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What started with a handful of paintings brought over from Europe or donated by a coterie of philanthropically minded robber barons in the 19th century has since become a massive collection of two million works of art representing 5000 years of history. It's also become one of the most beloved corners of New York City. The Met (as it's affectionately known) has been memorialized in the verses of Leonard Cohen and Jorge Luis Borges, featured prominently on Gossip Girl, and was sorely missed when it closed its doors as the COVID-19 pandemic rocked New York City. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's 17 acres of exhibit space are full of treasures that have captivated visitors since 1870. You can see everything from ancient Sasanian textiles to Henry VIII’s armor, from the oldest piano in existence to works by Dutch masters like Vermeer, from remarkable quilts out of Gee's Bend, Alabama to Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze's classic portrait Washington Crossing the Delaware . That's not to mention all the perennially popular exhibits on fashion, too, ranging from embroidered kimono to pieces from contemporary designers like Marc Jacobs and Comme des Garçons. The Temple of Dendur in the Sackler Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art © Guillaume Gaudet / Lonely Planet What to see at the Met When the Met was founded 151 years ago, it was intended not as an emblem of empire like the British Museum or of revolution like the Musée du Louvre. Instead, it was designed to educate and edify a teaming city of immigrants, and underscore the uniquely global culture of 19th century New York City. Whether that stated purpose has been meet by modern, post-colonial standards is up for debate in recent years – a conversation many museums are reckoning with worldwide. Still, the Met is an ever-evolving classic. As the 2021 PBS documentary Inside the Met notes, what should have been a blockbuster birthday year for the museum's 150th anniversary turned into a reassessment of its approach to both inclusivity and accessibility, including the Met's use of digital space. Newly reopened as of March 13, 2021, the Met is showcasing its global collection in new contexts and inviting fresh discussion about some of its oldest works from contemporary artists. There's certainly too much to list in its entirety, but here are some of the best highlights: The Egyptian Collection The 1st-floor ancient Egyptian collection is unrivaled; packed with 26,000 objects spanning six centuries. Absolutely don't miss the Temple of Dendur, built around 10 BCE and relocated to New York in 1978 as a gift from Egypt to the United States for their efforts to help save priceless antiquities like the Temple from the Aswan High Dam project. Arms and Armor The Arms and Armor Department became part of the Met in 1912 thanks to a private donor, but the collection grew immensely when British culture shifted as the Edwardian Age gave way to world wars, inspiring many families to sell off their collections. But it isn't only European suits of armor examples on display – the thousand pieces set out for the public include 16th and 18th century samurai armor from Japan, Turkish swords forged during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, and artifacts from Tibet. A guided tour group looks at an antique Indian golden case from Goa on view at the Nature of Islamic Art exhibit in New York City © Getty Images Islamic Art and Artifacts A special collection of Islamic art showcases the profoundly influential motifs found in a variety of artistic works from carpets, cast metal objects, illustrated folios, tiled prayer niches, and even caskets. The collection is comprised of unique pieces from throughout the Muslim world, from Iranian mosaics to an intricate gold container made in Goa to contain a bezoars (talismanic gallstones, essentially) that blend Islamic arabesques with Portuguese colonial influences. Travel buffs shouldn't miss the Astrolabe of ‘Umar ibn Yusuf ibn ‘Umar ibn ‘Ali ibn Rasul al-Muzaffari, a Yemeni prince. Near Eastern Art Fifteen incredible rooms of the Met are devoted to an extensive collection of art and artifacts from the Middle East. Objects range from Assyrian stone reliefs to cuneiform tablets to ancient Iranian pottery which was made nearly four thousand years before the Common Era. There are tiny incense burners and drinking vessels and massive installations like the iconic human-headed winged bull (technically called a lamassu) statues from the Assyrian city of Nimrud. A crowd of people inspect a painting at The Metropolitan Museum of Art © Guillaume Gaudet / Lonely Planet European Paintings The Met started with a handful of Roman sarcophagi and 174 paintings purchased in Europe to kick-start the museum's collections – you've come a long way, baby. On the 2nd floor, the museum now houses numerous masterworks from the 13th through 20th centuries. There's a Duccio di Buoninsegna Madonna painted around 1290 CE, the famous Juan de Pareja portrait painted by Velázquez in 1650, and Gustav Klimpt's 1912 Mäda Primavesi. Some are OG members of the Met collection like The Meeting of Alexander the Great and Diogenes by Gaspar de Crayer, sold to the Met by co-founder John Taylor Johnson. Others are newcomers like Virgin and Child Enthroned – bought by the Met before COVID-induced acquisition freezes – and the 1636 van Dyck portrait of English Queen Henrietta Maria, bequeathed to the Met by Jayne Wrightsman in 2019. One thing's for sure – there's no shortage of characters, stories, and techniques to absorb. Asian Art Some of the oldest works of art on display at the Met are in the Asian Art galleries, which hold 35,000 objects dating back as far as 5000 years. They're also some of the oldest pieces of non-European art in the Met's collection, joining the museum thanks to its earliest patrons. Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian and Tibetan paintings, woodcuts, textiles, pottery, decorative objects, lacquers, calligraphy and metalwork await, including Ming vases, Edo-era kimono embroidered with scenes from The Tale of Genji, Buddhist sutras illustrated in gold and silver by Korean master artists, and golden crowns from India. Some of the efforts to make the Met more inclusive and comprehensive include these bronze sculptures by the Kenyan-American artist Wangechi Mutu, filling four front facade niches for sculptures were left open for 117 years of the museum's history © dpa / picture alliance via Getty I The American Wing The American Wing features decorative and fine art from throughout the long, diverse history of the United States, with 20,000 works by artists of Indigenous, Latin American, African American, Euro American descent. From intricately carved and inlaid Tsimshian head dresses to crisp Victorian portraits to fancy Federal furniture, there's a little bit of everything. Increasingly the Met has grappled with the legacy of colonialism and imperialism inherent in such global collections that were started in eras where standards for respectful acquisitions were much different. But the American Wing is one area where the Met's fresh commitment to changing conversations about its collections and including more diverse voices is on full display. Recent exhibitions have included Indigenous responses to Euro-American works in the collection, while some of the more recent acquisitions in the American wing have showcased an emerging dedication to correcting the museum's track record on including Black artists. Garden and arches at the Cloisters Museum in New York © Manuel Hurtado / Shutterstock The Cloisters The Met Cloisters are one of the best-beloved parts of the museum, but they aren't actually on the Fifth Ave campus with the rest of the sprawling collection. Instead, they sit on a hilltop overlooking the Hudson River, filled with the Met's medieval treasures, including frescoes, paintings, and the famous tapestry series The Hunt of the Unicorn (1495–1505). It's a little sanctuary within the bustling city, and is a fitting setting for the often sacred context of these artworks. Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas The breadth and depth of works from Africa, Oceania, South and Central America, and Caribbean works are on full display in the Nelson A. Rockefeller wing of the museum. The expansion of this collection makes it feel relatively new compared to other portions of the museum (it only opened in the 1960s) despite the ancient nature of the ceramics, textiles, jewelry, garments, and other archeological finds on display. That said, this wing will be undergoing renovation through 2024 to better give these gorgeous works their due. One goal, for example, is to let more natural light in to the galleries, showcasing how colorful and bold many of these artworks can be in contrast to, as one docent put it in Inside the Met, the current, more muted vibe that might evoke painful colonial tropes of "darkest Africa." As Long as the Sun Lasts was designed by the artist Alex Da Corte as the Met's 2021 Roof Garden Commission © Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, photo by Anna-Marie Kellen Visiting the Met The Met is located on the Upper East Side and is easily accessible by bus, subway or on foot. Drivers can park in the garage at the parking garage at Fifth Ave and 80th St, where rates range from $23 for an hour to $55 for the day (New York City prices, natch). The parking garage is also home to the Met's bike racks. Cyclists can also use the museum's bike valet service from May 29 to September 6 at the Fifth Ave plaza near 83rd St. Bicycle valet is available from on weekends from 10:30am - 5:30pm and on select holidays including May 31, July 5 and September 6 during the same hours. Starting in 2018, the Met changed its admissions policies from a long-standing pay-as-you-wish model to one that charges an entrance fee for those who are not residents of New York State, New Jersey or Connecticut. Visitors from further afield must pay $25 for adults, $17 for seniors 65 and over, and $12 for students. Children under 12 are free. An exhibition of Greek sculpture shows off the Met's classical collection © Studio Barcelona / Shutterstock Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Met continues to require timed, ticketed entry, and it's best to make your reservations well in advance to suit your schedule. The Met is open Thursday through Monday from 10am - 5pm and is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. If you dislike crowds, avoid weekends. Self-guided audio tours (adult/child $7/5) are available in 10 languages; download the Met's free smartphone app for excerpts. Guided tours of specific galleries are free with admission. Tickets are good for three consecutive days, and also give admission to the Met Breuer and Cloisters. If visiting April through October, head up to the excellent roof garden, which features rotating sculpture installations by contemporary and 20th-century artists – though the grand city and park views are the real draw. Enjoy a sundowner cocktail from its on-site bar, the Cantor Roof Garden Bar. Met workers prepare to put up Rhianna's 2015 Met Gala dress by Chinese couturiere Guo Pei as part of an exhibit that included 20 Chinese art masterpieces from the museum's collection © Getty Images Accessibility at the Met Entrances located at the Fifth Ave and 81st St and through the parking garage at Fifth Ave and 80th St are accessible for visitors with disabilities. The Met is accessible for those who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices, with elevators available if you need to avoid stairs or slopes. Wheelchairs for use during your visit are available on a first-come, first-served basis from the coat check at the 81st St entrance. For those attending with a caregiver or assistive interpreter, admission for your companion is free and arrangements can be made at the front desk. The availability of assistive devices and printed materials for visitors who are deaf, heard of hearing, or visually impaired are limited at this time due to COVID-19 sanitation protocols.
One of the world’s most renowned green spaces, Central Park comprises 843 acres of rolling meadows, boulder-studded outcroppings, elm-lined walkways, manicured European-style gardens, a lake and a reservoir — not to mention an outdoor theater, a memorial to John Lennon, an idyllic waterside eatery and a famous Alice in Wonderland statue. Highlights include the 15-acre Sheep Meadow, where thousands of people lounge and play on warm days; Central Park Zoo; and the forest-like paths of the Ramble, popular with birdwatchers. In warm weather there are free outdoor concerts on the Great Lawn and top-notch drama at the annual Shakespeare in the Park productions held each summer at the open-air Delacorte Theater. Other recommended stops include the Shakespeare Garden, on the west side between 79th and 80th Sts, with its lush plantings and excellent skyline view. Children riding in goat-drawn carriages in Central Park circa 1904. © Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images The history of Central Park Like the city’s subway system, the vast and majestic Central Park, a rectangle of open space in the middle of Manhattan, is a great class leveler – exactly as it was envisioned. Created in the 1860s and ’70s by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux on the marshy northern fringe of the city, the immense park was designed as a leisure space for all New Yorkers regardless of color, class or creed. Central Park is actually only the fifth largest park in New York City, trailing behind other local greenspaces like Pelham Bay and Van Cortlandt parks in the Bronx, the Greenbelt on Staten Island, and Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens. But over 800 acres is nothing to sneeze at in tony, dense upper Manhattan – even in the mid-19th century when New York City was just a fraction of its present size, much of the land had to be acquired by eminent domain. A couple pauses for a cigarette in snowy Central Park. © Phil Greitzer/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images Ironically, what is now Central Park was commandeered from settlements like Seneca Village, home to the very immigrants and free Black community members the park was ostensibly supposed to benefit. From that raw, swampy material Olmsted and Vaux were tasked with creating a place where the rich could see and be seen in their carriages and promenading in fine clothing, and later where the middle and lower classes could gather away from pubs and in lieu of garden cemeteries. Olmsted was inspired by Birkenhead Park near Liverpool – the first taxpayer funded public park in England – during a trip he later recounter in his travel memoir Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England. The trick, of course, would be to create what felt like a natural American landscape where once there had been pig mucks and and urban detritus. Statue of Romeo and Juliet in front of the Delacorte theatre in Central Park © Ruben Martinez Barricarte/Alamy The result was, after many years, huge sums of money, thousands of laborers, and slow progress during the Civil War, a sprawling green space that felt distinct from the city bordering it in both its democratic vision and pastoral expanse. It was also a triumph of engineering. Olmsted and Vaux (who also created Prospect Park in Brooklyn) were determined to keep foot and road traffic separated and cleverly designed the crosstown transverses under elevated roads to do so. It’s also an oasis from the urban crush: the lush lawns, cool forests, flowering gardens, glassy bodies of water and meandering, wooded paths provide the dose of serene nature that New Yorkers crave. Central Park, Upper West Side, and Beyond ©Ryan D. Budhu/Getty Images The legacy of Central Park The success of Olmsted's vision – and his first major project – went on to launch his career (and influence generations of landscape architecture) with commissions from Buffalo to San Francisco, from the manicured grounds of the Biltmore Estate to the trailing parks of Atlanta. It's no wonder it's one of the most popular film locations in cinematic history, cropping up not just as a background but a character in movies like Hair, When Harry Met Sally, Enchanted and The Muppets Take Manhattan. It's also no wonder that Central Park quickly became a nexus of New York architecture, fringed