Naturally Cool: The American Museum of Natural History-

by Kelly, Manager of Partner and Group Services

AMNH3When I moved to New York City, I made a “New York City Bucket List.”  On it were all of the amazing things I wanted to do and see as a brand-new New Yorker – climb the Statue of Liberty, look up my ancestors at Ellis Island, see classic NYC staple shows like The Lion King and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, go to the very top of the Empire State Building, take the Staten Island Ferry, tour NBC…and visit the Museum of Natural History.  I have lived in New York City for almost a decade now, and after this past weekend, I am proud to say that I have finally completed my bucket list with a trip to the Museum of Natural History.

Located on Central Park West between the blocks of 77th – 81st Streets, the Museum of Natural History was founded in 1869 and sees approximately 5 million visitors annually.  It is comprised of 25 interconnected buildings that house 46 permanent exhibition halls, research laboratories, and its renowned library.

Some of the “must-see” staples of the museum:

AMNH41.)    The 94-foot long, 21,000 pound fibreglass replica of a female blue whale that hangs suspended in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.  Underneath the whale is a large open space amongst the other ocean life displays where museum dwellers can rest, take pictures, and get their bearings before moving on to the next exhibit.

2.)    The Hall of Dinosaurs – my favorite dinosaur display was (of course) the giant Tyrannosaurus Rex, which is combined of actual fossils found from two specimens discovered in the 1800s in Montana.

AMNH23.)    Henry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Gems and Minerals – with hundreds of unusual geological specimens and many rare, valuable gemstones – I loved getting the chance to view both the raw minerals (the quartz and giant amethyst were my favorites) and the cut gems both on their own and set in jewelry pieces in the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems.

4.)    Rose Center for Earth & Space – the Hayden Planetarium’s “Journey to the Stars” space show is an amazing sight to behold, spanning the expanse of the domed ceiling of the Planetarium.

Along with spending time at these wonderful staples of the museum’s installations, I was also lucky enough to visit three of the special exhibits on display as well:

1.)    Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture – this exhibition explores the complex and intricate food system that brings what we eat from farm to fork.  My favorite part of the exhibit was an interactive video installation where I learned how certain food items like apples, bananas, lamb and tuna reach my area from their origins in Washington, Ecuador, New Zealand, and Japan.

AMNH12.)    The Butterfly Conservatory – the butterfly vivarium is a custom-fabricated, temporary shell structure of approximately 1,315 square feet that sits within one of the museum’s existing galleries.  Filled with butterflies, the vivarium is a flurry of color and beauty.  One of the curators walking around making sure the butterflies were hydrated by misting them with water had a hitchhiking butterfly attached to her the entire time I was there – in fact, many patient visitors found a winged friend attached to some part of them while in the exhibit!  Along a side wall of the vivarium is a guarded display of live chrysalises where at any moment a live butterfly may hatch.  The day that I was at the museum, the curator had seen 4 butterflies hatch (just moments before I arrived, unfortunately), and told me that they would be released into the main vivarium to thrive with the other butterflies throughout the day.

3.)    Whales: Giants of the Deep – on tour from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (which houses one of the largest whale collections in the world,) this exhibit features more than 20 skulls and skeletons from various whale species and showcases many rare specimens, including the real skeleton of a male sperm whale measuring 58 feet long.  The skeleton is AMAZING, and I wish I could have taken a picture for posterity – unfortunately, the museum has a no-picture policy for that exhibit (guess you’ll just have to go see it in person!)  Another notable feature that the kids seemed to love is a replica of a whale heart that youngsters could climb through and explore – a whale’s heart is the size of a small child!

My recommendation to anyone looking to visit this amazing New York City institution would be to carve out a day to explore.  I was at the museum for just over 5 hours, and there are still things I missed (I have to go back and see the Willamette Meteorite in the Hall of the Universe – it’s 15.5 tons and is the largest meteorite ever found in the United States and the sixth-largest in the world!).  I would also advise purchasing the All-Inclusive Super Saver Pass, which gets you entrance to the museum, all special exhibits, and the “Journey to the Stars” space show, because you don’t want to miss any of the amazing exhibits featured at the museum.  The Butterfly Conservatory will be available through May 27th, and if you can’t catch that – a new exhibit called “Frogs: a Chorus of Colors” is coming in on May 18th.  The “Global Kitchen” exhibit is on hand until August 11th, and “Whales: Giants of the Deep” will be available through January 2014.  If you’d like any assistance with adding the museum to YOUR New York City Bucket List, please give us a call at 212-302-4019, or email me at kshoemaker@newyorkguest.com.

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Filed under New York Sightseeing, NYC with Kids, Out on the Town

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