So day two in NYC, and the big plan is the American Museum of Natural History! Apparently rated the number 2 tourist attraction in the United States, this Museum boasts an extremely large and varied collection of displays, artifacts, and attractions covering an incredibly wide range of topics, as well as a planetarium and IMAX theatre. Definitely enough stuff to keep us occupied for a full day. And let me tell you, definitely did that.
We started with breakfast at a place called Pax, which is a kind of new-agey fast food restaurant which offered a variety of breakfast options, not to mention pastries and deserts (we proceeded to eat here a number of other times, as the food was quite good, and it happened to be just up the street from the hotel). Afterward, we enjoyed another subway debacle. The plan was to take the E line to the 50th street station, where we’d transfer to the A and take that straight up to the museum. Sounds pretty easy, until you realize that, thanks to the holiday (turns out this was Martin Luther King Day weekend), the A line wasn’t stopping at the 50th street station. Doh! Of course, we didn’t discover this until after we’d gotten off at said station. So we had to wait until another E arrived so we could continue to the 49th street station, where we caught the A.
As for the museum itself, thanks to our Super Saver passes, we had access to the Butterfly exhibit, the IMAX production which told the story of the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers, and a Planetarium show entitled “Cosmic Collisions”. And then there was the rest of the truly massive museum to visit. Frankly, I don’t think I can properly express the scale of this thing, but I can tell you that, in our full day there, we only saw a fraction of what was offered. Not only was there a bewildering number of things to see, but each item was also labelled with a variety of historical information, meaning there was a ton to read too. One of my personal favorites was a display on astronomical scale. Using the planetarium sphere as a baseline, it would then present models to provide perspectives on different objects, ranging from galaxy clusters all the way down to hydrogen atoms. As an example, it would present a sphere, and the description would be “If the Sun was the size of the planetarium sphere, the this model would be the size of the earth”. Truly awesome.
Then there was the butterfly exhibit. Though, in order to get there, we had to go through a room which I can only describe as breathtaking. Vaulted ceilings reaching up three stories, massive columns, gorgeous murals on the wall… just wonderful, particularly for an architecture junky like myself. As for the exhibit, it offered a variety of information about butterfly species, growth and development, evolution, and so forth, and then led you into an enclosure with a wide variety of the insects flying freely. It was quite incredible, and allowed me to capture a few wonderful shots of some of the species represented. And I was even lucky enough to have a butterfly land on my finger (while taking a photo) and the top of my head! Unfortunately, we weren’t fast enough to photo-document either event.
As for other exhibits, I also quite enjoyed the vast collection of central and south american artifacts they had, including an enormous head created by the Aztecs, as well as their extensive meteorite and gem stone collections. Really fantastic stuff.
And, of course, there are the diaramas, which attempt to depict various animals and peoples in their native habitats. The artwork really is wonderful, and the descriptions to go with the displays are quite interesting.
As for the IMAX and Planetarium shows, both were very good, though admittedly, I have seen more impressive presentations. Still, quite enjoyable.
Of course, lunch was eaten at the Museum (pizza and mozarella sticks… I don’t think we could’ve eaten a less healthy meal). As for dinner, we decided to try out the fancy-appearing restaurant that was, literally, next door to our hotel. Turns out it’s rated fairly well in the Zagat guide, and for good reason, as Lenore’s Filet Mignon was quite nice, and my tuna (rare) was delicious as well. We bookended the meal with a nice wild mushroom ravioli in a truffel sauce, and a fantastic hot chocolate gateau which encased a soft chocolate center, accompanied by a hazelnut ice cream. Delicious. Especially with the glass of 40 year old port I ordered.
So not a bad day. Certainly better than day 1.