Founded in 1869, the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan’s Upper West Side has long been a destination for locals and tourists alike.
The American Museum of Natural History is one of the largest museums in the world! It’s made up of 28 buildings, houses 45 permanent exhibition halls and is home to over 33 million specimens. It also has a planetarium and library. You could devote over a year of your life to living in AMNH and still not see everything!
What’s more, the AMNH is a living, breathing scientific institution that’s still working and doing research today. Whether it be charting expeditions to every continent on the planet or unearthing the largest dinosaur to ever walk the earth they’re still discovering new things about the world around us every day!
We’ve included a section below with Frequently Asked Questions, like hours of operation, ticket prices and other logistical information to help make your visit to the museum the very best it can be. Scroll down to learn more about the dining options, admission fees, and parking availability.
Instead of running up your step count trying to see every one of the 33 million items during your visit, let us do the work for you! There are certainly tons of things to see at AMNH, but, if you don’t have a year to devote to checking out these exhibits, we’d suggest joining us for a high-energy renegade tour.
Need more convincing? Fun fact: The “Night at the Museum” movie series was based on the American Museum of Natural History – Do we need to say more?
Guide to the American Museum of Natural History
5 Things to See at the American Museum of Natural History
We think 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. The original bones are still there at the National Museum of Ethiopia. AMNH has a caste of the originals, which we still think is pretty cool. 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!
The Great Blue Whale
No list of things you can’t miss 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 blue whales, which unfortunately have been hunted to near extinction in the wild.
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.
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 AMNH 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 bring your camera and brush up on your selfie game before you go!
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 AMNH, 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.
Hacks for Visiting the American Museum of Natural History
- None of the cafes on site sell bottled water, so if you want to stay hydrated during your visit, make sure you pick one up before you come in.
- Unless you’re needing to get in some cardio and want take the stairs, follow this advice. Near the Hall of Pacific Coast Indians, there is an elevator we like to call the “express” because it’s away from the main elevator bank and will take you up to the 4th floor without you having to wait your turn or battle all of the strollers. Bonus Hack: There’s also a secret bathroom at the bottom that almost never has a line!
- Check out all the health benefits to NYC water at the 4th floor water fountain next to the entrance to the halls of evolution.
- Need a quick snack? We love the dinosaur nuggets in the food court on the first floor.
- Need a break from the museum? Find the gray canoe on the first floor near the 77th street side door. (Make sure you have your ticket handy.) Leave through that exit, make a right and hit up the Shake Shack around the corner for a shake and burger fix. Head back to that same 77th street door, you can re-enter the museum there without having to bother with any of the lines!
the American Museum of Natural History: Frequently Asked Questions & Logistics
10:00 am – 5:45 pm
$18 Students and Seniors
$13 Children (age 2-12)
Check out AMNH for more info.
Coat check costs $2.
What’s not allowed in coat check? Perishables, wallets, purses, musical instruments, bikes, computers, and other items deemed to be of high value.
Phone Number: 212-769-5100
Address: Central Park West & 79th St, New York, NY 10024
The AMNH hosts a variety of events, after hours programs, and special exhibits. Check out the events calendar on the museum website for more details.
Food at the Museum
The American Museum of Natural History offers 3 dining options while you’re visiting the museum. All are open daily from 11:00am to 4:45pm:
Museum Food Court – across from the Subway entrance, on the lower level. Features a wide selection of food, good for all ages and palates.
Café on One – located in the Grand Gallery on the First Floor. Features a gourmet selection of adult favorites, including wine by the glass and a variety of beers.
Café on Four – adjacent to the 77th street elevators on the fourth floor. This café offers light meals and assorted snacks.
The AMNH is closed only for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Check their website for the most up to date information.
Photography is allowed in most areas, but leave your selfie stick at home!
AMNH is easily accessible by bus, subway, or train.
Parking is available from 8:00am – 11:00pm. Enter the garage at 81st Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue.
Up to 1 hr: $24
Up to 2 hrs: $27
2-5 hrs: $34
5-10 hrs: 44
Max to close: $49
What is the Stroller Policy at the AMNH? While the American Museum of Natural History does not rent strollers, folded strollers may be checked at the coat check for $2. Some folks have recommended using umbrella strollers for toddlers and preschool age children. You are allowed to bring strollers into the exhibition spaces, just be sure to steer clear of the artifacts!
As of August 2018, the museum does not sell water bottles in their vending machines, but you are permitted to bring your own bottle and refill it at any one of their available facilities.
Why We Know So Much About the American Museum of Natural History
Our company, Museum Hack, leads renegade tours of the world’s best museums, including at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Our guides are experts in the obscure, and collectors of amazing hidden stories about the art and museum; many of which the museum staff isn’t allowed to share.
When you come on a tour of the American Museum of Natural History with Museum Hack, expect:
- Fun games! Pretend to be a museum paleontologist and go on a dino hunt in the fossil halls. Try out your mad scientist skills and make adaptation bend to your will. Find emoji references in ancient artifacts.
- A world of gossip. Find out whale shenanigans at a fancy party. Discover that adorable sea otters are actually assholes in real life (we were disappointed too!). Check out the one thing Teddy Roosevelt gave to the AMNH. It’s AWESOME!
- Subversive stories. We’ve got the real story about how a 34-ton meteorite ended up in the museum collection. Join us in calling out museum signage that’s behind the times, because some of the displays have definitely not caught up with modern views of culture and identity.
- Hidden insights. The museum often leaves out the best, most interesting information, like the wild antics of the guy who’s responsible for stuffing a lot of the creatures in this space. Not only did he singlehandedly revolutionizing taxidermy, but he also survived being trampled by elephants in the field and once wrestled a leopard to death with his bare hands.
- Zany photos. We love museum selfies! Art museums always make great backgrounds. We’ll even challenge you to use your camera to complete challenges and play games during the tour.
We highly recommend you bring the following on your AMNH expedition:
- Smartphone and/or digital camera
- Adventure-ready walking shoes
- Innate sense of curiosity
- Unabashed love of science
- Childlike sense of wonder
- Pith helmet (Just kidding…unless you really want to!)
No matter how many times you’ve visited the American Museum of Natural History, we’ll show you the “Un-highlights” you have never seen or heard of before.