by buildings that both benefit from proximity to the city's back yard and try to live up to its larger-than-life legacy. From penthouse apartments of the Dakota Building where Lauren Bacall, John Lennon and other luminaries lived to recent additions like the tall, skinny Central Park Tower that climbs to 1,550 feet over its namesake, the skyline rimming Olmsted's creation is almost as iconic as downtown treasures like the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, or the Brooklyn Bridge. A young girl flies a kite in Central Park ©Granger Wootz/Getty Images Things to do in Central Park Today, this ‘people’s park’ is still one of the city’s most popular attractions, beckoning throngs of New Yorkers year round. While parts of the park swarm with joggers, inline skaters, musicians and tourists on warm weekends, it’s quieter on weekday afternoons, especially in the less-trodden spots above 72nd St, such as the Harlem Meer and the North Meadow (north of 97th St). During summer in Central Park, you can try activities from fishing to camping without once leaving Manhattan, or make like countless movie characters and head to the Victorian Bow Bridge, which spans Central Park Lake and connects Cherry Hill and the Ramble. Nearby, ornate Bethesda Fountain edges the lake, and its Loeb Boathouse is a beloved attraction where you can rent rowboats or enjoy lunch. Exterior view of the Tavern on the Green inside Central Park in Manhattan, New York City © Shutterstock / EQRoy Speaking of eats, Central Park's designers may have intentionally included few buildings in their landscape, but Tavern on the Green is a New York classic for a reason. Designed by Vaux himself in 1870 as an actual sheep paddock, the structure was turned into a restaurant in 1934 by Robert Moses, and it eventually earned a landmark reputation in the city's already competitive, legendary food scene. Former New York Times restaurant critical Ruth Reichl once observed in the pre-smartphone 1990s, "To thousands of visitors, Tavern on the Green is New York. They are so happy to be here that you see them all around the room, videotaping one another as they eat their meals." Though it closed in 2009 for a few years, Tavern on the Green has been open again since 2014. Visitors ice skate in Central Park circa 2017 ©Winston Tan/Shutterstock Folks flock to the park even in winter, when snowstorms inspire cross-country skiing and sledding or just a simple stroll through the white wonderland, and crowds turn out every New Year’s Eve for a midnight run. Also very popular is skating on one of two stretches of ice in Central Park – Wollman Rink, located in the southeast part of the park, and Lasker Rink in the north. The Central Park Conservancy offers ever-changing guided tours of the park, including ones that focus on public art, wildlife and places of interest to kids (check online for dates and times; most tours are free or $15. To get the lay of the land at a faster clip, there's numerous running routes through Central Park, too. A dog walker walks by one of New York's ubiquitous hot dog stands ©Guillaume Gaudet/Lonely Planet Getting to Central Park Central Park is accessible by numerous forms of transit, including the N, R, Q trains with service to 57th Street & 7th Avenue; the 1, 2, 3, A, B, C, and D trains with service to 59th and Columbus Circle and Broadway at 72nd, 96th, & 110th Streets; and the B and C trains with stops along Central Park's west flank. As for bus routes, there are over a dozen to choose from, but some of the most accessible include the M10 the runs up the Central Park West side, the M20 from Penn Station, and the Q32 from Grand Central. Free and metered street parking exists around Central Park, though you'll want to be sure to check signage to make sure you won't run afoul of the meter maids. There are numerous paid lots and garages, too, where you can park for an hour or for the day. A team plays softball at the Heckscher fields in Central Park to benefit New Yorkers with disabilities. © Barbara Alper/ Getty Images Central Park accessibility Central Park's rolling topography was created well before the ADA became the law of the land, so you might be curious how it holds up for visitors with disabilities. The Central Park Conservancy publishes an accessibility map to help visitors plan ahead for use of a wheelchair, rollator, cane, or other mobility aids. The accessibility map has marked and color coded different degrees of incline throughout the park, as well as where you may find obstacles like stairs, or accessible features from restrooms to trails to subway stations. Central Park is also home to the Robert Bendheim Playground, which was redesigned in 1996 to accommodate children of all abilities. It features ramps, a wheelchair accessible water feature, an elevated sandbox, and play structures with auditory features for Deaf and hard-of-hearing kids and their caregivers.
Located in New York Harbor, Ellis Island is the US's most famous and historically important gateway and is home to one of the country’s most moving museums. It pays tribute to the indelible courage of more than 12 million immigrants who passed through this processing station between 1892 and 1924, after journeys that often took weeks and were spent under difficult conditions. More than 100 million living Americans are the descendants of these arrivals hoping to attain the American dream for themselves and their children. The Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration delivers a poignant tribute to their experiences. Housed inside the restored Main Building of the former immigration complex, you'll find narratives from historians, immigrants themselves and other sources that animate a fascinating collection of personal objects, official documents, photographs and film footage. Visitors keen to trace their ancestors’ details can avail of searchable historic records. Ellis Island has featured in many movies, including The Godfather: Part II and Brooklyn and is part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument. It is only accessible to the public by ferry, and purchasing tickets online in advance can help to avoid long queues. Ellis Island can only be reached by ferry © iofoto/Shutterstock History Ellis Island is named after one of its previous owners, Samuel Ellis, but was previously known as Little Oyster Island, while the original native Mohegan name for the island was "Kioshk," meaning "Gull Island.” Ellis Island was used by the military for much of the 19th century and house batteries and naval magazines. Prior to 1890, individual states regulated immigration into the US, but around that time, rising political instability, economic distress and religious persecution in Europe fueled one of the largest mass human migration in history. The US Government decided to construct a new immigration station on Ellis Island, and opened its doors on January 1, 1892. A teenage girl from Ireland called Annie Moore was the first immigrant to be processed there, accompanied by her two younger brothers. Over the next 62 years, more than 12 million immigrants arrived to the US via Ellis Island. First and second class passengers arriving by steamship in New York Harbor were not required to undergo the inspection process as they were considered 'affluent', but third class or steerage passengers or those with legal or health problems were sent to Ellis Island to be processed. The inspections took place in the Registry Room (now known as the Great Hall) and they lasted several hours. As well as a legal inspection carried out with the help of interpreters, doctors scanned every individual for physical ailments and medical conditions. Only 2% of people were excluded from entry; reasons for denial included having a contagious disease or concerns they wouldn't find legal employment. In 1897, a fire on Ellis Island burned the immigration station completely to the ground, and federal and state immigration records dating back to 1855 were lost. While ship manifests were burned, customs lists were kept in the US Customs Office and are available to view. A new fireproof facility was built after that and it opened in 1900. As increased restrictions were introduced to limit the numbers entering the US, Ellis