RECOMMENDED: American Museum of Natural History
No matter which wing you wander through or where your curiosities lie (dinosaurs, gems or something else entirely), it’s hard to explore this Upper West Side fixture without being awestruck. You’ll immediately spot the rotunda’s hulking Barosaurus skeleton replica, but delving further into the museum’s collection, you’ll find actual specimens, such as a Deinonychus, in the fourth-floor fossil halls. Roughly 80 percent of the bones on display were actually dug out of the ground; the rest are casts. During the museum’s mid-1990s renovation, several specimens were remodeled to incorporate new discoveries. The Tyrannosaurus rex, for instance, was once believed to have walked upright, Godzilla-style; it now stalks prey with its head lowered and tail raised parallel to the ground.
The rest of the museum is equally dramatic. The newly opened Hall of Human Origins boasts a fine display of your old cousins, the Neanderthals. The Hall of Biodiversity examines world ecosystems and environmental preservation, and a life-size model of a blue whale hangs from the ceiling of the Hall of Ocean Life. The impressive Hall of Meteorites was brushed up and reorganized in 2003. The space’s focal point is Ahnighito, the largest iron meteor on display anywhere in the world, weighing in at 34 tons (more than 30,000kg).
The spectacular $210 million Rose Center for Earth and Space—dazzling at night—is a giant silvery globe where you can discover the universe via 3-D shows in the Hayden Planetarium and light shows in the Big Bang Theater. An IMAX theater screens larger-than-life nature programs, and you can always learn something new from the innovative temporary exhibitions, an easily accessible research library (with vast photo and print archives), several cool gift shops and friendly, helpful staff.
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