One part travel blog. One part nerdy history lesson.

Day 5 – Museum of Natural History and Van Gogh Experience

We took the subway north this morning to 72nd street on the upper west side so we could walk towards our museum and pass Zucker’s Bagels and Smoked Fish for breakfast.

Norah chose avocado toast with an egg
Kegan got The Classic- smoked salmon, tomato, red onion, capers, cream cheese on a marble rye bagel.
I got The Delaney. Egg, Swiss, pastrami and a potato latke on a pumpernickel bagel.
We walked past the New York Historical Society on our way to the Natural History Museum and there was an Abe Lincoln standing on the steps.
The American Museum of Natural History.
There were giant halls lined on two levels with these amazing dioramas and taxidermies specimens of various animals.
In 2014, the museum added a planetarium, space theater and many space exhibits to its collection. Norah spent the most time here reading every plaque and screen.
There was a special exhibit called The Nature of Color that we had to get special timed entry into. It was very pretty as it was all laid out by color.

The dinosaur skeletons were particularly cool. So many full remains!

My favorite “dinosaur” is the Giant Ground Sloth. These things are sooo cool. I love when we find a skeleton. This particular dude is the largest skeleton ever found. He was massive. Or she… I don’t want to be presumptuous.

They had a very large collection of pacific Island items including a statue from Easter Island. Also, tons of Aztec, Inca and Mayan items as well

One of the more interesting items I thought were these diorama recreations of various port and trade cities at a high point in their history.

Some other random items we liked today:

The blue whale is a famous symbol of the museum. It has also become a Covid vaccination point during the pandemic. The blue whale even got a vaccine bandaid added to his fin as PR for the site.
Giant Sequoia slice
I really liked seeing all of the pre-homo sapien skulls that have been found that have helped create the evolutionary timeline. I’ve seen many documentaries on various species but it was cool to see them in real life.

Amazingly, we didn’t get tickets to the Hall of Gems and Minerals- I couldn’t figure out how to join the virtual line… figured maybe it was already sold out for the day since online said it usually was… and Norah was disappointed- but when we passed by the entrance, the attendant let us in anyway without asking for tickets! Ha there was no line so I assume since it wasn’t stacked full of people, anyone could go in but we’ll just pretend we were super special 🙂

After we had seen all our brains could take of museums for the second day in a row, we headed down to the subway back towards our hotel to grab some food. The subway station was decorated appropriately.

We chose Ben’s Deli because Kegan didn’t want to miss a good Jewish deli hot pastrami and matzah ball soup.
Norah twinning with the subway signage.

He said the pastrami was great and the pickles were spot on… but he actually likes my matzah ball soup that I make better! Haha

After dinner we hung out in our hotel for an hour until it was time to head south towards Wall Street again to visit the Van Gogh Interactive Exhibit on Pier 31

Right outside the entrance we found the Irish Famine Memorial. A real Irish famine house that has been brought to lower Manhattan to honor the Irish immigrants to New York during the potato famine. Pretty neat to see snuggled in overlooking the water from the top and in between giant modern skyscrapers

The Van Gogh exhibit was very cool. I’m admittedly not much of an art buff- and of course I knew a couple of Van Gogh’s majorly famous works, but so didn’t realize he was so young when he killed himself (37), I didn’t realize he was roommates with fellow artist Paul Gauguin and I didn’t realize that an argument with Gauguin led to the famous “ear” incident where Van Gogh cut off his own ear with a razor blade and put it in an envelope and dropped it off at a nearby brothel.

Needless to say, they weren’t roommates after that, Van Gogh checked himself into a mental health facility and remained there painting. He was discharged in 1889 and within months shot himself in the abdomen and died two days later.

Tragic story, terrible mental illness. Beautiful art produced from the madness.

The best part was this giant room of projectors that created this immersive experience of being inside various paintings. It constantly changed and created a 30 minute or so video with sounds. I enjoyed sitting and taking it all in.
After the immersive room, you could select a coloring page and “paint with VanGogh”. After you colored it (with the 6 color choices of crayons they provided ha) you could scan it to display on a projected art wall.

After coloring, we entered the VR experience room where we wore Virtual Reality headsets for a 15 minute ride through Van Gogh painted fields to see some of the villages and scenes he painted. Then, because we had VIP tickets, we got to select a Van Gogh printed poster to take home.

Overall, a great experience. There are many of these around the country right now. I highly recommend a visit!

We walked to the World Trade Center subway station after we left to ride back up to midtown/Times Square

Tomorrow we’ll head out through Queens to Flushing- the end of the 7 train line to experience some of the outer boroughs and search out some great Asian food.


  1. Jennifer

    I saw the same Van Gogh digital experience in Indy on Friday. It was awesome!

    • Erin McKinney

      Oh! I didn’t know we had one in Indy! Super cool!

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