The American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History is a childhood favorite. What kid doesn’t want to explore giant rooms filled with dinosaurs or ,visit outer space? And what parent doesn’t want to do all that for practically free?

Plan your visit

Entry is pay-what-you-wish. But if you want to see the special exhibitions, you’ll have to pay full price. Several Westchester libraries give out passes that include entry to special exhibitions, so check with your branch.

What you’ll see

There are 45 exhibit halls over five floors, an outer-space-focused rotunda and several special exhibits. Bring a stroller – there’s a lot of ground to cover, and even if kids walk the exhibits, there are long hallways and staircases to tire them out.

Earth and Space

The Rose Center is a big glass box that houses the Hayden Planetarium. If you’re unsure about a planetarium show, try the Big Bang Theater’s smaller presentation. Set up like a planetarium on the floor, viewers stand around the center screen and gaze down at the show. It’s dark once the show starts, so hang on to roamers, as it might be hard to find them.

The 25-minute planetarium show Dark Universe explores discoveries that led to our understanding of space. Though it’s pretty sophisticated, young ones will be excited by the big screen. This show was our toddlers’ favorite. The moving stars and planets above his head riveted even our antsy 2-year-old.

Environments of Earth

The Hall of Ocean Life houses the famous 94-foot model of a blue whale and other aquatic dioramas over two floors of exhibits, another favorite spot for our little ones. Inside the Hall of Biodiversity is a walk-through rain forest exhibit that uses video and sound to make the ecosystem come alive.

The Animal Halls

Here kids can see life-size models of several species as well as dioramas that give an understanding of daily life. A special ticketed area open through May 27, The Butterfly Conservatory is an annual favorite. Here 500 butterflies roam free in a tropical environment. Watch them eat, flutter, and even land on you! The conservatory was small and warm, so we could only spend 10 minutes inside with our young ones.

Everyone’s favorite: dinosaurs!

The entire fourth floor is devoted to dinosaurs and other fossils. You’ll see the most popular species as well as a 122-foot Titanosaur and several extinct mammals. “T. rex: The Ultimate Predator” is another ticketed presentation with life-size models, fossils, and interactive experiences that give a glimpse into the life of this famous animal. This is better suited for older kids who will love the virtual reality experience.

The snack situation

The lower-level food court has a selection of kid-friendly food like dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets. The café on the fourth floor is a snack stop. But don’t discount the neighborhood! Just a short walk is Shake Shack, Uno Pizzeria, Levain Bakery, and Sarabeth’s.

Our Verdict

The special exhibitions were too … specialized for our little scientists, but they did love the planetarium. The dioramas were a huge hit as were the dinosaur fossils. We tried to see everything in one day and came out exhausted. Pick a few highlights and make a plan to come back again, and again.

Andrea Worthington owns BabyGotChat.com, a website for Westchester parents featuring resources, advice, and events for young children.

When You Go …

The Museum of Natural History

Central Park West at 79th Street

New York, N.Y.



Hours: Daily 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. except on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Admission: A pay-what-you-wish policy with a suggested fee of $23 adults, $13 children ages 2-12, free under age 2. Paid onsite parking available.

AMNH Explorer APP: Download amnh.org/apps/explorer for free to help you find exhibits, bathrooms, and shops.