The New York Museum of Natural History is one of the best museums in New York and one of the most visited museums in the United States. Since its founding in 1869, it has topped every list of the best science museums in the world.
Many will know it from Ben Stiller's film "Night at the Museum", especially the younger ones. Although in real life its collection doesn't come alive after dark, it's still worth a visit. Here are the best ways to do it!
Access the Natural History Museum by skipping the queues at the ticket office.
With this early admission ticket you can visit the Natural History Museum without having to wait at the ticket office. Once inside, take your time and explore the gallery at your leisure.
Buying tickets to the New York Museum of Natural History will allow you to skip the queues at the ticket office and enjoy the permanent exhibitions. However, security checks are unavoidable and may delay your access to the collection, which I will describe below.
Once you have purchased your ticket, in order to take sanitary measures against COVID-19 during your visit, the museum also asks you to make a reservation and a scheduled entry on the museum's website to gain access to the museum. Once you receive the confirmation email you will find all the instructions to access the museum.
Why I like this option: with this advance ticket you are guaranteed access to the Natural History Museum without having to queue at the ticket office. What's more, you can stay inside for as long as you like and explore the gallery at your own pace.
Recommended if... you are thinking of visiting the Natural History Museum and want to get an early bird ticket at the best price.
Ticket prices for the Museum at the ticket office
The Natural History Museum is one of the essential tourist attractions. It appeals to both children and adults and is therefore one of the most visited museums in the city where long queues can form. It is best to avoid the museum ticket offices and book your ticket to the Natural History Museum in advance to save time and go straight to the museum, as there is a lot to see.
However, if you like to improvise and plan your trip on the fly, you can buy tickets at the ticket office for these prices:
- Adult $28
- Child (3-12) $16
- Senior (60+) $22
- Student (with ID) $22
Tourist Cards that include the Natural History Museum
To get the most out of your trip to New York you can buy a New York City Sightseeing Card which offers a sort of flat rate for visiting the city's most popular attractions. With these passes you save time (in queues at the ticket office) and money, as the prices for each ticket are more cost-effective.
The New York City Sightseeing Passes that include access to the Museum of Natural History are:
Which pass to buy?
Before you start choosing your pass, you should know that there are two types of passes: those that you pay per day (and therefore you have free entry to as many attractions as you can during those days) or those that you pay for the number of attractions you want to visit (the most efficient if you already know what you want to see on your trip). My article on the best New York City sightseeing cards will help you choose the one that's right for you.
Plan your visit to the Natural History Museum
Location and directions
- Location: 200 Central Park West. New York, NY 10024-5102
- Directions: The New York Museum of Natural History can be reached by bus (M7, M10, M11, M79, M86 and M104) or underground (81st St. Museum of Natural History Station, B and C lines).
- Hours: The museum is open daily from 10 AM to 5:30 PM.
- Closing days: Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Good news, the guided tour of the Museum of Natural History is free. Just register at the information desk in the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall on the first floor. The guided tour lasts approximately 75 minutes and is offered in several languages.
However, there are limited places per group, so if you want to make sure you get a guided tour, I recommend you sign up as soon as you arrive.
Isabel's traveller tip
The Natural History Museum is huge and there is a lot to see, so plan your visit well. Set aside at least 3 hours to explore at your leisure.
What to see at the Natural History Museum
Located in a landscaped garden area facing Central Park, the Museum of Natural History is made up of 28 interconnected buildings housing dozens of permanent exhibition halls, research laboratories and its popular library. Its facilities house what is considered to be the world's most extensive collection of more than 35 million items, which, due to lack of space, cannot be displayed at the same time.
The ten permanent exhibitions spread over more than forty rooms are joined by temporary exhibitions and a planetarium:
Fossils and the Great Canoe, built by Native Americans in the late 19th century, are on display in this area.
Biodiversity and Environmental Halls
Offers a glimpse of life on Earth and its beauty. A 28-metre-long model of a blue whale is on display in one of the halls dedicated to life in the oceans.
Birds and Reptiles and Amphibians Halls
Its rooms represent the great variety of birds on the planet, with a special focus on those of North America and New York. On the other hand, this exhibition also deals with reptiles and amphibians.
Earth and Planetary Sciences Halls
This exhibition has three rooms devoted to meteorites, minerals and gems. On display here are spectacular stones such as the Patricia Emerald, the Midnight Star Ruby and the largest sapphire on the planet: Star of India, the subject of a robbery at the museum in the 1960s.
The fossil exhibition has the largest collection of dinosaur and mammal relics. It is divided into six halls focusing on the origins of vertebrates, dinosaurs, large mammals and early mammals, including Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Stegosaurus and Brontosaurus.
Human Origins and Cultural Halls
This exhibition explores the history of human evolution as well as the different cultures of peoples in Africa, Asia, North and South America and the Pacific.
The exhibition dedicated to mammals covers the characteristics of small mammals, Asian mammals, African mammals, North American mammals, New York mammals, and the primate hall.
Rose Center for Earth and Space
The Rose Center is one of the museum's most unique exhibitions. Its exhibition is dedicated to the study of the universe, galaxies, planets and stars. In this area you can visit the Hayden Planetarium.
Theodore Roosevelt Memorial
This hall houses the official monument to Theodore Roosevelt, governor of the state of New York and president of the United States. In addition, a giant Barosaurus skeleton is also on display.
In this space, children ages 5 to 12 can learn about science, research and nature in the company of adults by experimenting interactively with puzzles, artifacts and scientific challenges.
The New York Museum of Natural History over time
After gaining the support of personalities such as Theodore Roosevelt Sr. (father of the famous president of the United States and one of the co-founders of the institution), the naturalist Albert S. Bickmore achieved his dream of creating the New York Museum of Natural History in 1869 for the study of the universe, the Earth, the human being and the dissemination of science.
From then on, the museum's team travelled to every continent and was involved in expeditions that discovered the North Pole, crossed Mongolia and the Gobi desert, penetrated the thick forests of the Congo and charted unexplored areas of Siberia. Since then, the museum has continued its efforts, sponsoring some 120 expeditions a year and employing more than 225 scientists.
Other interesting museums in New York
By now you should know that New York has a tourist offer that stands out above many other capitals in the world. And "museistically" speaking, it's no slouch. If you feel like visiting some of the most popular museums, don't hesitate to start your tour with the MoMa, one of the most famous museums in the world:
- The MoMa, one of the most important modern art museums in the world (you can read here how to organise your visit: MoMA New York Tickets: how to buy, prices and schedules).
- The 9/11 Memorial/Museum, dedicated to the terrorist attacks that took place on 9/11. Here are my impressions of the visit and some tips: 9/11 Memorial Tickets and Tours in NYC.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the largest museums in the world. It houses works more than 5,000 years old, as well as pieces from different cultures and periods. If you want to get organised to see it, here is a little help: MET New York Guide.
- The Guggenheim, another modern art museum, located in the exclusive Upper East Side of Manhattan. Here you have a Guggenheim Museum New York Guide.