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 2020, dates are Jan. 24, Feb. 28, March 20 and 27, April 17 and 24 and May 8. Cost is $85, 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 Hall of Dinosaurs and bedtime stories outside the Maori Meeting House.

Sleeping in the Ocean Tunnel.

© Sea Life

Kids sleep in the Ocean Tunnel at Sea Life Minnesota.

In 2020, dates are Jan. 17 and 24, Feb. 7 and 28, March 7 and 27 and April 3 and 17. Cost is $68, 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 2020, dates are Feb. 7 and 28, March 20 and April 24. Cost of $65 includes an Omnimax film, scavenger hunt, science toy-making, breakfast and parking.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum: This museum in Lincoln Park offers Bunking With the Butterflies, $60 with a snack and continental breakfast.

Adler Planetarium. The Astro-Overnight program is turning into Adler After Dark, starting Feb. 20 in 2020. 


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 $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 2020, ocean overnights are Jan. 10 and 31, March 20, April 3, June 5 and July 17. 

Forest overnights are May 15, July 31 and Aug. 7, and farm overnights are April 24, May 22, June 12 and Aug. 14.

Sea Life Minnesota aquarium in Bloomington. This attraction at the Mall of America offers Sleep Under the Sharks for children age 5 and older.

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.

Cost of $99 includes a seal presentation, behind-the-scenes tour, afternoon tea, dinner and continental breakfast. Group minimum is 25, 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!

International Wolf Center in Ely. In the Wolf Family Rendezvous Jan. 18-19, 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.

The Cobia submarine in Manitowoc.

© Beth Gauper

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

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

For Wolves After Dark on Feb. 8-9, the minimum age is 12 and cost is $70.

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.'' They're very popular, so reserve early.

In 2020, dates are Jan. 17, Feb. 21 and March 27, 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.

Dozin' With the Dinosaurs at the Field Museum.

© Field Museum

At Chicago's Field Museum, "science is even more fun in your pajamas.''

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.

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.

Dates in 2020 include Jan. 24-25. 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 January 16, 2020