With Manhattan less than an hour away, a weekend excursion to an indoor attraction is a welcoming distraction from too much studying. The American Museum of Natural History offers a journey from the dinosaur age to the future in space, at a discount for students.
Just left of Central Park stands a large, brown building with a pompous entrance and high ceilinged lobby where a couple of well-preserved dinosaur skeletons welcome visitors to the museum. Upon entering, there is that feeling of recognition, as if one had seen this before.
And many of us have, but only on the movie screen. In 2006, ‘Night at the Museum’ opened in movie theatres across the globe, with actor Ben Stiller playing a night shift guard, who experienced how an ancient curse brought animals and exhibits on display to life after closing hours. The American Museum of Natural History, or the AMNH, is the location where the main parts of the movie were shot, and many of the objects that came to life in the film are on display here. However, during a daytime visit, they stand completely still.
This does not mean that the museum lacks action though. There is still plenty to see, experience and interact with. Even photographing is allowed. On four really large floors, stands everything from stuffed mammals, reptile fossils and dinosaur skeletons, along with a wide range of ancient items and artifacts from numerous cultures and civilizations. There is also the ‘Guggenheim Hall of Minerals,’ the ‘Hall of Biodiversity’ and the ‘Millstein Hall of Ocean Life.’ In other words, there is a lot to see.
Starting at $5 extra added to the entrance fee, there is also the opportunity of watching one or more special exhibitions. Right now, there is an IMAX-movie, a space show, and a global food exhibition on display.
The LeFrak IMAX-theatre is now presenting ‘The Journey of the Butterflies,’ – a movie where the plot might be perceived a little slow, but with extraordinary color photography, and a unique story of how one man, a great butterfly enthusiast, devoted his life to mapping the flying route of a particular type of butterfly.
Playing in the Rose Center for Earth and Space, (a large planetarium attached to the museum), the ‘Journey to the Stars’ composes a telescopically filmed space show, narrated by actress Whoopi Goldberg, where viewers travel from past to future while learning about the birth and death of stars.
Then, there is ‘Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture.’ The exhibition presents global food markets, while teaching essential parts of some of the global challenges related to the topic. There is also the opportunity of tasting food from multiple corners of the world.
For those hungry for more, there are food courts and cafés inside the museum offering simple dishes like sandwiches, salads, and hot dogs, along with snacks. Just make sure to finish your meal before walking back inside since guards do not encourage a mess of food residue. If looking to buy a souvenir, there are plenty of gift shops, selling miniature, and sometimes cotton stuffed, versions of almost everything to be seen in the museum.
Lastly, the AMNH offers a variety of tours. The ‘Dino Tour,’ the ‘Highlights Tour’ and the ‘Earth and Space Tour’ are just a few of them. And then of course, there is the ‘Night at the Museum Tour,’ which although offered during daytime, still introduces visitors to the real exhibits behind the movie characters. Normally, no unexpected movements or unplanned activity from the animals or objects frightens the guests, but just in case, be careful not to spell out a curse. We don’t know what happens during night at this museum.
Address and Directions: 79th Street at Central Park West, 10024, NY. Take Subway train B (on weekdays), and Subway C, get off at 81st Street. Parking is available under the museum starting at $24 for one hour.
Prices: Students with ID pay a discount entrance of $19. Adults pay $25, Children (2-12) pay $14.50. Special exhibitions can be purchased for an additional $5 per show.
Opening Hours: Daily from 10am to 5.45pm.