of the National Geographic or BBC Nature movies in the Hoglund Foundation Theater while I am there.) Shh – don’t tell my kids.


Explore mysterious tombs, an underworld cave, an ancient burial site, a mural room and more than 200 artifacts, plus examine enormous temples, build arches, decipher hieroglyphs, and learn about calendar translations in the largest traveling Maya exhibition ever to tour the U.S.




PROGRAM EXTENSIONS. The Perot Museum will offer a myriad of Maya-related programs and events including First Thursday Late Night: Archaeology on May 4, the adults-only Social Science: Patterns on June 23, and the family-fun Discovery Days: Architecture on July 8.

HOURS. General hours of operation for the Perot Museum are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. On the first Thursday of the month, the Museum will stay open until 9 p.m. for its First Thursday Late Night public events. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the Museum stays open until 6 p.m.

TICKETS. Museum general admission is $19 for adults (18-64), $12 for youth (2-17), $13 for seniors (65+) and free for children under 2. Museum general admission is free for members. Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed requires a surcharge for a total admission cost of $29 for adults (18-64), $20 for youth (2-17), $21 for seniors (65+), and free for children under 2. Member tickets are $5 for all age levels.

Tickets and more information is available at


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