Your Guide to Visiting the American Museum of Natural History
With 45 exhibition halls, the American Museum of Natural History in New York is the mother of all museums. There is so much to see, from the colossal cast of the recently discovered dinosaur Titanosaurus to the astounding timeline of human origins - you’ll always have a reason to come back for more.
American Museum of Natural History Permanent Exhibits
The American Museum of Natural History has an impressive number of permanent exhibits. The 21,000-pound blue whale suspended from the ceiling of the Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life is always a favorite, as is the entire collection of dinosaur fossils—one of the largest in the world. "Lucy," one of the most complete skeletons of the early hominids, is a famous resident of the museum.
Below are just a few of the exhibits that promise to leave a lasting impression.
Biodiversity and Environmental Halls
Explore ecological biodiversity by walking through a 2500-square-foot diorama that recreates a portion of the Dzanga-Sangha rain forest, one of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. The Spectrum of Life exhibit explores how 3.5 billion years of evolution has affected biodiversity in over 1,500 specimens and models ranging from the microscopic to the large and mysterious creatures of the deep.
Here you’ll also learn about history’s mass extinctions and the factors that threaten biodiversity today. Dive deeper into ocean life in the extraordinary Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life, home to one of the museum’s most beloved displays, the 21,000-pound, 94-foot-long blue whale model.
Earth and Planetary Sciences Halls
The Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites seeks to answer questions about the origins of the solar system by analyzing meteorites that have travelled through space and impacted planet Earth.
The three sections of the hall focus on exploring the processes involved in planet formation and the creation of the solar system, as well as meteorite impacts and the details from those impact sites from around the world (Kansas, South Africa, Arizona, etc.).
There are over 130 meteorites on display in the Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites, along with moon rocks and Mars specimens collecting during the 1970s Apollo missions. Learn about the significance of meteor impact with the scaled model of the Barringer Crater of Arizona, considered to be the world’s best-preserved crater and one that forced scientists to think of the solar system in an entirely different way.
Perhaps the American Museum of Natural History’s most well-known halls are in the Koch Dinosaur Wing.
Make sure you check out the Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs and the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs. The Ornithischian Dinosaurs Hall explores the two evolutionary branches of the Ornithischian dinosaurs: the genasaurs, whose inset teeth rows form cheeks, and the cerapods, whose distinct feature is the unusual covering of tooth enamel.
You’ll also find the Milstein Hall of Advanced Mammals, which features casts and fossils of the legendary mammals that roamed the Earth after dinosaurs went extinct. Mammoths, mastodons, giant ground sloths, and saber-toothed cats trekked across North American land over 10,000 years ago during the last ice age. Here you’ll learn about their unique features and what lead to their ultimate demise.
Human Origins and Cultural Halls
The Halls of Human Origins and Culture put the vibrant history of humankind on display.
The Hall of Mexico and Central America features the spectacular art, architecture and artifacts of the Mesoamerican cultures dating back from 1200 BC to the early 1500s. For example, the Aztec Stone of the Sun is an ornate 20-ton stone calendar that illustrates the importance of the sun in Aztec beliefs and tradition and is one of the most famous Aztec monuments at the museum.
In the Hall of African Peoples, visitors are taken to the other side of the world to explore the cultures of ancient Egypt and more. The hall gives you a look into the lifestyles and customs of African peoples and how customs varied across different environments: grasslands, deserts, forests and the river regions.
The Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins is also a must-see for all American Museum of Natural History visitors. Here you’ll find millions of years’ worth of human history, from early hominids like Lucy, who roamed the Earth over 3 million years ago, to the modern homo sapien, who is "only" 150,000 - 200,000 years old! Fossils and DNA research provide remarkable knowledge into human ancestry and evolution.
Rose Center for Earth and Space
The Rose Center for Earth and Space includes the popular Hayden Planetarium. Explore Earth on a cosmic scale and see a phenomenal visual display of the 13-billion-year history of the universe and all it contains.
The 87-foot-diameter Hayden Sphere is comprised of the Hayden Planetarium (upper half) and the Big Bang Theater (lower half). Here, visitors can look down into a concave screen to witness a spectacular and accurate display of the Big Bang, created by an amalgamation of millions of astronomical observations. See the universe in darkness, then watch it expand, cool, and form gases, which then form galaxies, stars, and planets.
The Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Hall of the Universe expands upon the visuals displayed in the Hayden Planetarium and delves even further into the discoveries made with modern astrophysics. This hall is divided into four zones: the Universe Zone, the Galaxies Zone, the Stars Zone, and the Planet Zone. Each offers fascinating insights about space and a unique perspective!
Do your kids need a break from exhibits and dioramas?
In the museum’s Discovery Room, families can let their children explore. Children ages 5-12 get a hands-on scientific adventure in this unique exhibit, while learning about museum sciences such as anthropology, zoology, and more.
Planning Your Visit
American Museum of Natural History Hours
The Museum is open every day from 10am to 5:45pm, but is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Museum of Natural History Tickets & Discounts
Tickets can be purchase both at the museum and online. The museum does offer a pay-what-you-wish ticket price; however, you must wait in line to do this at the ticket counter. Suggested admission is $23 for adults, $18 for ages 13-17, and $13 for ages 2-12.
If you’re visiting New York and want to see some of the city’s best attractions, including the American Museum of Natural History, consider purchasing New York CityPASS to save up to 40% on New York’s top attractions and skip the ticket lines altogether. CityPASS includes general admission to AMNH and the Rose Center for Earth and Space, plus a space show or giant screen film; normal cost for this admission combo is $28 for adults, $22 for ages 13-17, and $16 for ages 2-12.
You can find parking at the Museum at 81st Street between Central Park West and Columbus Ave. Parking hours are 8am - 11pm. The rates are:
- $24 for up to 1 hour
- $27 for up to 2 hours
- $34 for 2-5 hours
- $44 for 5-10 hours
- $49 for anything beyond
If you’re arriving by subway or bus, please visit the American Museum of Natural History website for more detailed information on directions and routes.
Tips and Tricks for a Better Visit
You can easily lose track of time in the massive American Museum of Natural History. It’s possible to spend an entire day here and still not see everything there is to see! Give yourself as much time as you can and check out exhibits online beforehand to plan out an itinerary.
Or, check out some of the self-guided tours to streamline your visit! The Night at the Museum tour is a great option for families and takes you to all the exhibits theses popular films are based on.
Whatever itinerary you choose, don’t forget to bring good walking shoes, water and maybe snacks, because you’re in a for a full day’s adventure.
If you have questions or get turned around during your visit, the museum guides are very well-informed and happy to help. You can learn something new or find your way around a lot easier with a little help from the museum staff.
Finally, don’t forget to check out New York CityPASS to save money and time with your visit!