Friday, March 20, 2015

American Museum of Natural History - New York City

When my family visited New York City over the March Break our very first stop was the American Museum of Natural History.  My kids have seen the Night at the Museum movies and were eager to see many of the exhibits featured in the movie.  It is pretty consistently rated as the top attraction for families in New York City so it made sense to start there.
Checking out Rex in the Dinosaur exhibit.
Well, let's just say we weren't the only ones with that idea.  It was a rainy Saturday afternoon and the place was packed.  We had to wait in line since the museum was at capacity and couldn't allow anyone else in.  I would say that waiting in line is a bit of a recurring theme in New York City in general and definitely at the AMNH.  There was the line up to get into the Museum, the line up to buy tickets, the line up for the coat check, the line up for the movie (included in admission) etc.  So be prepared to wait if you go when it is busy.

If your kids have seen Night at the Museum you can follow a tour based on the movie. If that doesn't interest your kids there are also the Highlights tour, an Earth and Space tour or a Dinosaur tour, one of which is bound to interest your kids.  If you wander around without a plan you will see lots of interesting things but you will also miss a lot of interesting things so it is definitely worth taking a look at the tours and floor plan before heading to the Museum.

If you are hitting the Highlights, be aware that everyone else is too.  We couldn't even get into the Hall of Ocean Life to see the Blue Whale as there was a line up to get in and it was closing before we would have made it in.
We wandered into the Hall of Mammals looking for a wash room!
We ended up staying about an hour since there was so much to see.
The Museum is huge.  You won't be able to see it all even if you have unusually indefatigable children so I strongly encourage you to pick a handful of things you want to see and hit those or content yourself with wandering into the nearest gallery and meandering around.  Like I said, you won't see everything but what you will see will be great.
Watching a chipmunk stuff three acorns into its tiny face is worth the
price of admission alone.
The admission ticket you get with the City Pass includes either the Planetarium or a 3D movie.  I was surprised my kids opted for the 3D movie which was Tiny Giants when were there.  They were not disappointed.  It was hilarious, adorable and informative.  My kids are still talking about it and imitating the mouse in the movie a week later.  My husband went to the Dark Universe show at the Planetarium and he said it was great so if you have a space buff they will enjoy it.

The Butterfly Conservatory.  One of the many things we didn't get to  - this time.
So I realize this is almost sacrilegious to say since the American Museum of Natural History is so beloved but it wasn't our favourite thing we did in New York, not by a long shot.  The sheet size of it is daunting and a bit frustrating since you know there is something awesome just around the corner but you have run out of energy or time and can't see it.  It being so crowded also takes some of the fun out of it, partly because you have to keep a really close eye on your kids or you will lose them and partly because of the waiting and missing things because you can't get in due to the crowds.  I don't think there is ever a time when the Museum isn't busy but a weekday afternoon would probably be better than a Saturday afternoon.  Having said all of that, my kids did like it and would happily go back any time.
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Things to keep in mind:

  • The Museum of Natural History is on the West Side of Central Park at 79th street.  The Museum has its own subway stop on the B and C lines.  Once you come out of the subway stop you won't have any trouble finding it, just follow the crowd!
  • They have a cafeteria which is pretty standard.  They don't sell bottled water but you can fill up a cup with water for free.  
  • You can park at the Museum, they have their own lot, but it will cost you around $35.
  • The coat check is $2 a person.
  • You can use flash photography in the Museum
  • They have a great, huge gift shop and a couple of smaller ones such as the Dino shop.  
  • For admission to the museum and either a movie or a special exhibit it will be about $80 for a family of four.  
  • You can use the City Pass for the Museum of Natural History.  

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