Visiting the American Museum of Natural History

In this handy guide, we’ve put together some helpful info and tips to enhance your next visit to The American Museum of Natural History.

The American Museum of Natural History is easily one of the largest natural history museums in the world. It is housed in a complex comprising of 28 interconnected buildings!

I want you to visualize a past experience at any museum and see what comes to mind. Now imagine visiting one of the largest museum on the planet! Can you handle it?

Getting Started

Begin with planning

As mentioned above, this is the largest natural history museum on the planet. There are always so many exhibits happening at any moment, so you may not be able to see it all in a single visit. You can plan your tour in a way that allows you to see the exhibits and events that interest you the most. For instance, I always make it a top priority to visit any new exhibits first, then check out some of my usual favorites like the Fossil and Mammal Halls later in the day.

Photo: Courtesy of amnh.org

Essential items to carry:

Capturing memories is an important part of any museum visit. As such, here are some important items you can carry with you, including:

  • A camera: If you think your phone camera will not be enough, carry another one with extra batteries.

  • Get a map of the museum: Technology has made things easier; you can simply download a free Explorer app for iOS and Android. There is also a PDF map of the museum. You can’t lose your way.

  • Your passes and identification documents

  • Your tickets

  • Cash/credit cards

Consider the following:

  • Buying tickets in advance. They are available online and will help you avoid waiting in lines for admission.

  • Get to know CityPASSES. This will help you save close to 50% on top attractions

Visit in groups. School and camp visits are always cheaper.

Location, Location, Location

The American Museum of Natural History is located at Central Park West & 79th St, New York, NY 10024.

Common Questions You May Have:

One of the aims of the AMNH is to ensure easy and free accessibility to all facilities for everyone. As mentioned earlier, however, it has 33 million+ specimens, which cannot be displayed all at once. The key is discovering the right time to make your move.

It depends on the events of the day and when they close. Therefore, get the list of events and the time they are listed, you can then get the best time to visit.

As long as you have the essential tools mentioned above, traveling in and around the museum should be easy. Consider the following, for convenience:

  • Public transport: There are busses like the M79, which make it easy for travelers. But taking the subway seems a much better option. It is faster, though more costly, if you don’t have passes.

  • Bike parking: Use the bicycle racks in the driveway of the museum’s Rose Center for Earth. There is space at the parking garage, as well.

  • Taxi vs. Driving: These are more expensive options but can save you on time if you are up for it.

I don’t recommend driving, as with most places in NYC, there is not much street parking available. This area currently has a lot of construction zones as well, making the driving situation even more of a nightmare. There are a few parking garages in the area, but be warned, they tend to be pricey. 

The museum is a massive phenomenon. You will, therefore, need a ticket to get in. The problem is, you will always get tourist crowds and ticket lines. This can be overwhelming and sometimes discouraging.

Why should you go through such trouble when there is an easy way out? Simply go online and purchase your tickets beforehand. You skip the lines if you already have your ticket.

Ensure you review each ticket type, though. Some give you access to special exhibitions, films, and shows.

Fun Facts:

AMNH has 45 permanent halls dedicated to exhibitions. There is also a planetarium and a library. Here are a few more facts about the museum:

  • It is more than 150 years old. Established in 1869.
  • It sits on a surface of more than 2 million square feet (190,000 m 2 ).
  • It houses a collection exceeding 33 million specimens. These include plants, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks, meteorites, human remains, and cultural artifacts.
  • Only a small fraction on these specimens are displayed at any given time.
  • It served by a full-time scientific staff of 225 individuals.
  • Every year, the museum sponsors more than 120 field expeditions.
  • It receives more than 5 million visits annually.

A brief history of the museum

  • April 1969 – New York Governor, John Thomson Hoffman signs a bill to officially create the AMNH.
  • 1869 to 1877 – Housed in the Arsenal building in Central Park.
  • 1874 – Cornerstone laid for the first building, now hidden by many other buildings.
  • 1877 – The original Gothic building opened.
  • 1877 to 1930 –Major expansions starting with the south range.
  • 1992 to 2015 – Planning and addition of the Memorial Hall and the library.
  • To date –​ Other minor additions approved expansions of 2016 by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, NY.
Photo: Courtesy of amnh.org
Photo: Courtesy of amnh.org

While At The Museum

How do you navigate the museum?

For a start, every visitor is required to pass through the security checkpoints. This ensures the safety of the visitors, staff, and stuff. This process may take a while since you will be required to open your bags.

But the most important thing to consider is carrying a museum map. You’ll want to see everything from the Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life (I personally love this one) to the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins.

