Located in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the American Museum of Natural History is one of the largest museums in the world. It’s made up of 28 connected buildings that house 45 permanent exhibition halls and over 33 million specimens; that’s a lot of things to see. It’s also got a planetarium and a library, which basically means that you could devote over a year of your life to living in the natural history museum and still not see everything.
Instead of running up your step count trying to see every one of those 33 million items during your visit, seek out the best exhibits or come on a renegade tour and we will show you the coolest stuff we’ve found.
There are certainly tons of things to see at the museum of natural history. If you don’t have a year to devote to checking them all out then we’d suggest visiting these five must-see sites instead.
What to See at the American Museum of Natural History
Below, you’ll find five of the best things to see at the museum of natural history.
Tricked by her boyfriend into delivering a briefcase to a supposed business contact, Lucy was surgically implanted with a powerful chemical that leaks into her body and gives her superhuman powers, setting her on an adventure that…
Nope, wrong Lucy.
Though decidedly shorter and hairier than Scarlett Johansson’s version, we think the Lucy in the Hall of Human Origins at the American Museum of Natural History is pretty dang neat.
Lucy is one of the most complete skeletons of early hominids ever found. She’s over three million years old (we think she looks great for her age) and was discovered in 1974 in Ethiopia. She’s a pretty big deal not just for her age and completeness, but for the fact that her knees show us that she walked upright.
Take that, Scarlett.
#2: The Great Blue Whale
No list of things you must see at the American Museum of Natural History would be complete without the Great Blue Whale, which you literally cannot miss.
Seriously, it’s huge.
Located in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, the Great Blue Whale is 94 feet long and weighs 21,000 pounds. It’s a great reminder of the majesty and beauty of the blue whales, which unfortunately have been hunted to near extinction in the wild.
It’s also just really cool.
#3: Our Weird Cousin, the Dimetrodon
It seems like every family has a black sheep cousin or two that simply has to have been adopted and, in the Hall of Primitive Mammals, there’s an exhibit devoted entirely to humanity’s awkward cousin.
The Hall of Primitive Mammals traces the evolution of mammals back to their origins, over 300 million years ago. There were even tiny mammals scampering around during the age of dinosaurs, though they didn’t really get a chance to do their thing until after the dinosaurs died.
The oldest relative to mammals is Dimetrodon, who sits right at the intersection of the evolutionary tree that has dinosaurs, reptiles and birds on side and humans on the other. He may not have had your shiny hair or clear skin, but he did have three middle ear bones and a special opening behind his eyes in his skull that allowed his eye muscles to develop. And, like any scaly, benevolent great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, he passed on those features to us!
Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you have to invite him to Thanksgiving dinner.
#4: Horny Dead Animals
“Horny dead animals?!” you exclaim, clutching your pearls, “But I thought the American Museum of Natural History was suitable for all ages!”
Rest assured, yes, the museum of natural history is suitable for children. The horny dead animals we’re referring to are, of course, the dinosaurs!
The dinosaur skeletons at the AMNH are pretty amazing and certainly unmissable. There are two different halls in the David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing: the Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs and the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs.
All dinosaurs fit into two different groups and yep, you guessed it, those two groups are ornithischian and saurischian. The latter, saurischians, are characterized by their grasping hands, in which the thumb is offset from the other fingers. Think of T-rex and his tiny little arms.
Ornithischian dinosaurs, on the other hand, are known for having enormous stomachs to digest the massive amounts of vegetation they ate.
Both halls are amazing and well worth a visit. Make sure to brush up on your selfie game before you go!
#5: The Dzanga-Sangha Rainforest
Located in the Hall of Biodiversity, the Dzanga-Sangha Rainforest exhibit is a beautiful tribute to some of the most unique vegetation and wildlife in the world.
The real-life Dzanga-Sangha rainforest is located in Africa, and houses some of the highest concentrations of forest elephants and lowland gorillas in the world.
Since getting to the real Dzanga-Sangha rainforest requires a lot more time and resources than getting to the natural history museum, make sure you take the time to stop by this marvel and learn about the efforts to protect it from agriculture, timber, and mining operations.
There are thousands of amazing exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History, and it’s well worth a trip (or three) to check them all out. If you feel like you could use a little guidance on your visit then check out one of our museum tours, which dive even deeper into the mysteries and marvels of this awesome museum.
And in case all that museum exploring makes you hungry, here are some of the best spots to eat near the AMNH.
What do you think is “must see” at the natural history museum? Share your favorite exhibits in the comments!