Island experienced a decline in usage from the early 1920s. US embassies were established all over the world and paperwork and medical inspections were completed there. By 1924, only war refugees, displaced persons needing assistance and those with problems with their paperwork were brought to Ellis Island for the inspection process. It served various purposes since, including being a World War II detention center for enemy merchants, until it was officially closed in 1954. The historic Registry Room on Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants were processed © PriceM/Shutterstock What to see at Ellis Island The Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration is located in the Main Building, and it has exhibits, theaters, a gift shop, café and visitor facilities. When you arrive, stop in the museum lobby to pick up your free audioguide, which offers rich insights into the exhibits and is also available in a version aimed at children. Check at the Information Desk for guided tours, programs and the documentary film schedule. The museum has three floors of exhibits documenting immigrants’ experiences at Ellis Island, as well as the general history of immigration to the US. If you're very short on time, consider focusing on the 2nd floor, where you'll find the two most fascinating exhibits. The first, Through America's Gate, examines the step-by-step process faced by the newly arrived – including the chalk-marking of those suspected of illness, a wince-inducing eye examination, and 29 questions – in the beautiful, vaulted Registry Room. The second, Peak Immigration Years: 1880–1924, explores the motives behind the immigrants' journeys and the challenges they faced in beginning their new American lives. For a history of the rise, fall and resurrection of the building itself, make time for the Restoring a Landmark exhibition on the 3rd floor; its tableaux of trashed desks, chairs and other abandoned possessions are strangely haunting. If you don't feel like carrying around an audioguide, you can always pick up one of the phones in each display area and listen to the affecting recorded memories of actual people who came through Ellis Island, taped in the 1980s. Another option is the free 35-minute guided tour with a park ranger or volunteer, best booked in advance and also available in American Sign Language. For the complete experience, catch the 35-minute film, Island of Hope, Island of Tears, shown throughout the day in one of two theaters. And if you have ancestors who came through Ellis Island, you can look up their ship manifests and immigration records in the American Family Immigration History Center on the 1st floor and get them printed out for display for a fee. The rest of Ellis Island’s buildings — the 1930s’ ferry building, hospital, morgue, contagious disease wards, offices, housing and maintenance facilities — can be viewed only on a guided tour that must be booked in advance. The National Museum of Immigration on Ellis Island © Dan Herrick/Lonely Planet Tickets and other practicalities Statue Cruises is the only ferry company authorized to provide tickets and transportation to Ellis Island. Ferry tickets can be purchased online here or by calling 1-877-LADY-TIX. They are also available at the Statue Cruises ticket booths in Castle Clinton in Battery Park in New York City or at the ferry departure point in Liberty State Park in New Jersey. Ferry tickets for visitors aged 13-61 cost $23.50, children aged 4-12 pay $12 and senior tickets are $18. There are no additional costs to visit the National Museum of Immigration. Hard Hat tours are open to visitors over the age of 13, and adult tickets cost €68.50, including the ferry trip. The tour offers a 90-minute guided tour of the unrestored hospital complex on the south side of Ellis Island, and includes the art exhibit Unframed – Ellis Island by French artist JR. Self-guided audio tours are included with every ferry ticket purchase and content is available in 12 languages: Arabic, English, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. A family-friendly tour is also available, as are an American Sign Language version and an Audio Descriptive version. Ferry schedules change seasonally and during periods of high tourism. Up-to-date schedules are posted on the Statue Cruises website. For updates on island openings, please visit the National Park Service website.
The Chrysler Building may be prettier, and One World Trade Center taller, but the queen bee of the New York skyline remains the Empire State Building. NYC's former tallest star has enjoyed close-ups in around a hundred films and countless skyline snapshots. Heading up to the top is as quintessentially New York as pastrami, rye and pickles. It's been scaled by King Kong, drawn lovers together in films like Sleepless in Seattle, and survived a 1945 plane crash. It was lit up in tribute to front-line workers as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the boroughs, just ninety years after construction began and it became an instant icon of a rapidly growing city. It's recognizable to Manhattanites and visitors from all over the world, and to many it's synonymous with the Big Apple itself. A construction worker on the Empire state building in 1930, with the Chrysler building is seen to the right. © Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images The history of the Empire State Building The statistics are astounding: 10 million bricks, 60,000 tons of steel, 6400 windows and 328,000 sq ft of marble. Built on the original site of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, construction took a record-setting 410 days, using seven million hours of labor and costing a mere $41 million. It might sound like a lot, but it fell well below its $50 million budget (just as well, given it went up during the Great Depression). The Empire State Building was designed by the prolific architectural firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon. According to legend, the skyscraper's conception began with a meeting between William Lamb and building co-financier John Jakob Raskob, during which Raskob propped up a No 2 pencil and asked, 'Bill, how high can you make it so that it won't fall down?' Coming in at 102 stories, the towering building would have been impossible with the engineering of the electric elevator – can you imagine having to walk up all those stairs? Prefabricated I-beams, columns, and other components manufactured in Pittsburgh were also crucial to ensuring quality and speed of construction. Perched some 1200 feet above the ground, Ray Corbett fastens lines of the temporary television antenna atop the Empire State Building in 1950. © PhotoQuest/ Getty Images Steelworkers assembled the parts on site, sometimes high up in the sky – a site captured in iconic photos of riveters on the high iron. Many of the workers were members of the Mohawk nation and came to New York from the Kahnawake reservation near Montréal to ply their trade. Their affinity for heights earned them the nickname "skywalkers," and is a tradition that continues today. The Art Deco limestone tower officially opened for business on May 1, 1931, just after the Great Depression had halted the white-hot race to build ever-taller sky scrapers (including Empire State's early rival, the Chrysler Building), with the Empire State Building reigning supreme. Generations later, Deborah Kerr's words to Cary Grant in An Affair to Remember still ring true: 'It's the nearest thing to heaven we have in New York.' Manhattan skyline with the Lower East Side in the foreground and Empire State Building in the background. ©Alexander Spatari/Getty Images How tall is the Empire State Building? The Empire State Building stands 1454ft from top to bottom. Though it's no longer the tallest building in New York's skyline by a long shot, the views remain sublime. Unless you're Ann Darrow (the unfortunate woman caught in King Kong's grip), heading to the top of the Empire State Building should leave you beaming. There are two observation decks. The open-air 86th-floor deck offers an alfresco experience, with telescopes (previously coin operated; now free) for close-up glimpses of the metropolis in action. Further up, at the top of the spire, the