Jorg Hackemann / Shutterstock
The largest natural history museum in the world is also one of the most impressive sights in New York. Four city blocks make up its 45 exhibition halls, which hold more than 30 million artifacts from the land, sea, and outer space. With so many wonders, you can't see everything on a single visit, but you can easily hit the highlights in half a day—some of which are described below.
The Rose Center for Earth and Space should not be missed. Dark Universe>in the Hayden Planetarium, puts Hollywood effects to shame as it explores the cosmos and just how little we really know about it.
In 2012, after a $40 million renovation, the museum reopened its two-story Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, which includes the restored Central Park West entrance, the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda, and the reenvisioned Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall. The hall now includes a new bronze statue of a seated Roosevelt, a new bronze medallion in the floor, celebratory murals honoring
the Conservation President, touchscreen timelines, film footage, and the restoration of the Hall of North American Mammals (the hall originally opened in 1942 and many of its displays feature scenes from National Parks that were signed into being by Roosevelt).
The museum's Explorer app provides turn-by-turn directions so you can spend more time with the dinosaurs and less time wandering the museum's four floors looking for a restroom. Other handy features include preloaded or customizable tours, an interactive fossil treasure hunt for kids, and social media integration. The museum also has companion apps to support popular exhibits. Download to your personal device or borrow one from the museum.
An amazing assembly of dinosaur and mammal fossils covers the entire fourth floor. The organization can be hard to grasp at first, so head to the Wallach Orientation Center, where a short film explains how each of the Fossil Halls leads into each other. Highlights include a T. rex, an Apatosaurus (formerly called a Brontosaurus), and the Buettneria, which resembles a modern-day crocodile. The specimens are not in chronological order, but put together based on their shared characteristics.
Head for the Reptiles and Amphibians Hall on the third floor to check out the Komodo dragon lizards and a 23-foot-long python skeleton. The weirdest display is the enlarged model of the Surinam toad Pipa pipa, whose young hatch from the female's back. The Primates Hall carries brief but interesting comparisons between apes, monkeys, and humans. Also on the third floor is the upper gallery of the famed Akeley Hall of African Mammals.
The small Hall of Biodiversity includes a shady replica of a Central African Republic rain forest. Within a few yards are 160 species of flora and fauna—and also evidence of the forest's destruction. Nearby, the Spectrum of Life Wall showcases 1,500 specimens and models, helping show just how weird life can get. The wall opens into the gaping Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, designed to give it an underwater glow and to show off the 94-foot model of a blue whale that's suspended from the ceiling. The hall focuses on the vast array of life in the ocean that covers our planet.
If you're hungry, there are several options in the museum, including a cafeteria ($) on the ground floor serves sandwiches and burgers. Kids love the animal- and planet-shaped cookies. The Petrie Court Café, at the back of the 1st floor European Sculpture Court, has waiter service. The Roof Garden (open May–Oct.) has contemporary sculpture exhibits but most people take the elevator here to have a drink or snack while checking out the views of Central Park and the skyline.