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A place of wonder, the American Museum of Natural History is one of New York City’s most iconic institutions. With so much to explore, it’s hard to see everything in one day, so we asked for a little guidance. Brad Harris, Senior Director of Visitor Services at AMNH, gave us some insider tips and highlights for this landmark institution that will definitely help you leave with more than you came with.
What do you think would surprise people about AMNH? The size and diversity. The Museum’s size comprises numerous city blocks, housing approximately 27 interconnected buildings while highlighting the natural world, from the depths of the deepest ocean illustrated in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life to the outer limits of our observable universe in the Hayden Planetarium Space Show Dark Universe in the Rose Center for Earth and Space.
Best kept secret? Will definitely surprise city-goers—just stand right in front of the Giant Sequoia Tree in the Hall of North American Forests and be astounded by its size and age.
Most underrated exhibit? The Spitzer Hall of Human Origins—a great way to explore evolutionary similarities and differences in hominids.
If you’re in a hurry, where should you beeline it to? Must see! The new Titanosaur measuring a whopping 122 feet long, just massive! Be prepared to be greeted outside the entrance of the Orientation Hall on the fourth floor. If you have a little more time, see the Dark Universe Space Show narrated by the one and only Hayden Planetarium Director Neil deGrasse Tyson.
If you have all day, what are your top things to see and where can you linger? Top things to see are the Dinosaur Halls on the fourth floor, Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, Akeley Hall of African Mammals, the Dark Universe Space Show in the Rose Center for Earth and Space, the Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals, a 3D IMAX show in the LeFrak Theater, and at least one special exhibition like the Butterfly Conservatory. Best place to linger: either the Hall of Ocean Life or Hall of Gems and Minerals.
Are there any reactions you’ve heard from guests that have really caught your attention or surprised you? Visitors love that we provide Museum floor plans in different languages.
Best spot for adults? Hall of Ocean Life—always a nice photo op beneath the belly of the 94-foot-long blue whale.
Best spot for kids? The Discovery Room when available. (It’s a hands-on mini-museum where kids can dig for dinosaur bones, play games or find a good book.) Please check dates and times prior to your visit.
Anything else you want to add? The Hall of North American Mammals is home to my favorite diorama, the Alaskan brown bear. The dioramas in that recently renovated hall really showcase this classic intersection of art and science.
A few other tips
- AMNH has multiple apps available for download. Chart your own course with the Explorer app that acts as your personal tour guide.
- Visit Ology, a science website from AMNH just for kids. Plan your visit by visiting the Stuff You Can See page.
- General admission to the museum is included with a New York CityPASS, along with admission to the Rose Center for Earth and Space, plus the Space Show or a giant screen film in 3D and 2D.
From Canada’s first ever giant panda cubs in Toronto to the smallest giraffe born at San Diego Zoo, and a orangutan mom who’s fostered three babies at Zoo Atlanta, a number of CityPASS partner zoos have welcomed new arrivals. Read on to learn more about just a few of the cute new faces and the conservation efforts their home zoos work on every day.
Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo
At Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, mother and daughter orangutans gave birth within two months of each other. Josie, a 30-year-old Bornean orangutan, gave birth to a male offspring on December 20 named “GoJo,” a blend of his parents’ names. On February 17, a 10-year-old Bornean orangutan named “Hadiah” (Josie’s daughter) gave birth to her first offspring. The newest baby, a female named Topi, creates a third generation of the orangutan family living at the zoo, which is home to seven endangered orangutans.
Did you know?
- Orangutan means 'person of the forest' in the native languages of Indonesia and Malaysia.
- Orangutans share 97% of the same DNA as humans.
- Bornean orangutans use tools in daily activities. For example, they use branches to test water depth and find insects. They also use leaves as umbrellas, sponges, or napkins.
- Orangutans are the only great apes in the world that are from Asia.
- An orangutan’s arms are longer and stronger than its legs.
- Baby orangutans cry, whimper, and smile at their mothers – just like human babies do.
Conservation: Orangutans are teetering on the edge of extinction, due to the destruction of their rainforest home. The islands of Borneo and Sumatra are the only two places in the world where wild orangutans can be found. The zoo works with Orangutan Outreach, an organization that raises funds to rescue, rehabilitate, and release orangutans back into the wild, to support Orangutan conservation. The Zoo also takes part in Orangutan Caring Week, a week in November dedicated to raising awareness of the challenges faced by wild orangutans.
