I caught up with one of my best friends last week who just returned to the City from a summer spent playing bassoon in a music festival upstate. We’ve known each other since we were children, so ours is a storied friendship. We love going to museums here in the City to catch up (because they’re so walking-and-talking friendly!), so we decided to engage our scientific/anthropological side and went to the Museum of Natural History. Though I had been before, he hadn’t, so we made a plan to hit the Upper West Side of Central Park one sunny afternoon (it also helped he had free passes). As we strolled through the countless exhibit cases of animals, caveman tools, and space rocks, I realized we were creating a template for a fun date*.
*date = a meeting of two people who have an interest in each other whether romantically or just friends
NOTE TO READERS: My friend, Taylor, and I are fairly outgoing and both artists, so not everything we attempted necessarily will be a fun activity for those who are introverted and/or afraid of looking ridiculous. But if you want to walk on the wild side and give all the tourists something to talk about to their friends and family at home, this list, my friends, is for you! We actually did all the following items.
HOW TO ENJOY THE MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
TIP #1: Read every placard in an exaggerated British or Australian accent.
It’s been scientifically proven that you have more fun and sound smarter when you use a British accent (okay I made that part up). Personally, it makes me feel like I’m on a wildlife show or narrating a semi-boring educational video (unless it was about space or volcanos. That shit is cool.) I was forced to watch in seventh grade science. If you read all the exhibit stuff in an accent, it will instantly be less boring and a lot funnier. If you’re really adventurous, I’d suggest also trying the following accents: SCOTTISH, IRISH, RUSSIAN, AUSTRIAN, MIDWESTERN, and SOUTHERN. I can’t promise the last two will make you sound smarter though (I say this as a Midwesterner myself). We kept trying South African all day, which wound up sounding like our Australian accents.
TIP #2: Pretend you’re shopping in a luxury vintage boutique for furniture/decor.
Taylor and I both picked out multiple items we wanted including 19th century Buddha statues, giant stuffed elephants, kabuki masks, and instruments to ward off evil spirits. Yes, none of these items are for sale, but I’m sure we can find knock-off versions at Pottery Barn, Pier 1 Imports, and Crate & Barrel. I suggest you talk pretentiously about adding to your “extensive collection” and then ask each other whether you’d prefer to vacation in Majorca or St. Barts this Christmas.
TIP #3: Re-enact your favorite Forbidden Forest scenes from Harry Potter or Lothlorien scenes from Lord of the Rings in the darkened Dzanga-Sangha Rainforest exhibit in the Hall of Biodiversity.
May I suggest…
It’s a classic. And just imagine the screams of the children when you pretend to drink unicorn’s blood.
Because who doesn’t want to be ethereal and mystical like Cate Blanchett?
I also should mention that if you’re on an actual, legitimate date, this is the perfect spot for a quick, quiet makeout sesh. A lot of kids don’t love this room because it’s a bit creepy being all dark and forest-y and full of a looped soundtrack of forest noises. Taylor and I didn’t makeout because he’s gay, and I think of him like a brother, but we decided that we’d definitely makeout with Ryan Gosling if we were there on a date with him.
TIP #4: Lie on the floor beneath the giant whale, stare up at the ceiling, and:
a)Ponder if this is what it feels like to be on acid
b)Debate the possibility of whether or not said giant whale falling from the ceiling would kill you
c)Unsuccessfully try to tell each other the story of Pinocchio and/or Jonah & the Whale
d)Take a short nap
This one is pretty self-explanatory.
TIP #5: Watch the Big Bang presentation narrated by Liam Neeson and then see who can name the most Liam Neeson movies.
You can phone a friend. And by “phone a friend,” I mean it’s more fun when you ask a tourist! Bonus points if you actually do an impression of Liam Neeson. Also, this movie is short, really cool, and will basically blow your mind with the knowledge of how completely insignificant Earth is in the grand scheme of the universe. Did I mention Liam Neeson?
TIP #6: Don’t use a map.
I probably should have started with this one, but if you live in the City, you can visit the museum anytime, so be spontaneous and fly by the seat of your pants. I was wearing a skirt, but whatever. Taylor and I didn’t go to every exhibit, we just drifted through places that looked interesting. And if you get lost, by all means ASK the lovely museum security guards. They’re all so friendly and would much rather talk to people than stand up against a wall monitoring patrons’ behavior like they’re elementary school teachers on recess duty.
TIP #7: Stare at the dinosaurs and quote Jurassic Park.
TIP #8: Finish the day with coffee and a long stroll through Central Park.
This one is for all of you too scared to do #1-7. If you did #1-7, this is a good way to maybe share a slightly more serious moment with that special someone and transition back to acting like the semi-responsible adult you want everyone to think you are. Walking promotes conversation, at least that’s what I’ve learned from watching too many Aaron Sorkin shows and Sex & the City where people walk and talk super fast with each other.
Central Park is classic New York. You just feel a certain romance in the air whenever you enter its shady, languid presence.
As I said earlier, Taylor and I didn’t visit all of the exhibits inside the museum, so the possibilities for future date activities in the American Museum of Natural History are truly endless (and probably endlessly immature)! Someday, I will write a follow-up date guide to this fantastic, educational spot when we visit it again, because I have some great ideas for the Planetarium (all of them involving either Star Trek, Star Wars, or Ridley Scott movies).
Taylor and I had a wonderful, fun afternoon and managed to catch up in the process. We also genuinely learned a lot despite all our shenanigans. I’m looking forward to our next NYC adventure, which I’ll be sure to chronicle so all of you brave-hearted people can actually have real fun on your dates instead of just talking about your likes/dislikes and desperately trying to seem cool while you nibble on sushi at some generic Japanese restaurant in midtown.
Oh and Ryan Gosling, if you’re looking for me, I’ll be waiting for you in the darkened Hall of Biodiversity with my eyes closed…