Thursday, 14 April 2011

Awesome Day in NYC at the AMNH

Day 7 of our New York trip last November was pencilled into our itinerary as 'Awesome Day'. Although this sounds like the set up for a fall, with the amazing powers of retrospect (the most un-awesome powers a super hero can have) it turns out this day was my favourite day in New York, the memories from it will undoubtedly stick in my mind until it runs out of cells. The winning combination to make an awesome day was Norngirl, nature, science, sport, beer, food and a panoramic cityscape... *drool*.

So what did we do? First of all we went for breakfast and I had another of what, still to this day, I would say is the nicest BLT I've ever had - washed down of course with unsweetened iced tea. *  (Austin's Café on 7th Avenue if anyone is curious). I don't even like breakfast generally but it turned out in New York City I did!

Once our taste buds had calmed down enough to let us focus on getting on the right subway line, we made our way uptown to the American Museum of Natural History and the connected Planetarium.

We had booked our tickets online for the entrance and shows before we'd even landed in the country and although there wasn't a queue to get in the day we were there it was still handy for us on the day. We went to a machine and it printed everything for us and we headed into the depths of a day in the museum. As we'd learnt on previous museum visits, head to the top and work down. So that's what we did - getting the lift to the 4th floor. Feeling like extras in Night at the Museum we began to walk around the bones of long lost creatures, imagining what they would have been like alive millions of years ago.

The AMNH is located to the west of Central Park and indeed looks over it, from the 4th floor there is very nice view:

Central Park and NYC Skyline from AMNH

The exhibits were great and time flew. before we knew it we'd finished looking around the relics of millions of years past and had to get with the present quick sharp. Our first 'show' was due to start and we had to make it to the butterfly house as soon as possible. Our map didn't feature the whereabouts of this and being self reliant we had a quick run around the lower floors before we found it. We handed over our tickets and entered a very warm butterfly conservatory. Inside, as you'd expect, were all sorts of butterflies, some were landing on peoples heads, others noming on some fruit and some pretending to be bats just hanging there from the ceiling.

Butterflies feeding on lemon slices

I didn't have any land on me but it was fun to try and take some photos of them in all their colourful flutterness. We didn't really stay or listen for the talk about them, just seeing was enough on this occasion - Butterflies might like the heat but in our not-suitable-for-tropical-temperatures attire, it was not the place to loiter too long. We passed through butterfly decontamination after being scanned over by the staff and nipped up in the lift the the next floor.

On the 3rd floor we found the hall of Pacific Peoples and at the end of this hall we found the big Easter Island head - just in time too before he was mobbed by a bunch of school kids. We got a quick sneaky photo with him whilst doing our best impressions of "you dum-dum!" - this is what happens when ejits, history and pop culture meet. Feeling now like the naughty monkey from Night at the Museum (whose species we couldn't find on display in the primates section and were too embarrassed to ask the staff about) we carried on around the exhibits on the 3rd floor. After reading and seeing more about Native American and South American peoples of old than I ever had before, we made a quick dash to a café on the 1st floor for some recuperation and replenishment of essential bodily fluids before our next show. The food was OK - nothing special though which was contrary to indications given by the price and quantity - I'll never complain about the prices in the Ulster Museum again!

Once we'd sipped soup worth it's weight in fools gold we just had time to nip into the section with all the meteors, gems and minerals. A degree in environmental science might not be much use in today's job market but I was certainly in my element in those rooms, I could have stayed in there for hours. Sadly I only had about 10 minutes. One day I'll be back to eye up all those pretty things properly!


With the gleam of sparkling minerals still twinkling in my mind's eye, we made the dash over to the planetarium for Whoopi Goldberg's voice to guide us through the cosmos. It was a great show, sending you through the depths known space. The shows are the same as those you'll find at the Armagh Planetarium for anyone looking for the same sort of thing closer to home in Northern Ireland.

Once we'd been brought back to Earth we carried on looking around the 2nd floor and the exhibits that all seemed oddly familiar as we'd already walked by most on our quest to find the butterflies earlier. We started by looking around the Hall of Planet Earth where I found what I'd always wanted to play with - an interactive exhibit involving Pangea.

Once Norngirl had managed to pull me away from the exhibit we found ourselves wandering the rest of the exhibits. Sadly the main entrance hall was off limits due to some corporate event so we didn't get to see the big dino or Robin Williams. sorry, Theodore Roosevelt on a horse.

We had dedicated several hours to looking around the museum but we were almost out of time and all we'd managed to really do was a whistle stop tour. Our second to last port of call was to the IMAX screen to watch a show all about the Hubble Telescope and we learnt lots about it we didn't know before. We finished up with a quick wander around the bottom of the planetarium, a trip to the toilet and a speedy visit to the gift shop for the token fridge magnet.

As far as museums go it was very good, a nice mix of hands on things and lots of nerdy eye candy with enough exhibits to keep you going for a fair while, let alone the shows and temporary exhibits. Due to being unable to do it all justice in one day, on the repeat visit list for sure - those minerals and gems will be ogled by me properly... I'm determined!

By this point in the day, even after trying our best to work from the top down, we had been on our feet a long time and we were starting to feel it. We wandered back to the adjoining subway line and headed back down town to our hotel to recover. The day might have been more than half way over but awesome day was only halfway through, an evening at Madison Square Garden with hockey and beer awaited us!

To be continued... [Part 2]


  1. Oooooh, great idea about working your way from the top down! I need to remember that one. Oh, and I wish there was one "no school groups" day per week in every museum.

  2. That is a genius idea - I know some museums do a night visit where you have to be over 18 but a whole day would be a even better!

  3. Ooooh, I shall have to apply the top down approach in future. Great tip! You spent so much more time there than I managed! I was only there for a half-day session and rushed off to the Met in the afternoon and then MoMA in the early evening!

    The first photo in this post is quite stunning! I love it.



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