Photo: Courtesy of ny.curbed.com
Photo: Courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

Guided Tours

  • Highlights Tour – daily between 10:15 and 3:15

  • Spotlight tours- Focused on specific halls or themes

  • Explainers – come with volunteers to answer questions and explain fossils.

  • Private group tours – there are a number of them at your disposal

  • Use the free Explorer App.

What areas of the museum do I *HAVE* to visit?

The truth is, this massive museum contains a significant record of this planet’s history.

It is hard to say for sure which areas once must visit. It all depends on what you are most interested in. From animal fossils to human culture, plants to sea life, there is literally something for everyone.

Check out some of my recommended events and exhibits in the next section.

Events and exhibits you shouldn’t miss:

There are several special exhibitions you need to be aware of. Among, many, there is:

  • The Hayden Planetarium Space Show. This is a virtual reality show that ends on July 2027
  • Our senses. This is an exhibition that drives you to understand your senses better. 

Permanent exhibits

  • Birds and Reptiles and Amphibian Halls. Here, you will get four halls displaying a variety of the stated said classes of animals.
  • Earth and planetary sciences hall. Divided into three halls, experience the study of meteorite segments from different parts of the universe.
  • Fossil Halls. This is the largest and most popular attraction site of the museum. It contains fossils and pre-historic creatures – dealing with advanced topics.
  • Human Origin and Cultural halls. Understand human history.
  • Mammal halls. An in-depth look into the mammal world.
  • Rose Centre for Earth and Space. Display a clear picture of our universe.
  • Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall. Explore the life of Theodore Roosevelt
  • The Discovery Room. Comes with an element of wonder and discovery
  • “Hands-on” experiences. If you love to get handy with everything, there are several fun activities at the museum you can enjoy with your family. All you need have to do is know where the events are set and how to get there.

5 student and family programs that are offered by the museum

The American Museum of Natural History has more to offer. There are programs that have been designed both for students as well as family members to benefit from.

Student programs

  • Adventures in Science classes: This program is designed to cover all areas in Museum science. It is meant for children in grades pre-K-5. 

  • Lang science program: Are you looking for a hands-on science exploration? Then this is the program for you. The program is ideally meant for middle and high school students in New Tork City.

  • Science Alliance program: This is a hands-on investigation program for kids. It is mostly targeted at preschoolers who would like to become part of the museum’s investigators. 

Family programs

  • The Early Adventure program: This program is meant for young children, their parents as well as caregivers. It is meant to encourage exploration among young children.

  • The science and nature program: This program is designed to help young children understand as well as respect the natural world and get skills for scientific inquiry. 

Photo Ops!

Capture the best moments with popular photo opportunities/ spots. Unless stated otherwise, you are free to take photos in any area of the museum. You can pause at the entrance with your family as you exit and get some great shots!

What’s next ?

Gift Shops

Now that you are done admiring the museum, why not take a moment to check out the gift shop? This is one of the best ways to ensure you have your very own little piece of museum history to carry back home.

Popular restaurants with local cuisine

By now you’ve probably walked the equivalent of a mini New York City marathon inside the museum. Naturally, this will be a big drain your on your energy, and you may have to refill afterwards. Luckily for you, there are several restaurants that serve a variety of delicious local cuisine. The food court provides a wide range of family-friendly fare. Get foods such as burgers, pizza, sandwiches, tacos, salads, and sushi. The Shake Shack behind the museum has top rated burgers and shakes. There are carts across the street as well, where hot dogs are served. Finally if your feeling even more adventourous, take a stroll and check out some of the other local restaurants in the area.

Discuss it at home.

At the museum, you probably did more “seeing” and less “talking”. If there is anything you wish to discuss, now it a great time to share your favorite moments, exhibits and experiences with your friends and family. If you took advantage of the Photo Ops, be sure to share those as well!

“I’ve always been a ‘jack of all trades’ kind of person. I consider myself to be a true generalist, and a bit of an autodidact with constant thirst for knowledge. Growing up, I was always that one kid in the room that took all the toys apart and spent the next couple hours figuring out how to put them back together again. This reverse-engineering, logical and structured mindset has always been the central core of my personality…until I met Mirsada, and was introduced to ART!

Art became this puzzle that couldn’t simply solve by breaking it down and put back together again. Mirsada taught me to embrace art for all it’s intrinsic values. I soon realized that artists expressed themselves directly through their work. I learned that true masters of art are even able to convey all their thoughts, emotions, experiences, aspirations, and even their souls to those that bear witness to their work.

Currently, I work in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors at some of the largest hospital systems in NYC. I also write for my Personal Finance blog, Simoners.com

In a city so immersed in art culture, I’m soaking it in each and everyday in a self-indulgent pursuit to understand art in all forms.”

— Isaiah Simon

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