It’s generally true that if you spend enough time in New York City, you’ll probably see things you won’t see anyplace else.
But flying dinosaurs, 6-inch Mexican Red Knee tarantulas, a 34-ton meteorite and the birth of the universe?
You can indeed add “birth of the universe” to your New York City sightseeing list, right there with the Empire State Building, the U.N. and Yankee Stadium. All you have to do is visit the American Museum of Natural History, one of the largest and most famous museums in the world.
The museum—open 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas—is on Central Park West at 79th Street, across the street from Central Park. That’s just a 10-minute cab ride, or 11 minutes by subway, from The Manhattan Club, your luxurious vacation accommodations.
The museum encompasses 45 permanent exhibition halls plus the eight-story Rose Center for Earth and Space, which in itself contains the Hayden Sphere, a globe theater almost the length of a football field in diameter. The museum features permanent and temporary exhibitions ranging in everything from anthropology to astronomy to oceanography, as well as countless shows and special events. The exhibits display portions at a time of the museum’s overall collection of 32 million individual specimens.
Here are some of the current exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History
Spiders Alive! – The Mexican Red Knee is among the 20 live species tended to by experienced handlers in this exhibit scheduled through December 2, 2012. The display also includes larger-than-life models and actual fossils. You’ll learn all about arachnid anatomies and traits. You’ll also learn what gargantuan birdeaters really eat (hint: not birds); which spider produces venom helpful in treating heart disease; and so much more.
Creatures of Light – Did you know that more than 90 percent of sea life below 2,300 feet has the ability to glow like fireflies? This exhibit, scheduled through March 31, 2013, explores environments in which living species—plants included—are bioluminescent. You’ll learn how this chemical reaction works and how organisms use the light they create to lure mates, ward off danger and more.
Journey to the Stars – This sensational space show narrated by Whoopi Goldberg ends an almost three-year run at the Hayden Planetarium on December 31, 2012. Journey to the Stars, created by an international array of astrophysicists and experts in state-of-the-art media, uses actual telescope images and specially created simulations to tell the life stories of stars—including the sun.
Flying Monsters, an IMAX film – Famed British naturalist Sir David Attenborough searches for the secrets of pterosaurs, the flying creatures who roamed the skies 220 million years ago. This 3D National Geographic film, which runs through January 4, 2013, uses spectacular CGI effects to simulate these monsters. Attenborough and his team base their story on the latest technology—such as CT scans on fossils—and information acquired on a worldwide search.
The Butterfly Conservatory – This annual exhibit — October 6, 2012 through May 28, 2013—lets visitors interact with butterflies and moths in a replicated environment. You’ll learn about the anatomy of butterflies, how they transform through life stages, and even how to create a butterfly garden of your own.
Here are some of the popular permanent exhibits
Hall of Meteorites – One highlight of this display is the 34-ton Cape York Meteorite, which crashed into Greenland 10,000 years ago and is believed to be the core fragment of a 4.5-billion-year-old asteroid. The hall also is home to rocks from Mars and the moon.
The Hayden Big Bang Theater – The bottom half of the Hayden Sphere is home to this popular four-minute presentation simulating the origin of the universe.
The American Museum of Natural History will captivate, educate and entertain you like few other attractions in New York City, and it doesn’t take an astrophysicist to get there from The Manhattan Club. But you may feel like one when you leave.