American Museum of Natural History Review
I visited the American Museum of Natural History a few weeks ago when I was in New York City and wanted to review it for you. The AMNH is also a part of Bank Of America’s Museum on Us Perk. The Museum on Us perk allows BOA cardmembers into select museums for free. The perk is available the first full weekend of every month in 2017. You can use your Bank Of America card to visit the American Museum of Natural History for free this Saturday and Sunday!
The American Musuem of Natural History is located across the street from Central Park. It stands between 77th and 81st street on Central Park West.
Here is a map of the location:
The best way to get to the AMNH is the subway. 81st Street–Museum of Natural History is a local station on the IND Eighth Avenue Line of the New York City subway. It is served by the C train at all times except nights, when the A train takes over service. The B train provides additional service here on weekdays, except nights.
I was staying at the Intercontinental Times Square and hopped on the C train at the Times Square-42nd Street/Port Bus Authority Terminal station. I rode that 4 stops north and got off at the 81st street stop. The nice part about taking the subway is there is an entrance to the museum located in the subway terminal. In my experience the subway entrance to the museum usually has shorter lines compared to the front entrance.
The American Museum of Natural History has a pay what you can afford donation/ticket price policy. As long as you pay more than 1 penny you can enter the museum. This policy was instituted by the museum to help out the less fortunate local residents in the greater NYC area. The suggested prices are:
- Adult $23
- Student (with ID) $18
- Senior (ages 60+) $18
- Children (ages 2 – 12) $13
- Membership $115 Individual/$150 Family
I would suggest paying as close to these prices as you can afford, it is well worth it. But, if you are on a tight budget it is good to know you can still gain entry. However, if you buy the tickets online first you get to skip most, if not all, of the lines. If you value time over money I highly recommend this option. I was able to skip about 50 people in line at the subway entry. My wife and I tried to visit the museum last Memorial Day weekend and the museum had an hour and a half wait to get in, but we would have skipped most of the wait if we had bought tickets online. We decided to visit Central Park instead that day. I wasn’t going to make the mistake again!
Layout and Exhibits
I only did the standard pass and did not do any of the extra cost exhibits. This place is HUGE (or is it YUUUUGE on the east coast?) and I think the standard ticket is enough for your first trip. The exhibits are spread across four floors. I was there for close to 3 hours and I still didn’t see everything.
If you come in the subway entrance you enter on the lower level. There is a large cafeteria on this floor. Pretty much every floor has a snack shop/cafe so you don’t need to trek all the way down to the basement to eat if you don’t want to. The cafeteria along with a gift shop (I believe the largest one) are the only things of note on this floor.
The first floor was the best one in my opinion and it also has the most exhibits. My favorite area was on this floor, the Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life. The massive life size replica whale is probably the most astonishing thing in the entire museum. The exhibit has a lot of information on sharks, squids, and whales. It also has an informative movie that runs around the clock. Even the mood lighting in the room is perfect, it makes you feel like you are “under the sea”.
The other notable exhibits on this floor are:
- Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals
- Hayden Planetarium
- Spitzer Hall of Human Origins
The second floor is actually where the main entrance is. My favorite room on this floor was the Akeley Hall of African Mammals. It included all of the animals you would hope to see on an African safari. The animals are placed in beautifully created scenes that truly make them look lifelike. These are truly works of art!
Other notable exhibits on this floor are:
- South American Peoples
- Stout Hall of Asian Peoples
- Hayden Big Bang Theater
The third level was a smaller level and the most popular exhibit on it was for Mummies, which was one of the paid exhibits. The section I was most looking forward to on this level was the Reptiles and Amphibians section. I ended up disappointed because the exhibit was pretty small and very limited. The room had a weird, dark set up.
Other notable exhibits are:
- Plains Indians
- Eastern Woodland Indians
The fourth level, aka the dinosaurs! I mean EVERYONE has to be most interested in the dinosaur exhibit, right? Of course the museum puts the exhibit on the highest level. I must admit I was hoping to see the T-Rex from night at the museum (it is actually at The Field Museum in Chicago). Realizing there was a slim chance of it actually being at the American Museum of Natural History I was still very excited to see some dinosaurs! After seeing the molds of animals they made in the lower levels I expected some life like dinosaur replicas to be on display. That was not the case. There were some nice skeletons/fossils on display but it seemed underwhelming. The massive whale replica on level one may have had something to do with that feeling.
It was the busiest exhibit, or at least the most cramped. The pop up orchestra concert did not help things in that department.
There was not a lot of space in the rooms which surprised me. This had to be the most popular regular exhibit and I would have expected a room in line with the Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life. That room’s size alone was impressive and I would have liked to see a similar set up for the dinosaur exhibit. The crowds and lack of space in each room made me skip over the displays a lot quicker than I would have liked. The dinosaur exhibit was still the best exhibit of the fourth floor.
Other exhibits on the fourth level are:
- Primitive Mammals
- Vertebrate Origins
- Milstein Hall of Advanced Mammals
The American Museum of Natural History was one of the highlights of my trip to the big apple. It was massive and more time consuming than I had imagined. You could spend an entire weekend checking everything out in there. It is worth checking out for adults and children alike. I look forward to taking my kids during an upcoming trip in the Spring.
Although I find the standard pricing very reasonable I think offering tickets with any donation amount is a great idea. This insures everyone is able to enjoy the museum. I will continue to purchase mine online to skip the lines, unless I happen to be there the first weekend of the month. Being able to take advantage of the Museum On Us perk from Bank of America would be hard to pass up.
Having a subway stop for the museum, and a separate subway entrance, make the location easily accessible. Being next to Central Park means you can pair the two together and make it a day long excursion. Make sure to check out the model boat sailing at conservatory water if it is a nice day, my favorite place in NYC.
All in all I would rate the place as a must see if you are in NYC for more than a couple of days. The exhibits are mostly well thought out and the displays are pretty flawless. The American Museum of Natural History offers one of the best values in NYC.
Here are some extra photos