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American Museum of Natural History (New York, USA)

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5 Reviews

Central Park West, at 79th Street. Tel: +1 (212) 769 5000 or +1 (212) 769 5100 for recorded information. Disabled access. Admission through donation (suggested as $7 adults; $4 under-18s).

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    5 Reviews
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      09.07.2009 17:30
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      Don't go.

      Having woken up one morning while in New York, we found it to be raining ever so slightly. Being as we are both quite interested in seeing all the building's and wandering around, we wee a bit disappointed by this. However, it was not unexpected and we just decided to go to a museum and wait until the rain had stopped.

      After looking at one of the guide maps we had, we located the American Museum of Natural History and decided it would be interesting to go and visit. We took a nice walk up through Central Park to get to the museum.

      First impressions from the outside were good, it is a really impressive building, but then, do you expect anything less in NYC?! You have to climb some steps to get inside the building, but that's not a major problem. Once inside is when it goes downhill rapidly.

      For those that don't know, the museum is the featured in Night at the Museum with Ben Stiller. In the film, Stiller walks into the entrance lobby and is greeted by various exhibits and a cool looking round desk in the middle with a spinning globe above it. Not one part of this is present in real life. There are no exhibits in the entrance lobby, just various quotes carved into the walls near the ceiling.

      We joined a queue to get tickets and this is where it really confuses me. It is free to gain entry, but they do suggest you make a donation of $15 for the tickets each. How can they say it's free, but still suggest a donation. I can accept making a donation on the way if you are impressed, a bit like giving a tip in a restaurant. We paid the donation as we didn't know how they would react if you didn't.

      Then that was it, we were left to our devices. Which is perfectly fine, but we were given no map or any guidance as to where to start. All exhibits are set out over 5 floors, which are rather large floors. There is no real sequence to the floors either. You don't enter one exhibit and it goes on to the next one until you complete that floor. You enter the exhibit, then after coming out, have to find your way back to either where you started or try and locate the next exhibit.

      I can't really remember the exhibits or areas as such. The first one we went into was the Asia exhibit, which struck me as odd. I don't know if it's me being all naive or dumb, but I really thought the American Museum of Natural History was going to be about the Natural History of America and not everything around the world. Anyway, it was a very boring exhibit, no interaction with anything, just an item and some writing.

      After leaving here, we went down to the Space exhibit, which was even worse. There is basically a massive ball in the middle of the room with a walkway around it in the shape of a square. There are various facts on boards as you walk around the square. They are simply, if such and such was this size, then the ball would be this size. That was it, the grandest of facts.

      Feeling all very despondant about this and rather bored, we noticed a sign stating that Dinosaurs were on an upper floor. So we somehow managed to locate that area and started to see some Dinosaur bones and displays that reminded me of the Natural History Museum in London. I was beginning to think that this may be the bit that makes the suggested donation worth it.

      How wrong my thinking was. The bones are good enough, but they are just bones. I can go to my local pet shop and buy a bone for my dog, so they aren't that great a thing. The worst part by far though was the writing. It was a bit more interactive, but still lots of writing to ttry and read and digest. Then once you digest it, you notice a sign that reads along the lines of 'everything you just read could be true, but we don't really know for sure and have pretty taken a wild guess at it'. I could accept this for one or 2 exhibits. I mean, I'm no expert and it does amaze how they certain Dinosaurs did certain things, etc, but those signs were on every single exhibit and piece of information. It made the whole area just look fake.

      By now, we were feeling very down about our experience. We decided to grab a snack, as we just happened to walk past a coffee shop inside the museum. I have no idea where this was and would never be able to find it again. The prices in here were just pure extortion. We purchased a bottle of Coke and a Brownie and don't remember much change from a $20 bill!!

      After this, we decided we would just brave the weathr and continue our walk around the city. We did not complete one full floor of the museum and actually missed out on at least 2 of the floors as we were so bored and disappointed by the experience.

      I can't stress it enough really, do NOT go to this museum at all. If you really do have to go, then don't pay for the pleasure. Don't go in with a picture of Night at the Museum either, as there is nothing in there remotely similar to the film.

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        10.05.2009 11:25
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        At least when you leave you get to see the gorgeous Central Park!