enclosed 102nd floor is New York's second-highest observation deck, trumped only by the observation deck at One World Trade Center. Needless to say, the views through the floor-to-ceiling windows over the city's five boroughs (and four neighboring states, weather permitting) are quite simply exquisite. On a clear day you can see as much as 80 miles in the distance. The views from both decks are especially spectacular at sunset, when the city dons its nighttime cloak in dusk’s afterglow. Tourists and Binoculars on top of Empire State Building at Night in Manhattan, New York ©Benoit Daoust/Shutterstock Plan your visit As one of NYC 's most popular sights, it can see long queues, though a new entrance redesign has eased some of the bottlenecks. Getting here early (like 8AM) or late will help avoid delays, as will buying tickets in advance online (worth the $2 convenience fee). Your first stop is the Story of an Icon museum on the 2nd floor, which was completely redesigned in 2019 with multimedia exhibits on the building's history and its place in the United States' cultural imagination. The path through the displays leads you to the observatory elevators. As one would expect, the views from both decks are especially spectacular at sunset. For a little of that 'Arthur's Theme' magic, head to the 86th floor between 10pm and 1am Thursday to Saturday, when the twinkling sea of lights is accompanied by a soundtrack of live saxophone (requests are welcome). New York skyline with Empire State building. ©Lottie Davies/Lonely Planet Since 1976, the building’s top 30 floors have been floodlit in a spectrum of colors each night, reflecting seasonal and holiday hues, or for local sports teams or charitable organizations. Famous combos include orange, white and green for St Patrick’s Day; blue and white for Chanukah; red, white and green for Christmas; and rainbow colors for Gay Pride weekend in June. For a full rundown of color schemes and the schedule, check the website. A tour app is available in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Portuguese, Japanese and Korean. Getting there The Empire State Building can be accessed by public transit using a number of lines. Take the Subway 6 to 33rd St or the B,D,F, M, N,Q,R, or W trains to 34th St-Herald Sq. You can also take the M1, M2, M3, M4, M5, M34, or M55 bus routes to the Empire State. Did you know? A locked, unmarked door on the 102nd-floor observation deck leads to one of New York's most outrageous pie-in-the-sky projects to date: a narrow terrace intended to dock zeppelins. Spearheading the dream was former New York governor Alfred E Smith, who went from failed presidential candidate in 1928 to head honcho of the Empire State Building project. When architect William Van Alen revealed the secret spire of his competing Chrysler Building, Smith went one better, declaring that the top of the Empire State Building would sport an even taller mooring mast for transatlantic airships. While the plan looked good on paper, there were two (major) oversights: dirigibles require anchoring at both ends (not just at the nose, as planned) and passengers (who travel in the zeppelin's gondola) cannot exit the craft through the giant helium-filled balloon. Regardless, it didn't stop them from trying. In September 1931, the New York Evening Journal threw sanity to the wind, managing to moor a zeppelin and deliver a pile of newspapers fresh out of Lower Manhattan. The famous antenna was originally meant to be a mooring mast for zeppelins, but the Hindenburg disaster slammed the brakes on that plan. Though the ambitious plan for docking airships never got off the ground, years later an aircraft met up with the building with tragic consequences: a B-25 bomber crashed into the 79th floor on a foggy day in 1945, killing 14 people.
Spanning three levels at the top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, One World Observatory offers dazzling panoramic views over Manhattan's crystal garden of skyscrapers. On a clear day you'll be able to see all five boroughs and parts of surrounding states, as well as the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty – both looking as small as children's toys from this lofty perch atop the One World Trade Center. The awesome vista of New York is only revealed after the screens showing an introductory video abruptly disappear, revealing the view through immense picture windows. Admiring the city from above is a great way to get a feel for how everything fits together and plan the rest of your New York sightseeing. The location has a powerful resonance. The footprints of the original World Trade Center towers – preserved today as the National September 11 Memorial Museum – are visible in the shadow of the current One World Trade Center, which stands 408 feet (124m) taller than the original towers. The One World Observatory crowns the One World Trade Center ©f11photo/Getty Images Highlights of the view Once the intro video ends and the screens slide back, everyone rushes for the windows to gaze out over an astonishing bird's-eye view of New York. The first thing to look for is the Brooklyn Bridge – the first fixed crossing over the East River, still standing proud after 150 years – lined up alongside the newer Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. Looking southwest, you'll spot the Statue of Liberty floating on her green island off the Jersey shore; there's a reason the statue looks tiny from this height – at a modest 93m tall, it's almost half a kilometer shorter than One World Trade Center. Facing north, the Empire State Building is instantly recognizable amongst the cluster of first generation skyscrapers in the center of Manhattan. Peer closely and you may also spot the Chrysler Building and the Flatiron Building amidst the taller towers. Note the piers lined up along the Hudson River, where transatlantic steamships docked during New York's golden age. To make the skyscraper-spotting easier, the tower's iPad-based guide – the One World Explorer – allows you to zoom in on the view to highlight individual buildings. Visitors looking out over the New York City skyline at One World Observatory ©Drop of Light/Shutterstock History & Architecture New York's highest observation deck sits on top of the 94-storey One World Trade Center, built to replace the two World Trade Center towers destroyed during the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. The original plans were drafted in 2002 by Daniel Libeskind, the architect behind the Jewish Museum in Berlin, but the structure was redesigned by David M Childs, the brains behind Singapore 's Changi airport terminal. Construction started in 2006 and the tower topped out on 10 May 2013. As well as being the tallest building in America, this tapered tower is currently the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and the sixth tallest building in the world by pinnacle height. The height isn't accidental – the antenna takes the building to 1776 feet (541m), a tribute to the year the American Declaration of Independence was signed. Architecturally, the tower resembles a rectangular prism twisted through 90° – an optical illusion created by its chamfered edges, which split the facade into a series of opposing isosceles triangles. It was the first major building constructed using the Building Information Model, a digital platform created to manage all the phases of planning, design and construction in a single virtual space. Digital displays tell the story behind the One World Trade Center ©f11photo/Shutterstock The experience Reaching the observation deck, 386.5m above street level, is almost as much fun as admiring the view. Starting on the ground floor, you'll pass a giant electronic world map highlighting the homelands of visitors to the tower (with data obtained from ticket scans) and the multiscreen installation, Voices, which tells the story of the people behind the One World Trade Center. But the real show begins when you board the Sky Pod elevators, whose LED wall panels provide a virtual journey through the evolution of the Manhattan skyline over the past five centuries. These hi-tech elevators zip visitors to the top in just 47 seconds at a speed of 36.5 kmph – one of the fastest elevator rides