Immortalised on screen in the family film Night at the Museum, the American Museum of Natural History is essentially four floors of taxidermy from all over the globe. Standouts include the Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals and The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. The Milstein Hall is indeed a hall, and striking in both scale and design; the low lighting and soft blue glow is strangely beautiful.

The Museum is extensive and it is difficult to view the whole thing during one visit. I missed several sections of the place due to time restraints, including the entire fourth floor, which is devoted to dinosaurs and primitive mammals. This is where the Museum is value for money – size, and potential time you could spend there.

A current exhibit is Whales: Giants of the Deep, which I did not view due to additional cost not included in CityPASS, or indeed in the on the door ticket price. New York museums are generally expensive compared to those in the UK, and often charge extra for new or temporary exhibits on top of a $25 entry fee/donation.

As well as general entry, one thing that is included in the admission is the Hayden Planetarium Space Theater. The Planetarium was visually impressive and the narrative voiced by Whoopi Goldberg informative. Yet, I was somewhat disappointed as I had (stereotypically?) been expecting a lesson/display showing the constellations, with a languorous journey through the solar system.

The Museum is perhaps lacking detailed information in parts, however, the sheer size of the place means that it would be difficult to spend time reading panels. The gift shops are very good with a wide selection of wares.

Empire State of Mind

No trip to New York is complete without a visit to the Empire State Building. The former world’s tallest building (it now ranks at number 22), is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

As well as being an American icon, the Empire State Building remains a pillar of art deco architecture. Murals, however, are not original and were replaced a few years ago due to damage. Staff uniforms take you back to a bygone era, although the glamorous atmosphere is slightly tarnished by the tacky souvenir photo shoots, where you are superimposed onto a background of the view from the top. Perhaps some people forget their cameras?

Again, with CityPASS you can skip queues and also visit the observatory twice within the same day, so you can have 360 day and night views – the observatory is open until 2am if you fancy a romantic end to your evening. I visited the tower at around 10pm and queues were fairly swift.

The elevator to the observation deck 86 floors up takes less than one minute. For an additional fee you may travel to the 102nd floor. It was amazing to see the city lit up in a variety of colours, and I have many Blade Runner-esque shots.

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In contrast, Top of the Rock – which I visited during daytime hours – was much busier and queues were fairly long. The Rockefeller Center Observation Deck is 70 floors up and you can see the inner workings of the lift as you ascend.

The advantage of the Rock Deck are fantastic aspects over Central Park and a view of the Empire State Building. This is another reason why I would recommend the Rock during the day and the Empire at night.

If you want to check out the NBC Studio tour and Radio City Music Hall (1930s building) tour, as well as a tour of the Rockefeller Center itself, you can purchase a RockPASS, which gives you access to all of these attractions.

Unfortunately I was not in the city on any of the dates for the scheduled art deco tours of Radio City, which are held on a monthly basis (check the website for dates).
Top of the Rock is open daily until midnight.

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