Raising our two girls — currently 1 and 3 years old — in New York City has certain advantages. We take weekly visits to the American Museum of Natural History and utilize it as both an indoor recreation center and a place to enjoy the incredible exhibits. For the permanent exhibits, the donation amount is up to you, so it is also an affordable activity in an expensive city. It’s also the perfect place to escape a cold winter day or a humid one. Weekdays are much less crowded than weekends. We always start from the bottom and work our way up, before heading down to the café for an early lunch.
Milstein Hall of Ocean Life (Floor 1)
We always start our visit with a trip to the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. We call it the Whale Room, because of the 94-foot blue whale suspended from the ceiling. The girls love standing underneath it and admiring its grandeur. We often sit on the wide open floor underneath it and have a snack — no one seems to mind. In fact they call it their ‘picnic’ area. My toddler loves running up and down the stairs to see the whale from different angles plus they have a movie on ocean life running throughout the day to entertain my older daughter. The Hall of Ocean Life also has displays of the ocean’s ecosystems and myriad of creatures.
Akeley Hall of African Mammals (Floors 2 and 3)
The African Mammal room is another favorite. It houses 28 dioramas depicting a great array of African animals in their natural habitats. Everything from elephants to impalas which continue to amaze the girls.
Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs (Floor 4)
The Museum has the world’s largest collection of dinosaurs, so we always try to include a visit to the Dinosaur hall. We like to play a game counting bones or even hide and seek if my husband or friends come along.
Until May 25th the butterfly exhibit is a magical experience for both young children and adults alike. The butterflies are flying all around you and if you’re lucky, one may land on your child’s shoulder or finger for closer viewing.
The museum opens at 10a and we try to arrive 10 minutes early before so as not to wait on line. Be ready to have your bag inspected. They allow strollers, which is great, so we leave our coats and diaper bag on our stroller while we walk around the museum.
Café On One
First Floor, Grand Gallery
Café on One serves more gourmet fare catering to adult diners, but has healthy selections for kids too. It’s small and easy to manage if you are alone with several children.
Museum Food Court
The cafeteria downstairs has more child-friendly fare like dinosaur shaped chicken fingers, pizza, etc. It is a large venue and can get very crowded.
The Museum is open daily: 10:00a – 5:45p
The Museum is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Phone: (212) 769-5100