What to Do on Rainy Days in New York: Museums (I)

It’s that time of the year again. Not only has fall showed up but with it a few rainy days already, during which I have come up with some ideas of how to spend my time indoors. Rainy days in New York are not as bad as elsewhere, I believe, for there are plenty of things to keep one entertained in the city of 8 million.

This post focuses a bit more on the cultural side, because I myself have had a few days off during which I have looked forward to explore the most significant museums history-wise.

One day in late September I finally made it out to the Museum of Natural History. I was joined by three Russian fellows who were interested in physics and chemistry – just the right mix for a psychology major like me. First we went on a tour, which was hosted by an elderly American who was eager to tell us more about the black hole, dinosaurs and the hidden gems of stones. One hour is short to show significant land marks in this museum and the guy did a great job shoving us into just the right rooms and explaining important matters to us. We started out in the science room, which was boring to me but exciting to the others, naturally, as this was their major (except for Elena, who is simply curious). From there we were rushed onto the 3rd floor to see the “fake” skeletons of dinosaurs (it was quite surprising to me how many of the exhibits are fake, but I guess you can’t have the authentic pieces lying around when thousands of people want to touch them all the time.)

Off to the whales and sea mammals – the blue whale being the biggest living creature in the world (even exceeding dinosaurs in size) and after this I got lost when looking at other beautiful sea exhibits, such as oversized shells. But luckily I reunited with the group just in time to say good-bye to the tour guide, bypassing the hall of meteorites and the mineral room. The Museum of Natural History is worth going just because of the learning side to it all and it encourages interaction with children, as there are many playful sites at which kids can have a good time and simultaneously learn.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is worthwhile, too. A good tip is to go on their long Fridays, as the dim light shines down on the exhibits in a great way and some unusual events are hosted, such as a musical concert on the top floor (which you can observe and listen to from a distance away on the balcony opposing it). The atmosphere is great, as soon as you enter the main hall there is much hustle and bustle going on. I’ve only been to this museum twice and still haven’t seen half of it. I highly recommend to explore the pyramids and other pieces of old Egypt. One time a teenager was trying to enter the main pyramid and hopped over the loosely strung rope, thinking he would not get caught. A significant “beep” sounded until the museum guard told him to move away as soon as possible. So their stuff is definitely secured, is what I am saying (and my, what ideas these young people have sometimes…).

Other floors of interest to me were not so much European history (we have plenty of that in Europe) but the American side to it all, so American furniture and houses from the 17th and 18th century are quite appealing to look at (and trigger thoughts on the dark history of slaves etc.).

Both, the Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, work on a “give-by-donation”-entry charge, which means the fee of $25 dollars is recommended but no one really pays attention to this. I do know that the cashiers tend to give you a dirty look when you hand them a one-dollar-bill, so if you want to avoid this, give them 5 bucks.

Now, I don’t want to bore you with other detailed explanations, but other museums I have been able to check out are the National Museum of the American Indian, which is for FREE and close to City Hall. It is relatively small but is filled with many inspiring drawings and historical facts I hadn’t known of.
The Brooklyn Museum extends well over 5 floors and has a special event going on every first Saturday of the month, called “Target First Saturdays.” There is no cover charge and a party with a DJ from Harlem playing African-American soul beat is going on after 8 PM (the museum is open until 10 PM). I have been there two times before but still haven’t made it through every room. On these first Saturdays there are many interesting programs, and I consider them worth checking out again once winter swooshes in (or maybe next month).

There are many more museums that are in dire need of a visit. One thing I have noticed, though, is that I am not a patient person when it comes to spending time inside dead historical buildings. Two hours, maybe three is the maximum amount of time I can take without getting a nervous breakdown and wishing I would have never went. So eventually I will get around to the famous Guggenheim, MoMa, and other pearls; it just takes the right amount of rainy days and time…

For more pictures of the Museum of Natural History, go here.

For more pictures of the Met Museum, go here.

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