Temperatures could hit nearly 60 degrees this Friday in New York City, but winter isn’t quite over yet. All of those faux-spring days also bring plenty of grey skies and puddles galore. Whether you’re a tourist or a local, what better way is there to spend a rainy New York day than exploring one of the many world-famous museums? Since most of them have suggested admissions prices (which basically means you can pay whatever you want), it’s the perfect idea for anyone on a budget. Note to tourists: if you buy tickets for the American Museum of Natural History online, for example, you’ll pay the recommended general admission price of $16 plus a $4 fee (certain exhibits cost an additional fee). Just wait to buy tickets at the museum for a better deal. I paid $5 on a Saturday, and one of the girls I was with only paid a nickel; talk about a steal! Spend your money on a fabulous brunch instead. In fact, here’s a game plan for you to enjoy a perfect New York Saturday, rain or shine, in the Upper West Side for under $20.
If you’re looking for a cheap but classy and cozy brunch experience, Alice’s Tea Cup (Chapter 1) is the perfect fairytale prelude to a day at the museum. We were attracted by their extensive list of teas, but were pleasantly surprised at the quality of our meals.
Alice’s Tea Cup is a small restaurant and bakery with three locations in the Upper East and West Sides of Manhattan (chapters 1, 2, and 3, naturally). We visited Chapter 1 at 102 West 73rd Street since it’s only a few blocks from the American Museum of Natural History. Upon entering you’re deliciously teased with baked goods and specialty teas, and just a short walk to the back finds a few tables tucked away for dining.
You might encounter a bit of a wait on the weekends so make sure to arrive early, leaving plenty of time for the museum afterwards. In the event that they tell you it could be an hour wait, just give them your phone number (they’ll call you!), and head around the corner for some window shopping on Columbus Ave. (In our experience a 60 minute wait playing dress-up in Betsey Johnson turned out to be more like 20, FYI). The tea isn’t more than a few bucks and the meals generally run between $8-$13, so you can enjoy a more healthy, gourmet meal than most places in that price range. Plus you get enough tea to last your entire meal, not just one tiny cup.
I won’t give too much away about the AMNH in case you’re planning to see it for yourself. But before this trip, I’d never seen dinosaur bones in person (or if I did, I was far too young to remember). Needless to say I was ecstatic, pretty much like a 9 year old in a Baskin Robbins. Memories of my geeky grade school science books came pouring into my head as I rattled off random facts about the massive beings.We all enjoyed every last bit of our delicious meals and left feeling satisfied and fully energized to make our way through the museum.
Right when you enter the lobby, there are three overwhelmingly large dinosaurs just waiting to come to life and attack the hundreds of people below. We stopped dead in our tracks, jaws on the floor and cameras clicking away when we heard “you can’t stop here,” to which my friend Stephanie brilliantly snapped back “if you don’t want us stopping, don’t put awesome dinosaurs right there!”
The dinosaurs were amazing! I couldn’t help but think more than once that these “bones” looked more like petrified wood carved into silly shapes and sharp teeth. But it’s hard to believe that these things walked the same earth that us humans do.
I must forewarn you about one thing. I usually start museums on the top floor and work my way down to the bottom. The AMNH is huge. Not only that, but the dinosaurs are on the top floor. Once you see the dinosaurs—these massive, intriguing, extinct creatures—the other exhibits might not excite you all that much. Particularly the New York State Environment wing. We even passed the African wildlife area after seeing the dinosaurs and I just was not impressed. It’s almost like, “Psh. I can see those elephants at the zoo any day. I’ll come back when they’re extinct.”
But there’s still plenty of intriguing exhibits at the AMNH. We took so long with the dinosaurs that we didn’t have much time to view too much more, but we did make it a point to take a glance at the meteorites, gems, ocean life, and of course, the giant Blue Whale.
You’ll be navigating your way through 25 interconnected buildings, so you’d better wear comfortable walking shoes. In theory, it sounds like an easygoing day, but as I left I heard one mom sum up the experience perfectly to her son: “I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted to my core. We’re going home.”
If you’re craving some dinosaur action and can’t make it to the AMNH any time soon, check out some more photographs on Flickr. And if you are planning a trip, be sure to download one of the the AMNH apps for your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.