Home to the largest and arguably most fabulous collection of dinosaur fossils in the world, AMNH’s fourth-floor dino halls have been blowing kids’ minds for decades. Roughly 80 percent of the bones on display were actually dug out of the ground; the rest are casts. The thrills begin when you cross the threshold of the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda, where you’re confronted with a towering barosaurus rearing up on its hind legs to protect its young from an attacking allosaurus—an impressive welcome to the world’s largest museum of its kind.
During the museum’s mid-1990s renovation, several specimens were remodeled to incorporate new discoveries. The Tyrannosaurus rex, for instance, was once believed to have walked upright, Godzilla-style; it now stalks prey with its head lowered and tail raised parallel to the ground. The rest of the museum is equally dramatic. The Hall of Human Origins boasts a fine display of your old cousins, the Neanderthals. The Hall of Biodiversity examines world ecosystems and environmental preservation, and a life-size, 100-foot-long model of a blue whale hangs from the ceiling of the Hall of Ocean Life. The impressive Hall of Meteorites centers around Ahnighito, the largest iron meteor on display anywhere in the world, weighing in at 34 tons (more than 30,000kg). The spectacular $210 million Rose Center for Earth & Space—dazzling at night—is a giant silvery globe where you can discover the universe via 3-D shows in the Hayden Planetarium and light shows in the Big Bang Theater. An IMAX theatre screens larger-than-life nature programs, and you can always learn something new from the innovative temporary exhibitions, an easily accessible research library (with vast photo and print archives), several cool gift shops and friendly, helpful staff.
Make sure to take advantage of special kid-oriented programming as well, which welcomes families into the Discovery Room, where kids can grab a magnifying glass and seek out insects, birds ad mammals in a giant African baobab tree, try on cultural masks or piece together dino bones.