Brookshire’s World of Wildlife Museum & Country Store

by admin on September 28, 2010

in Uncategorized

Brookshire’s World of Wildlife Museum & Country Store

1600 W.S.W. Loop 323 and Old Jacksonville Highway

Tyler, Texas

(903) 534-2169

www.brookshiresmuseum.com

Since the Caldwell Zoo started charging admission there just aren’t a whole lot of places in Tyler that are both fun for the whole family and free. You could go to the park, I suppose, but that’s more fun for the kids than the parents and besides who wants to hang around outside when the temperature is into triple digits for most of the summer. But at least there is one place left in Tyler that can interest both adults and children, has air conditioning, and is free – Brookshire’s World of Wildlife Museum & Country Store.

Brookshires World of Wildlife Museum

Brookshires World of Wild Life Museum

Our family has been to Brookshire’s Wildlife Museum several times now and we have always enjoyed it. When you enter the building you just sign your name in the guest registrar book and your good to go. There is always a friendly lady around the front to greet visitors and to answer any questions you might have. Then you can begin your tour of the place. The Brookshire’s Wildlife Museum has three main sections to it. The first is the Wildlife Museum of course. The second is the old country store. And the third is a little gift shop.

The wildlife museum takes up two rooms in the museum and has more than 400 animals on display. Many of these animals were caught on safari in Africa by Wood T. Brookshire and his wife Louise. They obtained special game permits for many of the animals with the agreement that they would use these animals for educational purposes. It was the Brookshire’s desire to make these animals available to the general public who would never get to go on safari or view these exotic animals in the wild. Thanks to the Brookshire’s you can get up close and really study the animals. And since they are all dead you don’t need to worry about them breaking out of a cage and mauling you to death. Other parts of the Brookshire’s animal collection was donated by other families and the sum total is pretty impressive.

In addition to the many exotic wildlife specimens from Africa (lions, hippos, rhinos, wart hogs, gazelles, giraffes, leopards, zebra, crocodiles etc.) there are also many examples of North American Wildlife (bears, wolverines, badgers, hummingbirds, fish, hawks, deer, mountain lions, bob cats, buffalo, raccoons etc.) and animals from other parts of the world like polar bears. Many of the animals have been placed in displays which show what their natural habitat looks like. One of the coolest one shows a lion with it paws outstretched and its teeth bared, about to take down a deer. It is kind of funny though because the deer appears almost bored. He is just standing there as though he has no idea there is a lion right behind him.

I also love standing by the ten foot polar bear and imaging what it would be like to be face to face with it in the wild. It’s claws are huge and it’s mouth looks big enough to fit my head inside. The most fun display shows four monkeys dressed in grass skirts and Hawaiian shirts playing Monopoly. They all have tropical drinks with umbrellas in them. One monkey is pointing at another one who has his hands raised in surrender and is holding a “Go To Jail” card.

The wildlife museum also has on display several artifacts from Africa such as carved wooden statues, shields, spears, drums, and more. Another cool feature of the museum is a long log which has several holes cut into it. A child can reach his hand into it and feel around. Inside are things like bear fur and deer pelts. It’s fun for kids to feel around inside, guess what it is they are touching, and then pull it out and look at it. Unfortunately the people at the museum haven’t labeled the holes so sometimes you are not sure what kind of animal fur it is even after you have removed it from the log.

My oldest son has been a huge nature and animal lover ever since he was a baby so he is happy to spend a lot of time looking around the whole wildlife museum and talking about the animals. His two younger brothers also like the museum but they don’t like to spend near as much time in it as he does so we usually end up rushing the older, trying to slow down the younger two, or just splitting up for awhile.  One part of my strategy for helping the two younger boys to wait was to sit down with them and watch the short video that the museum has on a constant loop. The video is shown on a TV in a little alcove with one bench where three or four people can sit. It features Louise Brookshire and tells how the museum came about, its history, and its mission.

When the boys just can’t wait any longer we head into the old country store. The country store is a life-sized replica of a 1920’s grocery store. This is my wife’s favorite part. She is as much a lover of history as our son is a lover of nature. She loves to museums and things which show what life was like in the past. The country store shows in detail what grocery stores looked like and sold eighty to ninety years ago. It even has antique display cases and cash registers. There is 1920’s era candy, sewing machines, meat carvers, cameras, food, soap, gum, coloring books, a malt-machine, baking powder, and much much more. My wife would spend two hours in the country store carefully perusing all the items if we let her. But of course we never do. The boys are always in a hurry at this point to get to the last part of the museum – the gift shop!

The gift shop has lots of souvenirs from Texas and the Tyler area such as t-shirts, glasses, and post-cards. They also have wildlife souvenirs and stuffed animals. But what our boys are really interested in is the candy. Besides lots of modern candy the gift ship also sells candy and gum which would have been sold in the 1920’s grocery store. We always let our kids pick out a little bit of candy or an ice cream treat if they behave themselves. The gift shop is a good deal for parents because there is a section which has several jars full of a variety of candies and the best part is that they are only five cents. So you don’t have to spend a fortune to make your kids happy. Outside the gift shop, besides the very necessary bathroom facilities and water fountains, there are more antique items such as old Coke machines and bottles, typewriters, a juke box and more.

Outside of the wildlife museum there is a nice park area which is great for picnics and letting the kids run around (if it’s not too hot). Besides the playground equipment there are also a few interesting vehicles at the park. There is a circa 1950’s LeFrance fire truck which I believe was once used in Dallas. The kids can crawl all over it and pretend to be firemen. I had fun goofing around on it with my boys and seeing all the features up close on an old fire engine. There is also a restored railroad caboose. This is also pretty neat to go through, play in, and look over. Unfortunately, the caboose was locked up on this visit. I don’t know why but I think maybe it had something to do with the heat. Then there is a 1926 McCormick Deering farm tractor. My youngest son loves tractors he calls them track-a-ders) so this is pretty cool for him. We’ve got some great pictures of him on this tractor and in the country store. We dressed him in some vintage looking clothes so he looks like a little boy from the 1920’s and fits right in with that store and tractor.

The museum is open on Tuesdays thru Saturdays from 9:00am to 5:00pm from March 1st thru September 30th. The museum is open from 10:00am to 4:00pm from October 1st thru February 28th.

I highly recommend the Brookshire’s World of Wildlife Museum & Country Store to all families, lovers of wildlife, and lovers of history. It’s definitely worth at least one visit and hey its free. You can’t beat that.

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