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. Most visitors begin with the iconic and amazing assembly of dinosaur and mammal fossils taking up the entire fourth floor. Highlights include a T. Rex, an Apatosaurus (formerly called a Brontosaurus), and the Titanosaur, a recently discovered species that is so long at 122 feet, it can't even fit all the way inside its exhibit hall (its head sticks out the door to greet you) . The specimens are not in chronological order, but put together based on their shared characteristics. The Rose Center for Earth and Space is another must-see. 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. Head for the third floor to check out the Komodo dragon lizards and a 23-foot-long python in Reptiles and Amphibians; a brief but interesting comparison between apes, monkeys, and humans in the Primates Hall; and 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. The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, designed to emit an underwater glow, is home to another museum icon—the 94-foot model of a blue whale, suspended from the ceiling. The hall focuses on the vast array of life in the ocean that covers our planet. The AMNH offers various programs and special exhibits throughout the year that allow for a more interactive experience. Between October and May, don’t miss the warm, plant-filled Butterfly Conservatory, where blue morphos, monarchs, and other butterflies flit and feed. Ten minutes is probably enough time to enjoy it. Also in October, the AMNH hosts the Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival, the longest-running premiere showcase for international documentaries in the United States. Tickets are made available one month prior to the festival, and online at www.amnh.org/mead. The Rose Center’s monthly One Step Beyond series is the perfect place to bust out your moonwalk and enjoy a few "cosmicpolitans"; the event features live bands, DJs, VJs, cocktails, and dynamic visuals. If you just don't want to go home, the museum also offers a hugely popular Night-at-the-Museum sleepover program for kids age 6–13 as well as a separate sleepover program for adults. Learn more about special programs at amnh.org/plan-your-visit.
If you're hungry, there are several options in the museum, including a cafeteria ($) on the ground floor that serves sandwiches and burgers. The Petrie Court Café, at the back of the first-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.