Sleepovers with Dinosaurs
Have you ever fantasized about spending the night in a museum and having the whole place to yourself? You could spend time at the exhibits and displays without having to fight the crowds and really get to experience the place as though it were made only for you. Though you may not have exactly the same experience as Ben Stiller in the popular movie Night at the Museum, in which the exhibits come to life at night, you can still have an up-close-and-personal overnight encounter. Several museums now offer the opportunity to spend the night inside their doors. From flashlight tours in search of wild animals to visiting with Sue the T-Rex, to sleeping in bunks on a World War II battleship, many museums are awakening people to history during the hours when much of the nation is asleep.
The scenes in Night at the Museum were filmed at the New York City American Museum of Natural History, which offers sleepovers for ages 8 to 12 (plus a parent or guardian). At the AMNH, the lights dim and everyone goes on a flashlight tour led by museum staff, visits exciting exhibits throughout the museum, and sees a current Imax film before settling down to sleep, perhaps next to an Alaskan brown bear or a 94-ft.-long (28m) blue whale.
The Field Museum in Chicago has been running the “Dozin’ with the Dinos” sleepovers for many years. The nocturnal adventures include family workshops, performances, exploring museum exhibits, and a sleeping spot in the Genius Hall of Dinosaurs located in the Evolving Planet exhibition. There are two packages; the higher priced one also includes a behind-the-scenes tour with a museum scientist.
You’ll enter the World War II era when spending a night on the USS Missouri, the battleship that’s now a memorial and museum based in Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii. Campers experiencing the Battleship Missouri’s overnight encampment get a personalized dog tag, sleep in the same area where the crew slept, store their gear in lockers, and eat Navy-style chow on the ship’s mess deck. The encampments are open to scouting, school, and other groups that meet insurance coverage requirements.
Adult encampments may be arranged on the Battleship New Jersey, the floating museum on the Camden, New Jersey, waterfront across from Center City Philadelphia. Whether it’s a group of children or adults, the tour may include visiting the Combat Engagement Center, where you’ll participate in a simulated launch of a Tomahawk missile, to climbing down the original ladders to view the Admiral’s cabin and sleeping in the sailors’ quarters.
This same trend is catching on in zoos. How about a zoo slumber party for your child’s birthday? Families, scout troops, and school groups can take the Roar and Snore Overnights at the Philadelphia Zoo. Themed sleepovers, such as Critters of the Night or Froggin’ Frenzy can be arranged.
The age limits for children who can attend these overnights vary from museum to museum. In general, attendees must bring their own sleeping bag. In some museums you’ll sleep on carpeted floors, in others on cots, and on the battleships in the quarters actually used by the sailors.
American Museum of Natural History ( 212/769-5000; www.amnh.org). The Field Museum ( 312/922-9410; www.fieldmuseum.org). USS Missouri ( 877/MIGHTYMO [644-4896] or 808/455-1600; www.ussmissouri.com). Battleship New Jersey ( 866/877-6262 or 856/966-1652; www.battleshipnewjersey.org).
When to Go: Contact the museums or battleships directly for schedules.