        On our trip to New York one of the things I really wanted to do was go to the American Natural History Musuem.

        I had seen it in some movies and thought it looked really good and so we did this on our first day in the city.

        The museum is located near Central Park on the west side so a positive is that you can walk through the park on your way there but it is a good 30 - 45 minute walk from the beginning of the parks 7th Avenue entrance.

        Once you get to the museum it does look very impressive with its stone steps and its located in a beautiful building, as you walk in you enter a huge lobby area with the ticket kiosks and desks.

        The musuem gives you a few choices of how to obtain your tickets, if you have previously purchased before entry you can go in the fast track queue, you can also obtain your tickets from an automated machine which was our plan but we gave up after 5 minutes as didn't understand what we were buying as it was very unclear and so we opted for the good old fashioned manned desk to get our tickets.

        This is when my great impressions of the museum started to wane, you would expect to pay one entrance price per adult or child and gain entry to all the museum yes?

        Well no not here! You have to pay extra if you want to go into the special exhibits, you only pay a set price if you just want access to the main museum itself and you do only have to donate for this but as we wanted to see more as we will not be going back again (and we won't after visiting it now!) we brought a museum and space show ticket at $24 each as my boyfriend is really interested in space.

        We were given a floor plan of the museum and off we went.

        We got to the museum about 2.30pm and my first recommendation would be if your going for the first time and aren't local you really need to go for the whole day if you want to see everything as we only had 3 hours to walk around the 5 levels including seeing our 30 minute space show and I felt like I was running around for the whole time and didn't really get to spend as much time as I would liked to have in a few of the areas.

        We did manage to get lost several times whilst in there, when you are in the vicinity of the elevators and stairs there are signs saying whats on the level you are on but there are no arrows to say "this way to the dinosaurs" which I found a tad annoying.

        The space film that we saw "Cosmic Collisions" was the highlight of my visit, it was shown in the Hayden Planetarium and you really felt as if you were floating in space watching planets and stars fly around your head.

        Apart from that aspect of the day everything else has turned into a bit of a blur, we were taking lots of pictures at first but this got boring after a while as we trudged around the museum trying to figure out where we were.

        I felt the museum could have made more effort considering its size and status in assisting people with its visit, we only found one expert in the dinosaur department who was happy to talk to you about the exhibits, in fact he was overly enthusiastic but he was the only helper I saw throughout the 5 levels.

        I also thought it was a bit of a cheek to charge for entrance to various exhibits, because of this we missed entry to the Climate Change and Butterfly exhibits as we didn't want to pay any more.

        I am not sure if I would recommend it here or not, if I lived local I might as you would have more time to see it all or maybe go back again but if your just on a holiday like us unless you had kids begging you to go I would miss it and go to the one in London instead!

        ***This review will also be posted on Ciao under the same user name***

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          19.10.2008 00:17
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          Read wikipedia, much more understandable and cheaper

          Visiting New York in March2008, we had to find things under cover for all those afternoons where the rain took hold, and where better than a museum!

          From the outside, very impressive, ascending the steps outside it makes you feel like you're in for a good afternoon.
          Got in and found it all a bit lacklustre. Lots of 'sheep herding' railings out, guiding you to cough up some cash.
          We paid the suggest donation of $15USD, got our tickets and wondered where to start...

          And Im wondering where to start now! Directions wise, it was really poor, I think we ended up wandering into the Asia's. We weren't offered a map, or sent in any particular direction by the ticket check people.

          To be honest it all felt really old, musty, dry and generally lacking. I know its a museum but cmon, if we're gonna get the youth of today interested in history we've got to make it accesible to them.
          The ground floor felt really dark and dingy, full of stuffed animals donated from the 1930's by patron of the museum. The information was presented in just written form, nothing was interactive or remarkably interesting!

          We journeyed up to the dinosaurs and thought "hey dinosaurs, kids, they've got to have dinosaurs fun"... You think?!
          At least it was bright up there and the exhibits werent all locked up in glass boxes.Again though it was just time and time again the same dreary information...

          A lot of the information cards also seemed to have "Whilst we believe this to be true, there is no conclusive evidence to support this"... so it all seemed a bit half arsed if Im honest. Kind of make up your own mind.

