Museums are a brilliant place for families by day but what about by night? With the help of some of my fellow family travel bloggers I’ve rounded up some of the best overnight experiences at museums and galleries around the world. Have you ever spent a night at the museum? Share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments!
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I have been or could be if you click on a link in this post compensated via a cash payment, gift or something else of value for writing this post. See our full disclosure policy for more details.
Dino Snores, London
By Nisbah, Five Adventurers
The Natural History is amazing by day but by night, it turns into a truly magical experience. For the fans for the Night at the Museum, an overnight is something which should be on every child’s travel bucket list.
The Dino Snores sleepover at the Natural History Museum takes place every month and is an evening and night full of wonder and fun. As the doors close to the general public, you feel like the chosen few who are able to explore the camp by night. The sleepover takes place in the central hall, it used to the under the huge structure of Dippy but now the impressive Blue Whale is overhead. Words cannot really describe the amazement of sleeping within feet of such a sight, I watched my cubs and they were all completely amazed.
The evening and following morning is full of activities. We began our evening with the children designing a dinosaur t-shirt. We then learnt about the creatures of the deep. The staff involved in the sleepover are extremely passionate about their work and the number of female scientists involved was really high, so fantastic to inspire more girls to get involved in the field. The highlight for us was the torch hunt in the dark. The children had to find all the dinosaurs and get a print of their feet whilst only have their torches to guide their way. There was lots of excited children and you could feel the glee as they set off on their missions.
At midnight lights are out and as you lie in the museum, and within feet of some of the worlds most amazing natural treasures, you will have a huge smile and happy heart and you can guarantee the children lying next to you will be equally in awe.
Overnight Reef Adventure, Toronto
By Kevin, Wandering Wagars
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada in downtown Toronto is one of our children’s favorite museums. The aquarium holds 16,000 marine animals from over 450 different species.
The aquarium is divided into nine unique galleries. And although our boys could stay at any of the galleries all day, they do favor some over others. They always ask to go to the Dangerous Lagoon first which features a moving sidewalk and a shark filled aquarium overhead. Second, they really enjoy watching the interactive dive show at the Rainbow Reef. And not surprisingly, they always love heading over to the Discovery Centre where they can participate in hands-on activities such as touching fossils and horseshoe crabs.
With all these great attractions, it’s no wonder they are looking forward to participating in the Overnight Reef Adventure sleepover program. The sleepover program is set up in the Dangerous Lagoon Tunnel!
You must bring your own sleeping bag or air mattress but a late-snack and continental breakfast is also included in the price. There are different sleepover nights for families and groups. Family Sleepovers have a maximum size of 60 people and there is a 1 adult to 8 children ratio. Minimum age is 4 years old so this year will be the first time we are eligible to participate.
A Night at the Museum, New York
By Tara, Pint Size Pilot
A visit to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) is a must for many families visiting NYC, but a sleepover is simply magical. Excited guests, with sleeping bags and pillows in hand, are welcomed into the great halls at just before 6pm. This is followed by a flurry of activity as each family seeks out their perfect cot location — choosing to sleep either beneath the 94 foot long blue whale, next to the African elephants or at the base of a giant volcano.
Throughout the evening, guests are free visit the 3D theatre, participate in a fossil fact finding missions by flashlight, or wander through the impressive galleries without crowds. The latter was the highlight for us, having visited the museum during the day on a previous trip (which involved an active toddler, a fussing baby and large crowds). Before lights out, guests are treated to a snack and a bedtime story.
The AMNH Night at the Museum Sleepover runs on select Saturday nights throughout the summer and costs $145 USD per person. This may seem a little pricey, but when you factor in the exclusive access to the museum (including free admission the following day), bedtime snack, and light breakfast, and compare this to the hefty price of a NYC hotel room — it doesn’t seem that bad. The AMNH sleepover is open to families with children from 6-13 years of age.
Overnight Safari, Canberra
By Karen, Big Adventures Little Feet
The National Zoo and Aquarium in Australia’s national capital, Canberra is our home town wildlife experience and is a fantastic zoo for families. Offering great membership options and a boutique and intimate layout means it is a hugely popular family attraction with a beautiful selection of animals.
The National Zoo has undergone some impressive expansion and upgrades over the past couple of years and a major new addition has been the opening of the Jamala Wildlife Lodge offering overnight adventures at the zoo. The lodges deliver up close and personal views of some of the signature animals but does so with an indulgent and luxurious experience including gourmet dining experiences.
Guests can choose between three styles of accommodation, the Giraffe Treehouses, Ushaka Lodge and Jungle Bungalows with each lodging paired with unique animal experiences. Winning multiple awards the Jamala Wildlife Lodge is definitely one zoo experience to put on your family’s bucket list.
Operation Secret Slumber, Washington
My oldest two kids are desperate to visit the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. I mean, what can be more fun than a museum where pistols are disguised as umbrellas, pigeons are cameras and eye glasses hold deadly cyanide pills? This family-friendly museum holds a world of gadgets, weapons, bugs, cameras and other spy-tech that will thrill any wannabe James Bonds. Speaking of which, there’s an special exhibition to celebrate the best of the British spy’s villains; their evil schemes, exotic lairs and dastardly weaponry.
But if you think taking on a secret mission by day would be fun, what about at night? Once a month the museum runs Operation Secret Slumber, an overnight adventure for kids aged 9- to 13-years-old. After the museum doors are locked for the night, spy school recruits are given a secret identity and sent on intelligence gathering missions. During the course of the mission, kids will make and break secret codes, interrogate real spies and see if they can work out who in their group is a mole!