Picture yourselves bundled in sleeping bags, waiting for the dinosaur skeletons to walk and the mummies to exit their sarcophagi — it’s a night at the museum a.k.a. Family Museum Sleepover.
Imagine spending a night with educators at a world-class museum packed with science displays, historical artifacts, rare art work and ancient sculpture. Several of America’s premier learning centers offer educational overnight programs, ideal for families, that provide a fun and unique way to get a relaxed and up-close look at the workings of these establishments. Just like the fun and learning at aquarium and zoo overnights, these are unexpectedly fun events with kids.
Here are some of our favorite Night at the Museum adventures.
Sleepover at 6 Favorite Museums
American Museum of Natural History
79th Street and Central Park West
New York, NY 10023
Remember Ben Stiller’s adventure in Night at the Museum? Although the movie wasn’t filmed there, the famous House of Dinosaurs in New York City does host kids ages 6-13, with their adults, several times per year. It’s not cheap, but factor in a light snack and breakfast, a flashlight tour of spooky fossils after you’ve caught the latest IMAX film, and eight hours of snoozing on comfy cots. Each adult may bring up to three kids for an unforgettable experience. Highschoolers can join the fun as the museum gladly welcomes science clubs, and Boy and Girl scout troops up to age 17. On three evenings in 2016, the Museum is also hosting Sleepovers for Grownups open to ages 21+. This unusual night on the town costs $350 per person and includes a champagne reception, live Jazz band and a buffet dinner, followed by a magical after-hours tour.
Liberty Science Center
222 Jersey City Boulevard
Jersey City, NJ 07305
A stayover at New Jersey’s Liberty Science Center is sure to be a memorable experience with exclusive access to the nation’s largest IMAX Dome Theater for film showings, as well as engaging hands-on activities and a chance for ages 6-13 to sleep among the museum exhibits. Best of all, the fun doesn’t end with just one night at the museum; after breakfast and a show guests can depart or spend the rest of their day at the museum. Also, these Liberty Science Camp Ins include activities to earn Girl Scout and Cub Scouts awards, a great way to earn Scout badges at the same time. Over Halloween, there are special spooky evenings with parents in attendance. Liberty Science Center will also host a Camp In birthday party, complete with goodie bags for the birthday child and their guests and other perks for comfort. The Liberty Science Center welcomes groups with 20 or more campers in 1st-8th grade with boy only, girl only, and co-ed nights scheduled; for every 5 children there needs to be one chaperone of either gender. Cost is $60/person, guests must bring their own sleeping bags and floor mats.
Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
Kennedy Space Center, FL 32899
The actual launch pad for more than 30 missions each year (some for NASA and some for private space entrepreneurs), there’s as much excitement at Kennedy Space Center in central Florida as there has always been. This sleepover allows guests ages 7-14 to choose which orbit they want to fly in; you can stay overnight at the Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction or stay beneath the Apollo/Saturn V rocket. Both venues are explored with an after hours guided tour, and guests can opt for flight simulators, educational activities and enjoy dinner and snacks. The admission price gives you another full day entry at the facility and several days to use it, plus discounts in the shop, demonstrations, as well as a special presentation and “mission briefing” from a veteran NASA astronaut.
Museum of Science and Industry
7th and Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60637-1414
This place is a thorough look at how things work, with many exhibits designed for hands-on interaction. Sleepers will find science experiments they can work on during the Snoozeum, the city’s major Omnimax theater to watch a late night film, and myriad permanent and temporary exhibits to explore and sleep in. (MSI’s website says, “Sleep nose-to-nose with a Boeing 727, next to a giant heart or steps away from a toy-making factory.”) This is a big operation; several chaperoned special interest groups (kids ages 6-12) are able to book Friday or Saturday evenings, about a dozen times per year. Groups are then divided by colored wrist bands and all participants are asked to bring sleeping bags, eye masks if the security lights bother them, and ear plugs if they don’t want to hear snoring. MSI does, however, provide a separate area where the up-all-night science kids can hang out while others sleep.
Perot Museum of Nature and Science
2201 North Field Street
Dallas, TX 75210
This hands-on museum features sleepovers designed for 6-12, although teens and adults are welcomed. Guests receive a tour of their current and temporary exhibits (which might be about the Earth, energy, wildlife, weather, etc); watch a 3D movie; participate in hands-on activities with museum staff; and enjoy a late night snack and a light breakfast. You can pre-order a “Snore & Explore” commemorative glow in the dark T-shirt prior to arrival as well as a special event patch to show off your VIP status. Parents should take note that space fills up fast and full payment is required four weeks prior to the event.
10th Street and Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20560
Thanks to the popularity of “Night at the Smithsonian,” the country’s national museum collection has instituted a few summer sleepovers for groups and families with kids ages 8-12. At the National Museum of Natural History, they encourage families to visit the Hall of Dinosaurs, Mammal Hall, and new Ocean Hall after dark, and provide kids with a lot of mystery, learning and fun. Activities include a tour of the exhibits, a scavenger hunt, arts and crafts, and a viewing of the current IMAX film. You can choose between this or sleepovers at the American History Museum where they have scavenger hunts, and the Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia. Here the focus in on flight, ranging from the earliest planes to spacecraft, with behind the scenes tours with experts. Recount your adventures over a light evening snack and breakfast — highlights of the experience judging by the museums’ fun Pinterest board.
Trip Planning Details for Museum Sleepovers
Besides setting standards for aquariums, zoos, and science centers in the U.S. and other countries, the Association of Science-Technology Centers maintains a searchable database of institutions which may offer overnight “camp-in” programs. You can also take advantage of their Travel Passport to save money by seeing which educational institutions at your destination have reciprocal admission privileges with an institution you belong to at home.
They’re usually booked by museum members and locals, but tourists who plan ahead could potentially save a bundle on hotel rooms. Fees for sleeping in classroom facilities (typically in your sleeping bag), a snack or supper, and a morning meal, range from about $50 to $100 per person. It may sound steep, but trust us, this experience will be priceless.
[FTF Tip: Once you’ve decided on the destination, make sure to sign up way in advance. These special events, which only host a limited number of people, sell out months ahead of time].
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