in the world. Out of interest, the first tourist to climb the tower was New Jersey free climber, Justin Casquejo, who wriggled through a hole in the security fence while the tower was under construction and reached the top of the antenna aged just 16. He was promptly arrested and sentenced to 23 days community service; he also had to write a 1200-word essay explaining what he had learned from the experience. Once you reach the observation levels, the first step is the introductory video show before the views are unveiled, but you can also look down on the vista directly from above at the Portal – a circular glass porthole which shows real-time footage of the street below. As you might expect, there are various places to eat and plenty of stands selling souvenirs. A close-up view of the surface of the One World Trade Center ©Kev Llewellyn/Shutterstock Tickets & other practicalities The One World Observatory gets busy, particularly at weekends and during the peak tourist season, so it pays to book ahead and skip the line. In summer and during some holiday periods, hours are extended as late as 10pm (with last ticket sales at 8:45pm), but it's best to check the website in advance if you want tickets at a specific time of day. If you don't have a ticket ahead of time, come as soon as they open to avoid a queue. If you're pressed for time, for $53 you can buy a priority-admission ticket that will let you skip all the lines, plus let you use the digital iPad One World Explorer guides, which automatically identify the skyline sights. Various train and subway lines meet at World Trade Center station but it's worth exiting the subway a stop early at Park Place station so you can approach the tower on foot at street level and get a full sense of its scale. There are meal options on site, all charging a premium; you're better off going over the road to the Le District and Hudson Eats food courts in the Brookfield Place complex. Picture windows give views in every direction at One World Observatory ©Drop of Light/Shutterstock Hotels near One World Observatory If you want to stay in Lower Manhattan, you'll pay a premium, but there are some good choices in the neighborhood. Frederick Hotel Club Quarters World Trade Center AKA Tribeca Conrad New York
A New York icon, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, more commonly known as the Guggenheim, is an internationally-renowned art museum and one of the most significant architectural icons of the 20th century. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s conical white spiral is probably more famous than the artworks inside, which include works by Kandinsky, Picasso, Pollock, Monet, Van Gogh and Degas; photographs by Mapplethorpe; and important surrealist works. But temporary exhibitions climbing the much-photographed central Rotunda are the real draw. The Guggenheim is a cultural center, an educational institution and the heart of an international network of museums. Visitors can experience special exhibitions of modern and contemporary art, lectures by artists and critics, performances and film screenings, classes for teens and adults, and daily tours of the galleries led by museum educators. The Guggenheim is an internationally-renowned art museum © Alexander Prokopenko/Shutterstock History of the Guggenheim The museum was established in 1939 and was originally called the Museum of Non-Objective Painting. It was founded by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by by the aforenamed New York mining magnate. He started collecting abstract art in later life with the help of his long-time art advisor, artist and museum director, Hilla von Rebay, and he bequeathed the initial collection. In 1943, Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to design a building to house the museum, which adopted its current name in 1952 after the death of its founder. Guggenheim’s passing in 1949 contributed to the delay in completing the building, along with many modifications to the design, the acquisition of additional property and the rising costs of building materials following World War II. Construction began in 1956 and the museum opened to the public on October 21, 1959, six months after Wright’s death. The inverted ziggurat structure was derided by some critics but hailed by others, who welcomed it as a beloved architectural icon. The museum closed for three years in 1990 for renovations, including the addition of an eight-story tower. The Guggenheim reopened in 1992 with the entire original Wright building now devoted to exhibition space and the tower containing 4750 square meters of new and renovated gallery spaces. The Guggenheim was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2008, and was inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage List in 2019 as part of the 20th century architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. It has since opened other notable branches in Bilbao and Venice, and its Abu Dhabi museum is currently under development. The Guggenheim was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2008 © ItzaVU/Shutterstock What to do at the Guggenheim The museum’s ascending ramp (known as the Rotunda) is occupied by rotating exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. Though Wright intended visitors to go to the top and wind their way down, the striking single semi-circular elevator can make this difficult on busy days. Exhibitions, therefore, are installed from bottom to top. Pick up the free audioguide or download the Guggenheim app for information about the exhibits and architecture. You an discover works in the Thannhauser Collection with the child-friendly audio descriptions, available on the Guggenheim’s Digital Guide. You can also enhance your experience of the building with a Family Activity Guide on architecture. There are two good on-site food options: the Wright, at ground level, a space-age restaurant serving steamy risotto and classic cocktails, and Café 3 on the 3rd floor, which offers views of Central Park, coffee and light snacks. Both venues are components of the original building design and worth a look in their own right for their splendid aesthetics. Tickets and other practicalities The museum is located at 1071 Fifth Avenue between 88th and 89th Street. Travel on the 4, 5, 6 and Q subway lines, or take the M1, M2, M3, or M4 bus lines on Madison or Fifth Avenue. Standard adult tickets cost $25, while seniors, students and visitors with disabilities are $18. Children under 12 are free as are caregivers for people with disabilities. Tickets can be reserved online here. The Guggenheim hosts Pay What You Wish on select Saturdays from 4–6pm. Visitors can also receive free admission on one Saturday per month through Saturday on the House, sponsored by The Macallan. Visitors can experience special exhibitions of modern and contemporary art © Krzysztof Dydynski/Lonely Planet Accessibility The closest wheelchair-accessible subway station is the Q at 86th Street. M1, M2, M3 and M4 buses equipped with wheelchair lifts stop between 86th and 87th Streets on Madison Avenue going uptown and on Fifth Avenue going downtown. Standard manual wheelchairs are available free of charge at the museum and do not require reservations. American with Disabilities Act-compliant bathrooms are located on levels 1 and 7. All levels of the museum are accessible by elevator with the exception of the High Gallery, which has two low stairs at the entrance. Elevators are available from the ground floor at all times, including when the Rotunda is closed to the public between exhibitions. Monthly Mind’s Eye tours and workshops for visitors who are blind or have low levels of vision are conducted by arts and education professionals through verbal descriptions, conversations, sensory experiences and creative practices. American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation is provided for select Curator’s Eye and Conservator’s Eye tours for visitors who are deaf or hard of hearing. ASL interpretation is available for public tours and programs if the request is submitted two weeks before the event date. The museum also has a social narrative guide for people on the autism spectrum. Full information on accessibility is available here.
