August 20, 2017

Enjoy a Night at the Museum (or Zoo or Aquarium)

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Photo Credit: Natural History Museum, Los Angeles

Since the first Night at the Museum movie premiered five years ago, loads of museums, zoos and aquariums nationwide have opened their doors to overnight guests. Sure, it’s more expensive than taking in the museums during the daytime hours, but it’s a fantastic way to beat the crowds, enjoy special presentations and spend extra time with must-see exhibits.

You’ll find overnight family adventures in just about every major city, but here’s a sampling of some of popular programs worth checking out if you get a chance.

  • American Museum of Natural History (New York): Once or twice a month, the American Museum of Natural History hosts the A Night at the Museum program for kids ages 7 to 13. You and your kids can take in the museum without the crowds, watch an IMAX movie, explore fossils by flashlight and have fun with various interactive activities. Take a look at a sample schedule.
  • Battleship Cove (Fall River, MA): Less than one hour from Boston, the world’s largest naval ship museum hosts monthly Nautical Nights. You and your family can camp on a battleship, explore vintage military hardware and enjoy various classes to learn Morse Code and knot-tying. You’ll also enjoy classic Disney movies, such as Operation Dumbo Drop and On the Front Lines: The War Years.
  • Downtown Aquarium (Denver): Bring your sleeping bag and take a snooze amongst the sharks, rays and so many more kinds of fish. Explore the exhibits without the crowns, learn about animals and their habitats, make crafts and play games.
  • The Field Museum (Chicago): While the wildly popular Dozin’ with the Dinos overnight program is sold out for the summer, fall dates will be posted in early July. Ideal for kids ages 6 to 12, families can enjoy a night of workshops, self-guided tours, fun activity stations and bedtime stories, then lay out their sleeping bags next to Sue, the T. Rex. Here’s more details for families.
  • Higgins Armory Museum (Worcester, MA): Kids in grades one through six can spend the night at Castle Higgins to learn more about chivalry, heraldry and the history of the knight in shining armor. Kids can try on pieces of armor and equipment, take a guided tour of the collection and go on a scavenger hunt the next morning. Each child will then be knighted in a Knighting Ceremony.
  • Natural History Museum (Los Angeles): Once every month or two, the Natural History Museum hosts a themed family overnight adventure complete with hands-on science demonstrations, after-dark tours, and family games and activities. The June adventure (6/24-25) will focus on Ice Age fossils, while the September adventure (9/30-10/1) will focus on archaeology.
  • Port Discovery (Baltimore): Overnight adventures are held weekly for girl and boy scouts ages 5 to 12. They’re also available to private groups and offer the opportunity to explore time travel, African masks, a dream lab, and various other learning activities. If you have girl scouts, be sure to bring along some S.W.A.P.S. to trade with other girls staying overnight.
  • San Diego Zoo: Enjoy the outdoors and sleep under the stars in a tent during this sleepover. Look out for different themes, like the Black & White Overnight, where kids can hear from panda researchers and gain exclusive access to the panda exhibits before the zoo opens for the day. On the Critter Campout, kids take a private tour on a double-decker bus and make s’mores at the campfire.
  • U.S.S. Hornet (Alameda, CA): You and your family can spend the night on the historic aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Hornet. Learn what it was like to live on the ship, sleep in original crew bunks and enjoy a simulator ride. This overnight adventure takes place once a month and includes special presentations and personalized tours. Take a look at a family night itinerary.

Have you ever taken your kids on an overnight family adventure at a local aquarium, zoo or museum? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

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