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Thursday, January 4, 2018

Visiting the American Museum of Natural History

Front of the American Museum of Natural History

New York has been trying hard to win me over.  

You probably know by now that I was never a city person.  But oh, those winds of change.  Every time I hop on Metro North to New York, my opinions shift from "This city just smells like garbage" to "There are so many options for ramen".  New York City is a destination with so much to see, do, and of course, eat- it just took me a little longer than most to figure that out.  This year I made several trips to the city from playing tourist with Amanda to visiting the World's Best Bar, and sipping "Frosé" on a roof top bar on a hot summer day.  Iv'e seen the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular, walked through Chelsea Market and along the Highline, stood in Times Square, saw the Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, visited the 9/11 memorial, walked the Brooklyn Bridge, and strolled through Central Park, and lots more.   But let me be honest.... I had never been to any of NYC's museums.  

Well this trip was in mid December with fresh snow on the ground and there were two goals: start tackling some of the museums and soak up christmas in the city- done and done. says there are 83 museums in total among the 5 boroughs. With a list that long, where do you start?  The 5 most-visited is always a good way to begin.  Chris had been to many of New York's museums and decided that the American Museum of Natural History would be a good place to start.  Because you know, dinosaurs and mummies of course. 

Posing with "Rexy" -- The first T. rex fossil was discovered by a curator from the American Museum of Natural History—the legendary Barnum Brown—and the Museum boasts one of the few specimens of T. rex on public display.

The American Museum of Natural History sees almost 5 million visitors a year.  
Why is this museum so popular, coming in at #2 on the most visited list?  It is well known for it's science museum with dinosaur fossils, exhibitions covering nearly all animal and human history, IMAX theatre, planetarium, a butterfly conservatory, and  more including special moving exhibits.   And let's be honest, we all want to walk through the place featured in the "Night at the Museum" - the movie that showed this very museum coming to life.  This was my first time to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH to many) and I was so excited to see some dinosaurs and Robin Williams/Theodore Roosevelt out front.  

Admission into the museum, starting at $23 for adults

As far as admission goes, you have a few options.  We decided on General Admission + One, general admission plus one special exhibition, giant screen film, or space show.  This museum is huge and we didn't get to see all the normal exhibits, never mind trying to see all the special exhibitions.  For the "plus one", we chose the mummy exhibition- all about Egyptian and Peruvian mummies, with several on display and spoiler: CT scans of some of the mummies showing visitors a glimpse inside the wraps.

American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West & 79th St, New York, NY 10024

Tickets: Adult tickets range from $23 to $33.  There are long lines which can be avoided by buying your ticket online ahead of time. There are also combination passes that include the museum and some of New Yorks top attractions (the City Pass, New York Pass, and NYC Explorer Pass).
Hours:  Open daily, 10:00 am – 5:45 pm. Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Coat check:  Yes, $2- this was already full by the time we got to the museum
Photographs: Yes (but not of the remains) - No selfie sticks or tripods
Luggage or oversized bags: not allowed and can't be checked.
Wine and Dine: Several options right inside the museum.
    Museum Food Court- Lower Level Open daily, 11 am–4:45 pm
    Café on One- First floor, Grand Gallery Open daily, 11 am–4:45 pm --Food, Wine, Beer 
    Café on Four Fourth floor, adjacent to 77th Street elevators Open daily, 11 am–4:45 pm 
    Light meals and assorted snacks.

 Theodore Roosevelt Memorial and Hall of North American Mammals. 

Tours:  If you want to move at your own pace, a self guided tour is your best option and you can find a copy of the Floor Plan here- there are four floors and so much to see.  If you prefer a guided tour, there is a museum highlights tour and a spotlight tour lead by trained docents. Tours are free with Museum Admission and all tours begin at the entrance to the Bernard Hall of North American Mammals, first floor.

   Museum Highlight Tours-- Daily at 10:15, 11:15, 12:15, 1:15, 2:15, and 3:15.
   Spotlight Tours-- specific halls or themes. Times and topics vary see the information desk 

David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing

Some things you should know:  This museum would be impossible to fully capture in a day.  Pick your top "must see" exhibits and start there.  Also, be prepared for a lot of screaming children.  Prefer a kidless crowd?  Check out some of the adult only programs at the museum including this adult only sleepover- jazz, champagne, and fossils anyone?

Wikipedia Facts
28 interconnected buildings housing 45 permanent exhibition halls, in addition to a planetarium and a library.  The museum collections contain over 33 million specimens of plants, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks, meteorites, human remains, and human cultural artifacts, of which only a small fraction can be displayed at any given time, and occupies more than 2,000,000 square feet (190,000 m2).  The museum has a full-time scientific staff of 225, sponsors over 120 special field expeditions each year and averages about five million visits annually.

David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing
My favorites? the mummy special exhibition (again, real mummies and CT scans of whats inside) the hall of primates, and the dinosaur exhibits to name a few.  If you don't trust me, here is a list of the 5 best exhibits if you need some additional inspiration and motivation to visit the museum. 

Entrance to the museum 

The museum is a little overwhelming but in a wonderfully chaotic way.  So many exhibits, so much to see and of course so many people.  Don't let the crowds deter you and if you really must skip the crowds, try visiting on a weekday afternoon or Sunday morning (this post includes some great additional tips on visiting the AMNH).   I really enjoyed an afternoon at the museum and if I lived in the city, I could see myself with a season pass, spending many rainy afternoons walking among the dinosaurs and the elephants.  A great day in one of New Yorks best museums and an experience for both the young and young at heart.  

One museum down, 80 something to go. 

Front entrance to the museum 

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