Click here to learn how to help Bornean Orangutans. Source: Lowry Park Zoo
Jia Panpan and his sister, Jia Yueyue, were born at the Toronto Zoo in October and made their public debut on March 12. Their names mean Canadian Hope and Canadian Joy, and the twins are Canada’s first giant panda cubs.
Did you know?
- Female giant pandas are only receptive to breeding once a year for a period of 24 to 72 hours.
- A giant panda is born pink, hairless and blind, and is 1/900th the size of its mother (about the size of a stick of butter).
- A giant panda's digestive system is more similar to that of a carnivore than a herbivore, yet they have adapted to a vegetarian diet of bamboo, which makes up 99% of what they eat.
Conservation: The giant panda is listed as endangered in the World Conservation Union's Red List of Threatened Species. According to the National Zoo, about 1,600 giant pandas are left in the wild. At one time, giant pandas were much more widespread in China. Now they live in a few mountain ranges in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. The Toronto Zoo supports a bamboo and habitat restoration project in China through the Endangered Species Reserve Fund in collaboration with the Memphis Zoo. The Toronto Zoo is also the only zoo in Canada to employ a Reproductive Physiologist, who investigates ways to improve the reproduction of endangered species and contributes her expertise to breeding programs.
Click here to learn more about Giant Panda conservation. Sources: Toronto Zoo, World Conservation Union
San Diego Zoo
Born on December 12, 2015, at 5 feet 3 inches tall and 117 pounds, Obi, whose name means “heart” in Swahili, is the smallest giraffe born at the San Diego Zoo in 15 years. By two months of age, though, Obi had caught up, tipping the scales at over 270 pounds and standing almost 7 feet tall. His caretakers say he’s a sweet and curious giraffe with a great personality.
Did you know?
- A giraffe's feet are the size of a dinner plate—12 inches across (30.5 centimeters).
- Giraffes have the same number of vertebrae in their necks as we do—seven.
- A giraffe's tongue is 18 to 20 inches (46 to 50 centimeters) long and blue-black. The color may keep the tongue from getting sunburned.
- Giraffe calves grow 1 inch (2.54 centimeters) each day during their first week.
Conservation: Giraffes, sometimes called the watchtowers of the savanna, are slowly disappearing. In many African countries, giraffe populations are decreasing because of poaching, habitat loss and overgrazing of resources by livestock. Two giraffe subspecies—the West African or Nigerian giraffe and the Rothschild’s giraffe—are now endangered. San Diego Zoo Global has partnered with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, as well as other conservation organizations, to help conserve giraffes in East Africa. This year, a team of scientists from the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research has been developing a conservation project with Kenyan pastoralists to find ways to collaborate and protect giraffes in the savanna, including creating a fenced sanctuary for the giraffes.
Click here to learn more about African giraffe conservation. Source: San Diego Zoo
Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle
A female baby western lowland gorilla, "Yola (rhymes with Lola)" was born November 20 to 19-year-old Nadiri at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo. Yola, which means "firefly" in Hausa, is currently being raised by zookeepers after the first-time mom walked away after giving birth and did not show appropriate maternal behaviors. However, the baby is being raised in close proximity to her gorilla family and is making progress in developing a relationship with Nadiri. During the visits, Nadiri will frequently spend a good deal of time lying or sitting by the baby, touching her and gently investigating her hands, face and ears. The baby is also reaching out to Nadiri, holding onto Nadiri’s arms, fingers, and touching her face. As of mid-March, Yola remains off public view and under 24/7 care in a den of the gorillas’ sleeping quarters.
Did you know?
- Gorillas build a nest every night out of plant material to sleep in and a day nest for their midday rest!
- Adult male gorillas eat about 70 pounds (32 kg) of food per day. Adult females eat about two thirds of that amount!
- Gorillas can make up to 22 vocalizations such as grunts, laughs, hoots, barks and screams, each with its own specific meaning!
Conservation: All gorillas are endangered. The estimated population of wild western lowland gorillas is about 110,000 and the estimated population of eastern lowland gorillas is 10,500. In Africa, Woodland Park Zoo supports conservation efforts for the critically endangered western lowland gorilla through the Mbeli Bai Study, one of the zoo’s Partners for Wildlife. The data collected enables scientists to assess the vulnerability of populations to habitat threats and predict their ability to recover from decline. Woodland Park Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums' (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) for gorillas and help diversify the captive gene pool with their breeding efforts. Click here to learn more about gorilla conservation efforts. Source: Woodland Park Zoo
A female gerenuk calf was the first baby of 2016 born at the Houston Zoo. Named January, in honor of her birth month, she spends time with mom Josie and the rest of the gerenuk family. Gerenuk are a species of long-necked gazelle and native to the Horn of Africa.
