I am a museum lover. I seek out cool museums of any kind wherever I go (though to be honest, sometimes I give them a pass if I’m being cheap). The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History was always a favorite of mine as a child. As a former DC resident and Smithsonian employee, I should probably not say this, but the Smithsonian one pales in comparison to the American Museum of Natural History, located right next to Central Park in New York City.
I made a trip to this museum in January 2010 and here’s what I saw.
It’s a cool building, and of course there’s a hot dog stand outside.
The architectural details are especially interesting.
A statue of President Theodore Roosevelt stands outside. His father was one of the museum’s founders.
Just inside there’s some massive dinosaur skeletons.
I started with the section of taxidermied animals. Though the exhibits are clearly kind of old at this point, they are well done. There are painted backgrounds and recreated scenes to look like the natural habitat. A lot of times they look so alive – perhaps that’s what inspired Night at the Museum.
I’m sure many people find these sorts of displays rather morbid, but I think they’re fascinating, and historically interesting as well.
Of course, the museum is not all displays of dead animals; there are collections of cultural objects as well. The explanation plaques are well done here, and you can learn a lot through viewing these objects.
The Hayden Planetarium in the museum has a space show, which is right now Whoopi Goldberg narrated (the National Air and Space Museum in DC has this one too). This didn’t fit in with my budget, unfortunately.
Next I visited the dinosaur exhibit. This one was really interesting because there have actually been a lot of new discoveries regarding dinosaurs since I was a kid, and I got to learn all about what the new research says (for instance, they had to change the position of this T-rex once they learned more about how it moved).
The reptiles and amphibians section goes into great detail about the life cycle of those animals.
There was a small special exhibit on spider silk while I was there. This tapestry was woven from spider silk!
I next went through the gems and minerals section. I find it hard to really get interested in these sorts of sections even if the stuff in them looks pretty cool. [Here’s one place the DC one is better – they’ve got the Hope diamond.]
There’s one room in the museum with giant versions of things, like a mosquito and this Rafflesia (also known as the corpse flower). Kind of neat.
The final section that I went through was the oceans exhibit. It was especially dimly lit so none of my pictures really turned out. Perhaps I should do another post comparing the two Natural History museums since each has its pros and cons.
Overall, I really like the American Museum of Natural History. I spent hours there and didn’t give every exhibit the attention it deserved. I would definitely recommend a visit.
- Location: 79th Street and Central Park West. Take the B or C train to the 81st Street Station or take the 1 train to Broadway and West 79th and walk two blocks east. See the website for more directions (bus, etc).
- Hours: 10 AM – 5:45 PM daily. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas.
- Admission: This is kind of interesting. The ‘ticket price’ is actually a suggested donation. It’s $19 for adults and $14.50 for students with ID. But the thing is, you can pay less. You would have to stand in line and tell the person at the counter what you wanted to pay. So they make you feel like you have to pay the full price, but honestly, you don’t have to. I payed the full student price because even though it’s kind of expensive, I like supporting museums.
- Other Info: For special exhibit and IMAX information, visit the website. Depending on your pace in museums, you should give it 2-4 hours, at least. The coat check is $2 and can save your arms a lot of strain.