Day at the Museum (of Natural History)

Thursday, May 06, 2010 12:00pm

With my plans for Paris scrapped, I decided to do the next best thing. I packed my bags and drove the 15 miles to my destination.
The Greatest City in the World is mere minutes from my home, and yet I never go. I want to, I think I will, but I don’t. So I suggested we spend the week, which was Spring Break for our kids, at the museums we had at our daily disposal. The ones we neglect and of which we don’t take advantage. We would get to spend some quality time with the kids and expose them to art, culture and the wide world beyond our insulated borders.
We went for two days and did all 5,000 exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Oh, and the Central Park Zoo. We started with the Museum of Natural History, which has a special significance for me because it was where I had my first kiss with my husband and, later, where I would pass on my visits to my obstetrician, whose office was across the street.


We had already purchased tickets, the Super Saver pass, which I might even call the Super Duper pass if one intends to view every possible special exhibit as we did. Once we got there we simply printed the tickets out, and we were off. We saved money and avoided lines. Our trip was already off to a good start.
We headed straight to the Hall of Ocean Life where we stood in awe of the colossal blue whale reproduction suspended from the ceiling for at least several seconds before my kids raced down the stairs and darted past all the glass windows housing new ocean life dioramas. But before chasing after them, I was able to read a sign the museum posted to put the astounding animal, the largest creature that ever lived, into perspective for children. It stated an adult can reach the size of three school buses. I caught up to my kids and imparted this impressive fact. They shrugged and tried to climb into a giant scallop shell.
At noon it was time for the Butterfly Conservatory. We stepped into a tropical forest, recreated at the museum for the 11th year, filled with over 500 butterflies. The butterflies, adorned in almost unnatural hues of blues, yellows and oranges, swooped over and around us. Some liked to hang out on visitors’ heads, but a sign advised guests to allow them that courtesy. It noted that brushing them off could damage the tiny, delicate scales that cover the wings. Who knew butterflies were scaly?
Of course, I was anxious the entire time, worrying my kids would crush or cripple a butterfly, and so I kept screaming at them to leave the butterflies alone. I also had a peculiar sensation that I was living in the film Silence of the Lambs, and Buffalo Bill was around the next corner, but otherwise the exhibit was quite lovely. It ends this month, though, so order your Super Saver now, or check it out on the live butterflycam.
Next, we were on to Lizards and Snakes: Alive, which sadly did not attract the same fervor as the butterflies. I felt bad for the little lizards. They were cool but rather lethargic so I could see how they might be a tough sell. I enjoyed observing leaf geckos, however, as they stuck immobile as if suctioned cupped (but they weren’t) to glass walls, waiting for the basilisk to walk on water, and watching the prettiest of all squamates, yes, that’s right, squamates, the chameleon. I have never in all my years heard that term, but if the AMNH uses it, it must be so. Apparently, squamates are legged and legless lizards, including snakes, but who’s ever heard of that?
My kids’ favorite part of the squamates (yes, I’m going to use that word as much as possible) exhibit was playing the old-school, arcade-type video game of a snake trying to strike prey. Although this, too, was lovely, if you can’t go, you can at least watch some squamates on the Lizardcam.
Then we Journeyed to the Stars in the Hayden Planetarium. I thought this would be a little respite along our busy day and a dazzling spectacle for my younger child. It was a feast for the eyes, but about half way through the half hour show Whoopi, who narrates, lost both him and me. When we exited the planetarium I asked Kevin, “How are stars formed again?” He didn’t know.
Lastly, we saw the Great Lakes Imax film Kevin insisted upon. It was about sturgeon. Needless to say, my kids were ready to blow out of the museum when that film was over. And, anyway, I think the museum was closing.
We did manage to squeeze in the dinosaurs, too, somewhere. And the Pacific Peoples, but I still feel like I’m leaving something out.
The American Museum of Natural History
Who: All ages.
What: NYC’s science and cultural museum.
Where: AMNH, Central Park West & 79th Street, New York, NY.
When: Daily from 10 am – 5:45 pm.
Cost: Suggested Admission: Adult: $16 / Children (2-12) $9. Super Saver Pass gives you general admission and admission to all special exhibits: Adults $32 / Children (2-12) $20.
Anyway, stay tuned for the next installment of my NYC adventures coming soon, and if you’ve braved the city with your kids, how was your experience? Where did you go? What’s good to do? And how did you survive?

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