What (inner) kid doesn’t love animals? Or dinosaurs? Or even stars? All of which you will find at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Founded in 1869 and most recently romanticized by the 2006 movie Night at the Museum starring Ben Stiller, it’s a place where people young and old can play and learn about creatures that walked the Earth millions of years ago (as well as those that inhabit the land and sea today) and stars that go back light years further.
You’ll also find traces of Theodore Roosevelt memorialized throughout (played by Robin Williams in the movie), the 26th President of the United States who was a champion of environmental conservatism and a major supporter of the museum. In fact, as a young boy Roosevelt even donated his own mounted specimens of a bat and 12 mice to the museum’s collection. As a history buff, I found the story behind his involvement pretty cool. And while you probably won’t need much convincing, here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t miss this classic NYC museum.
- Dinosaurs…rawr! – who doesn’t love dinosaurs(?!), and the museum boasts one of the most impressive collections of fossils around, from those that greet you at the entrance of the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda all the way up to the impressive tyrannosaurus rex in the fourth floor exhibit halls
- Life-size dioramas – throughout the museum you’ll find countless true-to-life recreations of natural habitats ranging from those of lions and ostriches in the Hall of African Mammals to dolphins and polar bears in the Hall of Ocean Life (aka the “whale room”) – it’s perhaps the closest you’ll get to the wild without actually being there
- Twinkle, twinkle, lots of stars – journey back in time 13 billion years to the origins of the universe as we know it to learn about the stars and planets, and don’t pass up the opportunity to kick back and see a show at the Hayden Planetarium (it’s worth the extra expense)
- Explore with the Explorer app – grab your smartphone and let the museum’s free Explorer app be your guide with tons of interactive features like easy-to-follow-directions, behind-the-scenes stories, the ability to browses your interests and make lists of must-see exhibits and more
- Central Park’s next door neighbor – whether you’re parked on a bench or strolling along a shaded path, Central Park is a great place to for adults to relax (and kids to play) before or after a visit to the museum – personally I love to start the day with a bagel and coffee from one of the little carts, or you can indulge in a NYC guilty pleasure like a hot dog, soft pretzel or ice cream cone for a cheap and fun snack