You’ll never regret visiting the American Museum of Natural History on 79th Street and Central Park West. Don’t have any shame about cheapskating your way in with the pay-what-you-wish system. The dinosaurs are the biggest attraction, but since you’re an Art Kid™, you’ll probably gravitate towards the macabre, old school romanticism of the taxidermy dioramas. The birds of the world exhibit, on the second floor, features a breathtaking series of stuffed birds in painstakingly crafted habitats. It’s one of the quietest places in the museum, so if you want to sit on a mahogany bench and soul-gaze into the glass eyes of a spoonbill, it’s a good spot. Other recommendations: the Hall of Biodiversity, the Willamette Meteorite (which you can hug), and the Hall of Gems.
Nearby, on 102 W 79th Street, there’s Astro West Fine Minerals, Fossils, and Meteorites: a swanky showroom where you can gaze at a $900 chunk of neon-yellow sulfur or a $225,000 column of Columbian emerald. The staff, a bunch of sweet rockhounds in suits, give enthusiastic explanations of how the minerals form.
You can then take the B or D line down to The Evolution Store on 687 Broadway to admire vintage anatomical models, responsibly sourced taxidermy and bones, rabbits in lucite, rare fossils, and antique globes. Merchandise more fitting to the college budget includes raccoon baculum (penis bones, $8), fossilized shark teeth ($2), stingray barbs ($6), and scientific illustration posters ($19).
Pro Tip: If you buy a raccoon baculum, don’t leave it in your pocket when you go through airport security.
Photo by Aaron Cohen