New York City's best intergalactic day trip
No, it's not a spaceship. But the recently opened $210 million Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History does take visitors into the cosmos. Ground zero for space travel: the new Hayden Planetarium, a gigantic aluminum sphere, 87 feet in diameter, that floats in a spectacular 95-foot-high glass cube. The planetarium's Space Theater creates a virtual universe through cutting-edge virtual-reality imagery, astronomical observations from NASA, and the museum's statistical database of more than 2 billion stars. Tom Hanks narrates the Space Theater's inaugural show, a fly-by tour that zooms beneath Saturn and its rings, past the Milky Way and deep into intergalactic space. The return to Earth is via a black hole. There's more, including the Hall of Planet Earth, where visitors can check out the Earth Event Wall for real-time reports on quakes, volcanoes, tornadoes and hurricanes. James Polshek designed the 333,500-square-foot, 120-foot-high Rose Center, with exhibitions by Ralph Appelbaum Associates. To infinity, and beyond! Central Park W. and 79th St., with a dedicated entrance at 81st St. between Central Park W. and Columbus Ave.; 212/769-5100.