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Get Some Space at the Hayden Planetarium

New York attraction features a replica of the surface of the moon.

New York can be a  crowded place year-round, but maybe never moreso than during the holiday season.

Still, Suzanne Morris, the senior manager of public programs for the Rose Center for Earth and Space and the Hayden Planetarium in New York City believes she has the place when you need some space.

Be forewarned, though: “A comfortable pair of walking shoes is always suggested as the museum spans several city blocks,” Morris said. 

The destination, part of the American Museum of Natural History on Central Park West at 79th Street, is as intriguing from the outside as it is inside.

“One of the first things visitors notice about the planetarium is the glass building it is housed in, The Rose Center for Earth and Space,” Morris said. “The giant sphere suspended in a glass cube is quite a striking visual as visitors approach the museum.” 

The current space show presented at the planetarium is Journey to the Stars, narrated by Whoopi Goldberg. The presentation features images from telescopes on the ground and in space, and visualizations of physics-based simulations. Journey to the Stars was created by the museum’s astrophysicists as well as its scientific visualization and media production experts, with help from NASA and more than 40 leading scientists from the United States and from around the world.

Also in the complex is the Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth, displaying a far-reaching collection of geological specimens. Between 1996 and 1998, museum teams hunted around the world to find geologically significant rocks and bring them back. Every specimen and model was chosen specifically for the value of telling Earth’s story.

“The museum sees visitors from the NYC area as well as around the world. The Planetarium is a great place for people of all ages and levels of knowledge in Astronomy,” Morris said.

That's why we've selected it for this edition of Day Tripper, a weekly look at destinations that are out of town, but in reach, and worth the trip.


Estimated Travel Time: 1 hour (if traffic at the NYC crossings isn't too bad)

Why it’s Worth the Trip:  If you want to fire up the imagination, and be in the big city without feeling too claustrophobic, go to the place with plenty of “space,” and the Rose Center and Hayden Planetarium certainly have that.

How to Get There from Here: Detailed driving directions.

You’ll Probably Get Hungry: Try sandwiches and salads from  Café Metro, upscale French food from superstar chef Jean-George, Thomas Keller’s Per Se, or fill your sushi and sashimi need at Masa NYC. If you just want to satisfy a sweet tooth, try Bouchon Bakery where the stuff looks as good as it tastes.

While You’re in the Area: Find some fashion at American Apparel, buy a bag from Coach, grab a salad and some organic snacks from Whole Foods, spend a lot of money at Armani Exchange, or procure a frying pan at Williams-Sonoma (which we suggest you consider after your planetarium visit). Of course, it's NYC, so you're not likely to run out of options for dining and diversions.

If you’re itching to leave shopping behind, get those comfortable shoes on and take a walking tour to some of NYC’s best locations: The Childrens Museum of Manhattan, the New York Historical Society, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“The [Rose Center for Earth and Space] sees visitors from the NYC area as well as around the world,” Morris said. “The planetarium is a great place for people of all ages and levels of knowledge in astronomy.”

She knows this from personal experience, having started there in a somewhat different capacity.

“I began my career at the museum as an astronomy educator creating programs for kids ages 4 to 12. I now oversee the museum's science public programs for families and adults as part of the education department.” 

What gets the most attention in the complex?

Morris suggested that the planetarium show Journey to the Stars and the Big Bang are two popular spots in the Rose Center, "but I think one of the most interesting things in the Hall of the Universe is the Ecosphere, which was installed 11 years ago when the building was renovated. If you look closely you will see microorganisms that have been sustained by their own environment and a little sunlight for the past eleven years. This is something that can really start you thinking about the possibilities of life on other planets."

Her second favorite attraction in the Rose Center is the Moon Model on the first floor, surrounded by photographs taken by the Astronauts of the Apollo mission.

"It makes me think of where we have come and how much is possible for the futurem," Morris said.


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