B, C at 81st St.-Museum of Natural History; 1 at 79th St.
Suggested admission: $22, $17 students and seniors, $12 children
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Established in 1869, the American Museum of Natural History covers four blocks between West 77th and 81st Streets and—with its enormous galleries of dinosaurs, aquatic life, fossils, and meteorites—is one of the city's most appealing museums for children. Visitors to the large and labyrinthine buildings twist and turn past a modern biodiversity hall, Plains Indians galleries with '70s-style wood-paneled walls, and dark, and vaguely creepy rooms filled with dioramas and taxidermy, some courtesy of Teddy Roosevelt who sent back his trophies from safaris in Africa. Roosevelt wasn't the only contributor. Harry Houdini donated his stuffed gray parrot. Kids will either be fascinated or freaked. The renovated dinosaur floor—what many visitors, especially kids, consider the museum's crowning glory—showcases over 600 dinosaur fossils from the museum's record-setting collection, and includes a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton that has both frightened and enthralled generations of children. Elsewhere, the anthropology halls display artifacts collected by the renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead who made her headquarters here when she wasn't observing in the South Seas. There are usually two special exhibits on view at any given time. Past shows have ranged from detailed explorations of the genome to cultural overviews of Vietnam to wildly popular displays of live frogs and butterflies. Leave some time to explore space. The glassy Rose Center for Earth and Space, hailed as an architectural masterpiece, adds the equivalent of another museum. The Rose Center chronicles the history of the universe and houses a planetarium with a virtual reality simulator. If the Museum of Natural History seems a little familiar, you may have seen it on screen. Movies like The Squid and The Whale, Miracle on 34th Street, Splash and Spider-Man 2 all had scenes filmed here.Ocean Life
A gigantic and much-loved model of a blue whale hangs from the ceiling of the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, which was renovated to great acclaim in 2003. Nearby, in the far left corner, there's a dimly lit diorama of a sperm whale viciously attacking a giant squid.
Free tours, focusing on museum highlights or on specific themes, are offered daily. Ask at the Information Desk for the day's schedule.
Classes & Lectures
On select Monday and the last Tuesday of every month, Hayden Planetarium offers evening seminars or discussions. Tickets are $15 ($13.50 for students, and seniors) and advance registration is encouraged.