It’s been over a century since Lady Liberty made her debut appearance on the New York skyline, but this iconic statue is still one of the city’s most enduring symbols. First conceived in 1865 by French intellectual Édouard de Laboulaye as a monument to the republican principles shared by France and the USA, the Statue of Liberty remains a powerful symbol of the America’s founding ideals. For generations, migrants to America cruised past the statue on their way into New York harbour, and knew they had arrived in the land of freedom and opportunity. Visiting the Statue of Liberty is not just a case of turning up on the day. The 151ft (93m) statue stands on its own 14.7 acre (6 hectare) island, southwest of Manhattan and close to the Jersey Shore. Access is by ferry from Battery Park, and most visitors visit on a loop that also takes in Ellis Island, where more than 12 million immigrants checked into the USA from 1892 to 1924. Both sights rank amongst the most popular things to do in New York so it pays to purchase tickets online in advance to avoid soul-crushingly long queues. Statue of Liberty standing proud above the Hudson River ©Christophe Prenel/500px Experiencing the Statue of Liberty On arrival at Liberty Island, your options will depend on the ticket you hold in your hand. Standard ferry tickets grant automatic access to the island grounds, so you can wander around at Lady Liberty’s feet and gaze up at her looming copper bulk. Tickets to climb the star-shaped pedestal are only slightly more expensive, but they are in heavy demand, and often book out months ahead. To climb up to Lady Liberty’s crown for breathtaking city and harbor views, you’ll need to book tickets up to six months in advance. Assuming you gain access, the climb to the viewing gallery in the statue’s crown involves a steep ascent on 354 steps inside the superstructure. The interior of Lady Liberty is surprisingly crammed, with room for just a few visitors at a time in the crown itself, and this puts a strict limit on visitor numbers (hence the crunch for tickets). A second steep stairway climbs inside the statue’s raised arm to the torch, but sadly, access to the public has been prohibited since 1916. You’ll still get a pretty good view of the torch through the crown windows. The statue's pedestal – build in the style of a bastion fort – also offers good harbour views, though not quite as impressive as from the crown. Liberty Island has various food options, all pretty dire, so bring a picnic lunch to eat on the lawn by the statue or on the sea wall in front of the harbour view. The Statue of Liberty is the most enduring image of New York ©Frank Schiefelbein/EyeEm/Getty Images History The Statue of Liberty was really a French invention from the outset. Inspired by the triumph over slavery in the American Civil War, political philosopher Édouard de Laboulaye and sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi first came up with the idea over dinner in 1865. After gaining approval from the New York authorities, the pair travelled to America to select a site in 1871. At various stages, the project also had input from Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who restored Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, and Gustave Eiffel, who created the statue's internal steel supports. Bringing the plan to fruition was a long, drawn-out process. Costs were covered by private donors from France (who paid for the statue) and America (covering the costs of the plinth) but funds ran short on several occasions. The torch-bearing arm was displayed in Philadelphia and Madison Square Park in New York to drum up public interest in 1876, and the statue's head went on show at the Paris World’s Fair in 1878 to aid the French fundraising effort. Publisher Joseph Pulitzer launched a fundraising drive that eventually carried the project over the line, with small donations from some 120,000 contributors. The Statue of Liberty's torch is gilded with gold leaf ©Jon Davison/Lonely Planet Known in full as Liberty Enlightening the World, the 151ft (93m) figure is a representation of the Greek deity Libertas, and the design was strongly influenced by the neoclassical sculpture of Ancient Greece and Rome. Bartholdi was obsessed with the Colossus of Rhodes, and he had already had one giant, torch-wielding statue project rejected by the Khedive of Egypt. The statue was pieced together in kit form in Paris, using moulded copper plates just 2.4mm thick, fixed to an internal steel frame with flexible iron bars. The completed statue was shipped over to New York in pieces, and assembled on Liberty Island (then Bedloe's Island), opening to the public in 1886. The gilded torch you see today, however is not original; it was added in 1984 to replace the fragile original lantern, which was relocated to the lobby. Tickets & Practicalities Reserve tickets online well in advance (up to six months ahead) to access Lady Liberty’s crown; pedestal tickets are slightly easier to get hold of, but the statue is still worth visiting on a general ticket, even if you don’t get to go inside. The ferry ticket to Liberty Island includes access to the grounds and guided ranger tours or self-guided audio tours. Book ferry tickets ahead to avoid long queues on the day. The slog up tight, narrow steps to the statue's crown is arduous and should not be undertaken by anyone with significant health conditions that might impair their ability to complete the climb. You'll need a good four or five hours to explore both Ellis Island and Liberty Island properly. How New York City’s ferries became a portal to other worlds New York's ferries are the definitive way to explore the city. Restaurants near the Statue of Liberty With the poor dining options on the island, you’ll either want to bring a picnic (Financier Patisserie is good for baked goods), or eat in the Financial District before you take the ferry. Hudson Eats Le District Fraunces Tavern Financier Patisserie
When the twin towers of the World Trade Center toppled during the awful events of 11 September 2001, it led to years of soul-searching about what would be an appropriate memorial to replace these lost landmarks. Eventually, New York City opted for subtlety and dignity, and the end result was this humbling museum in Lower Manhattan & the Financial District, flanked by the sombre reflective pools of the adjacent National September 11 Memorial, creating a moving homage to those lost in the tragedy. Incorporating parts of the site devastated by the collapsing skyscrapers, and remnants of the towers themselves, the museum is architecturally intriguing and deeply poignant. Its collection of artifacts, videos, photographs and audio recordings provide a thought-provoking and reflective exploration of the tragedy, the events that preceded it (including the World Trade Center car bombing of 1993), and the stories of grief, resilience and hope that followed. Exploring the museum From the museum's glass entry pavilion – which eerily evokes a toppled tower, in tribute to the tragedy – escalators descend to the museum's subterranean galleries. As they drop below the surface, visitors stand in the shadow of two 70ft-high steel structural tridents, originally embedded in the bedrock at the base of the North Tower to help support the original structure. Looking like giant, rusty forks, these scorched survivors are just two of the many poignant objects that bear silent witness to the devastation of September 11 inside this moving museum. Another humbling relic is the so-called Survivors' Staircase, used by hundreds of people to flee the WTC site to safety in the narrow time window before the towers collapsed. In the high-ceilinged Foundation Hall stands a single retaining wall that survived the destruction, and the last steel column removed from the clean-up, adorned with messages, missing-person posters and mementos of recovery workers, first responders and loved ones of the victims. There's also the NYC Fire Department’s Engine 21, its burnt-out cab a harrowing testament to the inferno faced by those at the scene. Perhaps the most haunting exhibition is In Memoriam, its walls lined with the names and photos of the nearly 3000 people who perished. Interactive touch screens and a central reflection room offer more comprehensive information about the victims, recorded by those who knew them best. The National September 11 Memorial fills the footprints of the original twin towers ©Matthew T. Carroll/Getty Images The September 11 Memorial Adjacent