By Joanne Colella
It’s January. The holidays are over, the cold has set in, and at some point, there may be more snow and slush with which to contend. What to do on a wintry day, to stave off boredom while still managing to stay comfortably indoors? Choices abound, but for a terrific blend of entertainment and education, creativity and culture for day trippers of every age and preference, plan a visit to one or more of the countless museums that are just a short drive away. The biggest challenge will be deciding which one to select, so here is just a small sampling of some hugely popular favorites, to appeal to a variety of interests.
If dinosaurs, gemstones, and mammal dioramas are your thing, then head to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. It is one of Manhattan’s most popular attractions and the destination of many a class trip, as well as the setting for the imaginative “Night at the Museum” movies. Current special attractions include an exploration of Cuba’s extraordinary biodiversity and unique culture (through August 13); Wonders of the Artic, which tells the story of survival in one of the most unforgiving environments on earth (through March 2); and The Titanosaur, a cast of a 122-foot-long newly discovered dinosaur species (through January 1, 2020). The museum boasts four floors of exhibits, including an impressive IMAX theatre, to explain the wonders of ocean life (you can’t miss the 94-foot model of the blue whale), the evolution of man, dinosaur fossils, gemstone collections, a butterfly conservatory, and lifelike displays of animal life – including a herd of elephants – from every corner of the planet. And speaking of planets, the adjacent Hayden Planetarium features state-of-the-art technology to take starry-eyed visitors on a journey through the galaxy. To make this landmark museum part of your own family history, find out more on the website at www.amnh.org.
For art lovers, few places are quite as impressive as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, also in NYC, which welcomes over five million visitors each year. It houses over two million works of art from throughout the world and from every era of history, all in a splendidly beautiful setting. From ancient Egyptian vases and Roman statues to Tiffany stained glass and paintings by Rembrandt, from its own ancient temple to The Cloisters collection, and from unique musical instruments to formidable suits of armor, the Met’s attractions are astounding and impossible to see in just one visit – and you’ll certainly long to come back to see more. Take on online tour at www.metmuseum.org.
For those who enjoy delving deeper into science and technology, there is the Liberty Science Center at Liberty State Park in Jersey City. Since first opening its doors in 1993, it has become one of New Jersey’s most popular attractions. A vast variety of exhibitions allows visitors to explore the marvels of engineering; the rise and fall of infectious diseases; methods of written, spoken, symbolic, electronic, digital, and other expressions of communication; and information on how to harness sources of energy and their impact on the environment. For the youngest scientists, ages two through five, there is even an exhibit of their own called I Explore, offering a hands-on, interactive environment that allows children to expand and enjoy their natural curiosity about the world around them. A special traveling exhibit, there through January 16, is Bodies Revealed, which presents real human figures and organs that reveal the wonder and beauty of the human form. It shows detailed views of human anatomy, from whole body displays to individual skeletal, muscular, nervous, respiratory, digestive, urinary, reproductive, endocrine, and circulatory systems. Unlike models that idealize the body through the eyes of an artist, this exhibition shows the body and its systems as they really exist, including natural variation. If you’re mad about science, go to www.lsc.org to find out more.
Whether you’re seeking artistic antiquities, scientific discoveries, space travel, or natural wonders, there is a perfect museum that awaits to provide your next day trip destination.