          So we made our way to the giant cube extension whacked on the side, the Space area. And crikey talk about making space seem like the most boring place around! Lots of physics information around and point decimal explanations of things, which is all well and good for the academics out there, but for Joe Public who just wants a bit more pub quiz information and to actually UNDERSTAND what theyre being told, this is not the place for it.

          After that we definitely werent going to pay to go anywhere else and after about an hour and a half, we opted to go people watching in Starbucks... more entertaining, cleaner, warmer and a darn sight cheaper!

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          11.09.2008 21:36
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          A place I would return to!

          This museum is well located and easy to find, being literally right in front of you as you exit the subway on 79th Street in New York City.

          I went to this museum once, last month, and I have to say I have mixed feelings about it. I will explain.

          Firstly, I should say that I am a huge fan of the Natural History Museum in London and I was expecting to like this one equally. The first surprise, then, came as I entered, and was asked to pay. Apparently the entrance fee is optional, and yo can choose how much you pay, but the suggested donation is 15USD (not the 7 as suggested above). I was surprised as the Natural History Museum in London is free to enter. Still, I paid the requested donation, and asked for some information about the Museum. The member of staff on duty at the time was not very helpful, and in fact quite rude, as I did not want to pay extra to go to the additional exhibits (I think there were two on at the time), as I thought that I would be busy enough for a few hours with the other parts of the museum.

          When you walk in, there is a hige entrance space, with staircases to the right and left, and the place is quite impressive. It was also very clean, which pleased me.

          I first went to look around the space and Earth exhibits, which I was impressed with. Some of the rocks, especially, were impressive. There was a seismograph which I thought was excellent, as it was updated every few minutes with the most recent earthquakes in the world- you should see the ones in California!

          Then I had a chance to see a short film, where you go and stand in a little theatre, and look at pictures of what scientists think that the big bang looked like. This was enjoyable but a bit short. On the way out of the small theatre you see a timeline of the history of the Universe, as you walk round a spiral to get down to the next level. I thought this was brilliant!

          Having spent the morning in this part of the museum, I decided to have some lunch. I found the food adequate but expensive. The staff were polite an helpful. The only thing was that the place was very crowded and there was not really enough space for everyone. It was a weekday and the museum had a couple of school groups in. I think that this is not unusual so it would be good if they had more space for people to eat something.

          I didnt think that the bathroom was big enough either, nor was it clean enough.

          After lunch, I went to look at the ecology section. This was really good, with lots of information on current environmental problems, like global warming, and sections with displays of animals.

          There was a huge room downstairs with some amazing exhibits of different animals. However, because of the situation, or something, of the room the sound seemed so much louder so I didnt spend as long here as I would have liked.

          I easily filled a day in this interesting museum.

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          10.07.2000 05:42
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          this museum rates as no 1 in the "kids take new york" (guide for manhattan parents) things for manhattan kids (and tourists) to do...... Personally I think a visit to Manhattan would be complete *without* a visit here but this is obviously not the only view! If you've been to London and the Natural History Museum there, I'd say forget it. If Natural History Museums are definitely your thing, then go for it... If you do have the time or inclination to visit, the thing which remains most in our memory (and I guess the memories of many others) is the gigantic blue whale (life size) suspended from the ceiling in the Hall of Ocean Life. I also suggest looking around the American Indian Gallery rather than taking the time to visit the Museum of the American Indian downtown, and you can probably do some of this while queuing for the Naturemax theatre show. This is worth it (and the extra fee) if only to sit down and rest your feet for a bit. After walking around here you'll need to! It does have a 4-storey screen but some of the presentations are probably not very interesting for little kids, even on a screen that size. Our youngest (8) was only just interested enough to sit still. There are loads of displays, loads of stuffed animals......and you could easily spend all day here if you wanted. Rather than eating in, get outside for a breath of fresh air and buy lunch from one of the vendors, sitting on the museum steps and looking out across Central Park. It's possible that our visit might have been coloured by jetlag, but more likely that once you've seen the London Natural History Museum once or twice, there's not a huge amount to ooh and aah about here unless this really is what interests you and your family..... Pop in there on a free day for a couple of hours, but don't fall into the "got to see it all" trap!

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