The S.E.C.R.E.T. Misson at the Children's Museum of Houston: Fun, Rewarding & Challenging!

The Children's Museum of Houston is alright in my book. Those people keep my contact information in their virtual Rolodex and reach out from time to time with some great opportunities. The most recent example is when they reached out to me at the beginning of the summer to ask if I'd like to visit with my family to try out the new S.E.C.R.E.T. Mission, which actually has its last day at the museum TOMORROW, SEPTEMBER 5TH! Labor Day is the very last day you can experience this awesomeness. Ack! Leave it to me to tell you about it at the last minute. The "Special Elite Crime Resolution and Espionage Team" has seven missions that you can be assigned. They range in level of difficulty.

Your group can have each child receive an individual mission, you can work in teams or you can pair off and solve the missions that way. My best friend since fourth grade and her three kids joined me and my two. Her kids are in 8th, 6th and 4th grades and mine are in 6th and 3rd. She went with her two daughters on a mission and I went with my two sons and her son on a mission. Let me say from the beginning that I am so glad we did it that way. We saw them all throughout the time we were there. The missions are supposed to take roughly 30 minutes each to complete, but, of course, that depends on how many tangents are involved with your crew. There is an additional charge for the missions, too. I have to say that the mission we received wasn't easy and I felt like we needed to put our minds together to get it right. My 6th grader would have figured it out but the other two (3rd and 4th) would have needed some guidance. I think they would have gotten too frustrated and given up if I hadn't been there.

This is a picture of my friend's son checking in. All the kids get their handprint scanned, but, now that I think about it, I don't think we actually activated anything with a handprint, so I think it was all for show. You can see in that picture that he is wearing an orange and black bracelet. This had information in it that allowed him to open doors and activate other things during the mission. This took place in the "spy shop", which sold all sorts of cute things pertaining to science and forensics.

You can become an "elite agent" with your picture shown on the screen for everyone to see IF you solve all 7 missions. Since I am just posting about this on my blog (and if this is the first time you are hearing about the missions), it doesn't look like you or your child will become celebrities this way. We went to the mission the week or two before school started. We just finished our second week of school, so it took me 3-4 weeks to get my act together and write this post. Ugh. I can really annoy myself sometimes. If I had known it was about to wind down, I would have written it much sooner. Maybe I can find out where the S.E.C.R.E.T. Mission will be heading to next and you can follow them. If you care at all about learning to become a top secret spy, you'll figure out a way to get yourself there. Or just go tomorrow! Labor Day!

These badges illustrate the different missions that you can be given. I don't think we picked a certain mission. They assigned us one based on the difficulty level that we requested. I think I requested the "Don't make me look really stupid in front of my kids and my friend's son, please" mission, which I also think had something to do with securing some expensive, top secret crystals. You can buy the badge for the mission you completed at the end for only $316. I take that back. It was only $3 or $4. Maybe $5. Somewhere between there and $316. So, not bad.

Each mission receives a different set of tools, such as a magnifying glass, a USB port, a flashlight, etc. Pictures of some of the tools are below. You also receive a special book that keeps you on track during your mission and a pen on a lanyard. All of that makes you feel very espionage-y. I dare someone try to stop you when you are looking super official with all of your gear. You get special permission to enter through the exit in one section of the museum because of your special badge, so WATCH OUT, CRIMINALS. WE HAVE LANYARDS. STEP. BACK.

This is my son personalizing his mission book. They were all so excited to get started. The older kids were trying to act like they were too big for it at first, but then they got into it. They liked pretending, too. Of course, they did. It was a challenge with a lot of different scenes and places to discover.

Throughout the mission, you will find that you keep getting directed back to the mission control area, which has a very NASA-y feel to it. You have to log on to the computer with your bracelet to receive the next step or the next clues to solve the mystery. It was very cute and very well done. It was entertaining for the adults, too. There are lots of computers, even on a busy day, so there isn't really any waiting for your turn to get the information that you need.

Below are my friend's daughters getting the information that they needed. I'm not sure which mission they were on, but it was different from ours. We were still trying to compete to see who would finish first. Those three were a fierce trio, though. We couldn't catch them! My guys also liked to make frequent stops, such as for lunch. Still not sure how they could stop to it when there was rampant crime going in right there in the Children's Museum. The evil doctor WAS TRYING TO STEAL THE ORANGE CRYSTALS, FOR GOODNESS SAKES!

Another cute part of the mission was choosing your undercover name. There were so many fun ones to choose from. It looks like my son chose Zero Dragonfly, which is ironic because that is the name we almost named him. (Where's an emoticon when you need one?)

The crystals! Here they are! Those look worth saving, if any crystals ever looked worth saving. You must agree? Just looking at them again makes me not regret the few times I snapped at my kids about not having enough time to use the fake ATMs at the fake bank in the fake town while trying to solve the crime. I had these beautiful crystals in mind. If I didn't stand up for the safety of those crystals, please tell me who would?? *blots sweat from brow, gets back down off her chair*

Those fake ATMs and these giant lily pads below really can get a spy off course, but what is a trip to the Children's Museum without getting stuck on a lily pad and having a quick panic attack that you can't escape? I don't say that from experience or anything.

Now, HEEERRRREEEE'S where it all went down. These pipes. These dadblasted pipes. We weren't sure how to get the pipes to work for us right the first time, but luckily the people that work at mission control were super nice and knowledgeable, so they got us back on course. After a little frustration, we grew to love these pipes. They light up with different colors and shapes. You have to enter a special code into them to solve the case ultimately. It was tricky and rewarding. The kids loved that part. It was obvious when the crime had been solved. Once you received the flashing lights that you were waiting for, you had to hurry back to mission control to wrap everything up.

The experience was definitely a fun one. If we were to do it again, I would get there early and do it first thing so that there would be plenty of time (and energy) left over to explore the rest of the museum. I think we all formed some fun memories that day! Remember, tomorrow is the last day that it is at the Children's Museum of Houston, so consider heading over there to try it out!

The museum covered the cost of admission, the cost of the missions and the cost for parking in exchange for an honest review. This an honest review! No smoke and mirrors here!