American Museum of Natural History
Lovers of dinosaurs, sea creatures, outer space and more can get their animal & nature fix at this giant (45 fascinating halls) treasure trove of wonders. It can get quite crowded on weekends and holidays, but there is always a quiet nook to explore.
🚪Enter through the new Gilder Center at Columbus Ave at 79th Street for floor-to-ceiling collections displays and one-of-a-kind experiences among spectacular cave-like architecture connecting to the rest of the museum’s four floors. Other entrances include Central Park West (stairs at 79th Street) or 81st Street (between Columbus & Central Park West – stroller friendly).
🐝 Learn about bugs in an insectarium with 18 live species, pinned specimens, the world’s largest displays of live leafcutter ants, a large-scale, immersive hive and interactive digital exhibits.
🦋 In the Davis Family Butterfly Vivarium, mingle with up to 1,000 free-flying butterflies among lush vegetation in tropical temperature year-round (additional $4-$6 admission).
🌎 Explore how all life on Earth is connected, leading into an immersive, interactive experience that reveals a variety of connections at all scales, from the roots of the rainforest to the human brain in Invisible Worlds (additional $4-$6 admission). Kids love making the floor change colors with their feet.
🦖 The famous dinosaur bones fill most of the fourth floor. Don’t miss the Central Park view from the Astor Turret.
🪐 Learn about moon rocks and meteorites in the stunning Rose Center for Earth and Space.
🐋 A 94-foot-long blue whale hangs over an assortment of sea creatures in the Hall of Ocean Life.
🐘 Zebras, giraffes and other jungle animals surround a family of elephants in the Hall of African Mammals on the second floor.
💎 Be dazzled at the sparkly Halls of Gems and Minerals. Learn about the vast diversity of mineral species through more than 5,000 specimens from 98 countries, including giant amethyst geodes and the legendary 563-carat Star of India sapphire.
🦈 Timed tickets can be purchased in advance for special exhibits ($3.50-$5); shows sometimes sell out. Experience the most advanced planetarium projection system in the world in Lupita Nyong’o-narrated, Worlds Beyond Earth. See giant whales in motion on a 40-foot-high, 60-foot-wide IMAX screen.
❓Whatever you’re kid’s into, you can probably find it here. We’ve hunted for everything from turtles to musical instruments to ‘Dora’s house’ (Mexican architecture) and aways found what we were looking for and so much more.
🛗 This place is huge, so be prepared for lots of walking. Strollers are welcome everywhere (except some special exhibits where they can be left at the entrance). Elevators are very slow, so take the stairs if you can.
⛲️ In warm weather, frolic in large spinklers on the second floor terrace outside the planetarium – don’t forget a bathing suit & towel.
🛍 Find gift shops throughout the book with cool STEM toys, books, apparel and more fun souvenirs.
🍽 The Food Court is open 10:30 am-5:30 pm Wednesday-Sunday, plus snacks available in vending machines and gift shops. Pick up burgers and shakes from Shake Shack across Columbus and eat on the benches surrounding the museum.
📘 Discover what dinosaurs do after dark in charming picture book The Night at the Museum (inspiration for the Ben Stiller film). In Brian Selznick’s novels in words and pictures, Wonderstruck, kids search for something at the museum in two independent stories fifty years apart, woven together with mesmerizing symmetry.
🎟 Admission is pay-what-you-wish for NY, NJ, and CT residents (ID required on arrival). But really you should become a member ($150+/year); it takes dozens of visits to see everything, plus you get lots of perks.
🎟 Online advance timed ticket purchase required; time slots can sell out.