There are a lot of museums in New York City, but none inspire more awe than the American Natural History Museum on Central Park West. Housing over 32 million artifacts, spread across four city blocks 25 buildings and 45 exhibition halls. Most museums you can easily tour in a few hours or a day at most, however the Natural history Museum is not one of those. To see the permanent exhibitions as well as the visiting ones, it is a two to three day affair at least. However, if you are on a tight schedule, here are some permanent exhibits they you just can't miss.
Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs Everywhere!
What is a visit to any Natural History Museum without seeing at least on dinosaur skeleton. Luckily, there is no shortage in the AMDH. The dinosaur exhibits can all be found on the fourth floor and house over 600 different specimens that are on display for viewing. Be sure to stop by the Miriam and Ida D. Wallach Orientation Center, not so much for the video narrated by Meryl Streep, but more so for the giant full-sized reconstruction of a Barosaurus. After that, head down to the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs to see the Tyrannosaurus Rex and Apatosaurus (or better known as the Brontosaurus). When checking out other dinosaurs of the Saurischian family, keep in mind that these giant prehistoric monsters are ancestors to modern day birds.
Just a short walk past the Saurischian exhibit is the Hall of Ortnithischian Dinosaurs. The Ortnithischian family of dinosaurs is famous for their backwards facing pubic bone. Check out the two stars of this family, the Stegosaurus and Triceratops.
See the Giant Blue Whale
No visit to the American Natural History Museum in New York could be complete without seeing their world famous blue whale. This 94-foot long, 21,000-pound behemoth is located on the first floor in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, suspended from the ceiling. Don't worry about forgetting to look up and see it though, it is one of those things you just cannot overlook. However, that is not the only thing to see in the Hall of Ocean Life. The ocean covers 2/3 of the planet and it is from it that all life sprang. This exhibit houses 750 different creatures including 14 dioramas and 8 ecosystem displays.
One of the can't miss dioramas include the famous "Squid and Whale" diorama, which depicts a hypothetical fight between the two massive creatures.
Experience the Vastness of the Universe
Located on the north side of the museum, the Hayden Planetarium is one of the main attractions of the Rose Center for Earth and Space. Inside the planetarium is split into two levels. The top half depicts the universe as we currently know it, essentially it is a large star map. The bottom half is a four minute show depicting the birth of the universe via the Big Bang.
Try not to get rushed through the exit by a crowd though, the exit leads to a ramp called the Heilbrun Cosmic Pathway. Every stride on this pathway represents 1 million years in the universe after its birth. Some major developmental stages include the formation of the Milky Way, the first life known on Earth, formation of oxygen by oceans, and the age of dinosaurs. The 360-foot path also contains a meteorite that dates back to the birth of our solar system, a trilobite, and a fossilized tooth of a dinosaur. At the end of the path, visitors should know the tiny, hair thin era in which spans humanities entire existence. It accurately makes visitors feel like a speck among specks in the vastness of an infinitely old entity.
Get Down and Dirty
A visit to the first floor Guggenheim Hall of Minerals may not exactly seem like the most interesting place to visit in such a vast museum. However, what really makes it worth a visit is the fact that you can let your natural desire to touch things go wild. Some of 90,000 different specimens of minerals are enclosed in cases, however many of them are available to touch and hold. This is a great place to teach children about different types of rocks that they have never seen where they live. I know it is one of my fondest childhood memories.
Some of the finest specimens they have on display include a 4.5 ton block of azurite-malachite ore, a nephrite jade slab, and gold in its various forms. However, their crowned jewel, so to speak, is the Newmont Azurite. This particular rock is renowned for it's perfect jet black crystal formation that rest unblemished on tan calcite.
After touring the Guggenheim Hall of Monuments, be sure to stop by the connecting Ross Hall of Meteorites. Space rocks are always a treat, however, the biggest attraction is the Cape York Meteorite located in the center of the room. The best part is touching it. You will be touching an object that is 4.5 billion years older than yourself.
Learn About Our Native Americans
The American natural history Museum has a huge collection of exhibits dedicated to humanity. From the people of Asia to African and several exhibits dedicated to Native Americans. You can find Native American museums all around the United States, however if you are visiting New York City, why not make an effort to learn about the Native Americans that once dwelled there? The Hall of Eastern Woodlands Indians shows off the traditional culture of Native American peoples including the Iroquois, Mohegans, Ojiwas, and Cree tribes who lived in the area around New York through the early 20th century.
A particular point of interest is the housing styles of these Native Americans. The museum shows off designs such as the Iroquois longhouse, Ojibwa domed wigwam, and Creek council house. There are exhibits that show off the daily life of these people which includes farming techniques, food preparations, and ceremonial practices of the people.
However, probably the most interesting object in this exhibit is the Menominee birchbark canoe, which was made completely from things found in the forest and was light enough to be carried over land to different bodies of water.