Ever wonder what it’s really like to wander the deserted halls and dimly lit displays of a museum at night, or secretly wish you were Ben Stiller’s bumbling night watchman character, Larry, from The Night at the Museum movies?
Well, I’ve always had an overactive imagination and a sense of childhood
wonderment inside of me, so when my husband told me we were camping out at the
American Museum of Natural History in New York for a night, I was wildly excited to participate in this adventure of a lifetime!
Whether you are a history buff, fan of The Night at the Museum movies, or just channeling your inner childhood dream to explore an empty museum at night, The American Museum of Natural History offers occasional Sleepovers for Grown-ups (ages 21 and over), and I had the fantastic fortune to attend one this summer, thanks to surprise tickets from my hubby!
Guests are advised in advance to travel light since the Museum provides food, drinks, entertainment and cots. So when the time came, we rolled up toting just a sleeping bag and pillow, comfortable clothes for sleeping, a few overnight necessities and plenty of imagination!
Upon arrival, there was a brief registration before we were ushered through the gigantic wooden doors leading to The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, our sleeping quarters for the evening and home to the well-known 94 feet long, 21,000-pound fiberglass model of a female blue whale mounted on the ceiling!
Like something out of a reality show, everyone charged the room (as if we were a bunch of five year olds) racing to stake claim to the BEST spot for hunkering down at the end of this long night. As a native New Yorker, sleeping under the big blue whale was a bucket list kind of adventure in itself for my husband. He grew up totally enamored by the big blue whale and could never have expected to one day sleep underneath her majestic presence, let alone well into his adulthood years!!
So I’m not ashamed to admit we busted through that crowd like two crazy kids set free in a candy store, triumphing over our claim to the front two prized cots located smack dab under the whale!!
Once we staked our claim, the real fun began! We sipped champagne and listened to the fabulous 12th Night Jazz trio, while acclimating ourselves with the Museum, especially the area surrounding basecamp. A few main hallways near stairs and elevators were fairly lit, but the exhibit halls were dimly lit, and in some cases barely lit at all, creating an eerie feeling of being alone in an empty museum; intrigue lurking around every darkened corner!
We were given time to wander freely throughout the Museum before dinner and provided a post-dinner schedule of events with about three different options per/hour, including live animal displays, special guided tours and movies leading up to a midnight showing in the Hayden Planetarium. Guests could participate in any of the events, or continue exploring alone.
Before dinner, we wandered the lovely outdoor courtyard and spent a little time relaxing by the fountain facing the Planetarium’s exterior, admiring the Manhattan backdrop of buildings that envelope the Museum.
Dinner was served overlooking the Planetarium courtyard and included a gourmet feast of chicken, salmon, asparagus, risotto cakes and salad. There was also a continuous flow of wine, beer and non-alcoholic beverages, along with coffee and a variety of desserts. No one left dinner hungry!
We spent the rest of the evening alternating between scheduled activities and wandering the Museum on our own. The Hall of Dinosaurs was one of my favorite exhibits. It was one of the darkest (and spookiest) displays, mostly lit by red security lighting directed at the enormous dinosaur skeletons, casting gigantic images of T. rex and his friends escorting us through the hall. I’m not going to lie, it was AWESOME, and a completely different experience than any daytime passage through the exhibit!
We also took the guided Night at the Museum tour, visiting all the film’s hot spots and exhibits that inspired the creation of the movie’s famous band of misfits, including Dum-dum and Dexter! From a creative perspective, the tour was fascinating. I admire the minds that transformed the exhibits into such unforgettable life-like characters, and, admittedly, became a little caught up in day-dreaming some of the exhibits to life myself. Imagination isn’t just for five year olds, after all!
We also watched a 3D nature movie and later stopped for snacks and drinks at the Lunar Lounge, where black and white silent films played on a continuos loop all night.
The grand finale was a trip to Hayden Planitarium for a live-narrated tour of recent NASA footage of The Space Station, Solar System, tour of the Moon and so on. It was nothing short of AMAZING to be virtually guided through space, and easy to forget we weren’t just on a free-floating journey of our own!
Eventually, we exhausted all our energy and settled in for the night, asleep under the big blue whale; our heads saturated with the tiny potential that just maybe the exhibits might come alive for one night!
Of course nothing really came alive, but it was an unforgettable night nonetheless. One that I’ll treasure forever as the opportunity to unleash my inner child, but with gourmet food and wine on the side!!
If you’re looking for an escape from adulthood or just an evening of adventure, I highly recommend booking your Grown-up Sleepover now! The weekends are limited throughout the year, and only three dates are published at a time. Tickets sell out fast, so don’t delay too long!