MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Nights at the museum

Sleep with the fishes, wolves and dinosaurs at family slumber parties.

Sleeping at Adler Planetarium.

© Adler Planetarium

Families stretch out for the night at Adler Planetarium.

Sleep with sharks. Howl with wolves. Get chummy with a mummy . . . in the dark.

At top museums, that results in sweet dreams, not nightmares.

After everyone else goes home, many museums, aquariums, nature centers and even a submarine turn over their galleries to children and their adults.

Armed with flashlights, they get to explore the exhibits, do experiments, have a snack, listen to a bedtime story and then get into their sleeping bags, right next to their favorite creature or historical character.

It's a memorable and inexpensive getaway.

Here are some of the best-known museums that offer sleepovers. A few offer overnights to groups any time, but others have set dates, mostly in winter and spring. They sell out fast, so reserve as soon as possible.


Shedd Aquarium. At this aquarium overlooking Lake Michigan, children 5 and older can be Asleep With the Fishes.

The evening includes a scavenger hunt, aquatic show, dive presentation and exploration of the galleries, oceanarium and reefs.

In 2018, dates are Feb. 2 and 16, March 2 and 16 and April 6 and 20. Cost is $75, including dinner and breakfast. 

For more, see Chicago with kids.

Field Museum. The home of Sue the T. rex offers Dozin' With the Dinos overnights for children ages 6-12 and their adults.

Sleepovers include such activities as dissecting owl pellets, a 3D movie about Sue, a flashlight tour of the "Inside Ancient Egypt'' exhibit and bedtime stories outside the Maori Meeting House.

In 2018, dates are Jan. 19 and 26, Feb. 2, 16 and 23, March 2, 9 and 24, April 6 and May 5. Cost is $65, including a snack and breakfast.

Museum of Science and Industry. Sleep next to a 727 or giant heart in the Science Snoozeum overnights for children ages 6-12.

In 2018, dates are Jan. 19, Feb. 9, March 9 and April 20. Cost of $65 includes an Omnimax film, scavenger hunt, science toy-making, breakfast and parking.

Adler Planetarium. Little astronomers ages 6-12 can go on an Astro-Overnight and sleep under the "stars'' in the Sky Theater.

Sleeping in the Ocean Tunnel.

© Sea Life

Kids sleep in the Ocean Tunnel at Sea Life Minnesota.

In 2018, dates are March 2 and 9; April 6; and May 4 and 18. Cost of $60-$70 includes two sky shows, activities, snack and breakfast.


Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul. This museum on the Mississippi River bluff-top offers Camp-Ins, with workshops and a Science Live presentation.

Cost is $45, including pizza dinner, snack and continental breakfast. 

In 2018, there's a Dinosaur Adult Camp-in April 20, $105.

For more, see Sightseeing in St. Paul.

Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley. This zoo in a Twin Cities suburb offers zzzZoo Overnights for ages 8 to 18 in three themes oceans, bears and farms.

Cost of $47-$49 includes a pizza dinner, breakfast, T-shirt and admission the next day. The group minimum is 15, but smaller groups can combine to meet it.

In 2018, ocean overnights are Jan. 26, Feb. 23, May 25, June 29, July 13 and Aug. 10. 

A forest overnight is May 11, July 20 and Aug. 17, and a farm overnight is April 27 and June 15.

Sea Life Minnesota aquarium in Bloomington. This attraction at the Mall of America offers Sleep Under the Sea overnights for children age 6 and older.

Cost of $90 includes a seal presentation, behind-the-scenes tour, T-shirt, pizza dinner and continental breakfast. Group minimum is 15, but smaller groups can combine to meet it.

For more about the mall, see Shopping at the Megamall.

Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth. This aquarium on the harbor waterfront offers overnights to groups.

The minimum cost is $700, including breakfast. Guests go on scavenger hunts and get behind-the-scenes tours.

For more about Duluth with children, see Duluth rocks!

Nose-to-nose with a wolf in Ely.

© Wolf Center

From behind a glass wall, guests at the International Wolf Center watch the resident pack.

International Wolf Center in Ely. In the Wolf Family Rendezvous, Jan. 13-14, June 16-17 and Oct. 20-21 in 2018, people can learn about the pack dynamics of wolves by spending a night camping in front of the wolf-viewing window of the center's auditorium.

Cost is $75, $50 for youths 6-12, and includes a pizza dinner and continental breakfast.

For more about the area, see Dreaming of Ely.


Milwaukee Public Museum in Milwaukee: If you've got kids between the ages of 6 and 12, you can spend the night in the Milwaukee Public Museum.

Themed overnights often are linked to special exhibits, which include "Mummies'' and "Dinosaurs'' and "Maya.''

The Cobia submarine in Manitowoc.

© Beth Gauper

In Manitowoc, Wis., families can stay overnight in the USS Cobia.

In 2018, dates are Jan. 19, Feb. 23 and May 18, and the cost is $55 per person. The fee includes a planetarium show, discovery hunts and flashlight explorations, evening snack and breakfast.

For more about going to Milwaukee with kids, see Playtime in Milwaukee.

USS Cobia submarine in Manitowoc. During the day, this retired World War II submarine is an exhibit at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum

But on some weekends, it becomes a motel during Family Overnights.

The cost is $44, including a guided tour that includes some areas that usually are off-limits and museum admission the next day.

Dates in 2018 include July 7 and Aug. 11. Other dates are open to groups. The submarine sleeps up to 55 people.

For more about the area, see Two trails from Two Rivers.


Science Center of Iowa in Des Moines. This center offers Overnight Adventures for groups that include an IMAX film, live science projects and admission the next day.

There are also a few Overnight Adventures that individual families can join.

Cost is $36 for kids 6 and older and $18 for adults, including a snack and hot breakfast.

Last updated on February 14, 2018