Did you know?
- The word “gerenuk” means “giraffe-necked” in the Somali language.
- Gerenuks stand on their back legs to reach their food.
- A gerenuk can go its entire life without drinking water.
- Gerenuks get their moisture from the plants they eat,
- Female gerenuks use a lighter, more delicate tone when communicating with their young; they bleat very softly.
Conservation: The Houston Zoo partners with leaders in wildlife conservation and research. They focus on the preservation of African wildlife and their habitats by combining conservation with education and promotion of sustainable livelihoods in local communities. Click here to learn more about animal conservation efforts at the Houston Zoo. Sources: Houston Zoo, Care2.com
The youngest member of the Dallas Zoo chimpanzee troop is two year old boy Mshindi, who lives with his mom, Ramona, alpha male father KC and six year old Brother Kona. At 2, Mshindi is becoming increasingly independent, but will stick close to mom for several more years. He’s also fond of getting rides from big brother, Kona.
Did you know?
- Humans share 98% of DNA with chimps, more than any other species.
- Chimpanzee communities may range in size from 15 to 120 chimps of both sexes and all ages.
- Infants are dependent upon their mother for at least 5 years, and can usually live independently by age 6, but still spend considerable time with their mothers even into adulthood.
- Chimpanzees are omnivores. They rely heavily on a wide variety fruit and leaves, but also eat insects, bark, eggs, nuts, and even hunt monkeys and other small animals for meat.
- Chimpanzees’ body temperature is the same as humans, at 98.6 degrees.
Conservation: The Dallas Zoo is a participating sponsor of the AZA Ape Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) Conservation Initiative, which has developed an eight-project campaign supporting the future of one of the planet’s most imperiled group of animals – apes. For apes – bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, gibbons, and siamangs – the outlook in the wild is bleak. It is estimated that some ape species will be extinct within 20 years. Click here to learn more about helping chimpanzees.
Born in April 2015, Bornean orangutan Keju moved from the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wis., to Zoo Atlanta to meet the remarkable ape that Zoo Atlanta experts hope will become her new mother. On October 29, 2015, at 6 months of age, Keju met Madu, a 32-year-old female “super mom” Sumatran orangutan who has successfully fostered three youngsters over the past 13 years. Madu took to Keju instantly and has been happily caring for Keju ever since. Keju’s name means “cheese,” a special nod to her hometown of Madison, Wisconsin.
Did you know?
- The orangutan is the largest tree-dwelling mammal in the world.
- The name “orangutan hutan” means “person of the forest” in the Malay language.
- The only long-term bonds orangutans have are those between a mother and her offspring. Wild orangutans will often encounter one another and just pass by peacefully unless the encounter is between two adult males.
Conservation: The primary threat to orangutans is habitat loss due to human activities, such as logging, deliberate forest fires and timber clearing for farming. Other specific threats include clear-cutting of forests for palm oil plantations, encroachment of human settlements and hunting for meat and the illegal pet trade. In 2008, Zoo Atlanta and the Ape Conservation Effort donated $6,000 to the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Center founded by Lone Droschler-Nielsen and Dr. Willie Smits. Funds were applied to urgently needed medical supplies for sick and injured orangutans rescued from the pet trade and palm oil plantations. Nyaru Menteng is currently the largest orangutan rehabilitation center in the world and is home to over 650 orangutans. Click here to learn more about Zoo Atlanta's conservation efforts.
CityPASS is proud to partner with all of these zoos as well as many other amazing attractions in 12 great destinations: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Southern California, Tampa Bay and Toronto. Visit citypass.com for more information.
No one wants to be the traveler that makes everyone roll their eyes and mutter under their breath... the Chatty Charlies, seat-kickers, complainers, or culturally insensitive. Take a look at our list of the most annoying travel traits to avoid so you aren’t that person ruining everyone else’s good time.
And if you don’t believe us, take it from Jimmy Kimmel and Patrick Stewart:
What are the things travelers do that annoy you the most? Look over our list, then share your thoughts in the comments below.
Whether you’re stuck with annoying travelers or not, a CityPASS booklet will always make your trip more enjoyable. They're available in 12 North American destinations including New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, and more.