to the museum is the National September 11 Memorial itself, centred on the twin pools known as Reflecting Absence, occupying the actual footprints of the ill-fated Twin Towers. From the rims of these two pools, cascades of water pour 30ft down toward a central void. Flanking bronze panels are inscribed with the names of all those lost in the 2001 terrorist attack and the World Trade Center car bombing in 1993. You’ll wander through this peaceful, tree-shaded space to reach the museum. Just west of the South Pool is the 'Survivor Tree,' a pear tree that miraculously survived the destruction, and nearby is the Oculus, a gleaming white structure inspired by a dove in flight, created by architect and sculptor Santiago Calatrava as the roof for the WTC Transportation Hub. Every year on September 11, the central skylight is opened for exactly 102 minutes, the time from the first attack to the collapse of the second tower. Rising nearby is the gleaming One World Trade Center, built to replace the toppled towers, with some of New York's best views from the One World Observatory on the upper floors. Inside the Oculus at World Trade Center PATH Station ©Guillaume Gaudet/Lonely Planet History The design for the memorial and museum to the September 11 tragedy was selected after a national competition, with Israeli-American architect Michael Arad winning the contract with his subtle design for reflecting pools surrounded by a forest of white oak trees to create a low-lying, open space for contemplation on the site formerly occupied by two of New York’s tallest towers. The accompanying museum – designed to give a sense of a building falling – was created by architectural firm Davis Brody Bond, who also designed the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. Construction of New York's tribute to the victims of the 9/11 attacks began in 2006. The memorial officially opened on 12 September 2011, ten years and one day after the September 11 attacks, with the museum opening three years later in 2014. On a sombre note, unidentified human remains from the attacks were interred in a special repository beneath the site in 2014, where they remain under the jurisdiction of the Chief Medical Examiner in the hope that science may one day be able to identify the victims. The last surviving column from the original twin towers at the National September 11 Museum ©Shutterstock/Pit Stock Tickets & Practicalities To minimize queuing, purchase tickets online or at one of the vending machines outside the museum building. Arriving early in the morning is a good idea so you can appreciate the site at its most calm and peaceful. Rotating temporary exhibitions touch on other subjects related to the World Trade Center, such as the Native American ironworkers who helped construct the twin towers or the hunt for Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. The names of those lost at the National September 11 Memorial ©Image provided by Felipe Mulè/Getty Images Hotels near the National September 11 Museum There are plenty of hotels in Lower Manhattan & the Financial District, but you'll pay a big mark-up for the location. Frederick Hotel Club Quarters World Trade Center AKA Tribeca Conrad New York
Founded back in 1869, this venerable museum contains a veritable wonderland of more than 34 million objects, specimens and artifacts – including armies of menacing dinosaur skeletons, herds of stuffed wildlife, and a crystal garden of gems and minerals. This New York icon is rightly recognized as one of the world’s top museums of natural history, and it’s a great place to get face to face with a T rex or a blue whale and realize the humble scale of the human race compared to nature’s giants. When planning what to do in New York with kids, don’t overlook the museum’s Rose Center for Earth & Space, with its cutting-edge planetarium, and the Butterfly Conservatory – open from October through May – a home for more than 500 live butterflies from all over the world that will flutter about and land on your outstretched arms. To prime small travellers, show them the Night at the Museum films, partly filmed at the museum. A supersized blue whale soars over the Hall of Ocean Life ©Andrea Izzotti/Shutterstock Exploring the American Museum of Natural History On the natural history side, the museum is perhaps best known for its bright and airy Fossil Halls containing nearly 600 specimens, including mammoth crowd-pleasers such as gargantuan Apatosaurus, tremendous Titanosaurus and a fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex frozen mid-prowl (its kitchen knife-sized teeth will scare the bejesus out of you). Triceratops and Stegosaurus also put in appearances. Advancing forward a few million years, there’s also a complete mammoth skeleton. For those who prefer their wildlife skin-on, there are plentiful animal exhibits packed with American and world species – the stuffed Alaskan brown bears and giant moose are always popular stops. The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life contains dioramas devoted to marine ecologies, weather and conservation, as well as a beloved 94ft replica of a blue whale suspended from the ceiling in a position that mirrors the whale skeleton in the Natural History Museum in London (the AMNH whale came first). The museum’s Mignone Halls – currently accessible on guided tours – are devoted to gems and minerals, with an impressive set of geodes, gemstones, crystals, and raw metals, including some impressive, supersized gold nuggets. Kids who are inspired by the collection (and new-age types) can pick up souvenir minerals in the gift-shop. The iconic entrance to the museum on Central Park West ©Shutterstock/nyker At the 77th St Grand Gallery, there's a 63ft canoe carved in the 1870s and featuring designs from different Native American peoples of the Northwest Coast, alongside anthropological displays on cultures from around the world. The museum was previously fronted by a statue of Theodore Roosevelt with African American and indigenous American attendants, but the sculpture was widely criticized for implying a hierarchy of races, and the New York City Public Design Commission voted to remove it in 2021. For the astronomical set, the Rose Center is the star of the show. Every hour at the planetarium you can drop yourself into a cushy seat to view stellar displays on the history and mysteries of the universe. Inside this planet (or space-station) shaped building, you'll also find the astonishing Willamette Meteor, a 15.5-ton hunk of metallic iron that fell to earth in present-day Oregon some 30,000 to 40,000 years ago. Imaginative displays in the Hall of Biodiversity ©Diego Grandi/Shutterstock History The museum was founded in 1869, with support from – amongst other people – Theodore Roosevelt, Sr, father of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th American president. The collection was originally displayed in the former New York Arsenal at Central Park, built to store the arms of the New York State Militia, but it moved to a purpose-built Victorian Gothic building on the present location in 1874. The original buildings have since been consumed by a series of expansions and redevelopments – the famous Beaux-Arts entrance on Central Park West was a 1936 addition by John Russell Pope, of Jefferson Memorial fame. In 2019, the museum broke ground on a $383-million expansion set to be completed by 2022 that will include the education-focused Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation. Wildlife dioramas abound in the mammal section of the museum ©Songquan Deng/Shutterstock Tickets and practicalities The general admission fee covers the main permanent displays but not special exhibitions; booking online is the best option. Residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut can pay what they wish for general admission. In order to see space shows, IMAX films or ticketed exhibits you'll need to pay the higher ticket price for admission plus one show, or admission plus all shows, but it’s only a few dollars extra. Come early in the morning when it opens to beat the crowds (school groups fill the galleries on weekdays, and things are even busier at weekends). Follow our New York City Trail Join our kid-friendly tour of New York Where to eat near the American Museum of Natural History There are several museum cafes and a food court, but many take a picnic to Central Park, or eat nearby. Blossom on Columbus Kefi Cafe Lalo Jin Ramen
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