Founded in 1869 this classic museum contains a veritable wonderland of more than 30 million artifacts, including lots of menacing dinosaur skeletons, as well as the Rose Center for Earth & Space, with its cutting-edge planetarium. From September through May, the museum is home to the Butterfly Conservatory, a glass-house featuring 500-plus butterflies from all over the world.
On the natural history side, the museum is perhaps best known for its Fossil Halls containing nearly 600 specimens, including the skeletons of a massive mammoth and a fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex.
There are also plentiful animal exhibits (the stuffed Alaskan brown bears are popular), galleries devoted to gems and an IMAX theater. The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life contains dioramas devoted to ecologies, weather and conservation, as well as a beloved 94ft replica of a blue whale. At the 77th St Lobby Gallery, visitors are greeted by a 63ft canoe carved by the Haida people of British Columbia in the middle of the 19th century.
For the space set, it’s the Rose Center that is the star of the show. Its mesmerizing glass-box facade – home to space-show theaters and the planetarium – is indeed an otherworldly setting. Every half-hour between 10:30am and 4:30pm you can drop yourself into a cushy seat to view Dark Universe, narrated by famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, which explores the mysteries and wonders of the cosmos.
Celebrities provide narration for some of the other films: Meryl Streep gives us the evolutionary lowdown on vertebrates on the fourth floor, while Liam Neeson narrates the four-minute Big Bang, which provides a fine introduction to exploring the rest of the Rose Center.