Have you ever seen one of those “Overnight Adventure in the Museum” advertisement, and thought to yourself, “Hummm… that looks like fun. I wonder if we will have fun doing that as a family?” Well, the Monkey Clan did just that this weekend! These educational sleepovers don’t come cheap, averaging five times the admission price. Before you plan that trip, before you commit your money and the whole night, ask yourself these five essential questions:
1. Do you enjoy staying up late into the night with your child?
My idea of how the night would unfold involved exploring the corridors with educational activities, curious minds, and lots of excitement and fun and happiness. However, I did not account for all the energy that was required for something THIS fun! By the time 9pm rolled around, I was deperately looking for a shot of espresso in a MUSEUM where no food nor drink was allowed, ever. I clutched the Overnight Fun Schedule, with “Light Snack” scheduled at 9pm; “Nature Journaling in Age of Mammals” scheduled at 10pm; and “Scavenger Hunt in the Dino Hall” scheduled at 11pm; and felt a sense of panic. I asked our camp counselor why they didn’t sell coffee at this event. They would’ve made a killing there.
2. Do you enjoy sleeping on a cold, hard floor?
Now, one thing you should know is that we have never gone camping before, but have been very curious and enthusiastic about the IDEA of camping. We own a tent that was a wedding gift, which we looked forward to, but have never used. We have brand new sleeping bags that we bought soon after the said gifted tent, but have never used those sleeping bags either. So you see, it was just an inevitable event waiting to happen that we should camp out in a museum to wade ourselves into the realm of camping. Let me just say, that cold, hard, concrete floors are NOT comfortable to sleep on. I don’t care how thick that yoga pad I brought to lay under my sleeping bag was, museum concrete floors were meant to be walked on.
3. Do you enjoy sleeping in a cold room? I am not sure what the ideal temperature is for fossil preservation; but after tonight, I am pretty sure that it must be really cold. In our Dino Room, where it proudly housed various dinosaur fossils found around the world, the temperature was set to keep the fossils cold, (bone) dry, and happy. We huddled in our sleeping bags, zipped all the way up to our heads.
4. Do you enjoy sleeping with the lights on? Though the bright overhead lights were turned off (finally! thankfully!) at midnight, the dinosaur display lightings were not. This was the view I was staring at, most of the night, because I couldn’t fall asleep with the lights on.
5. Do you enjoy hearing various alarms going off in all corners of the room? Granted, I went to a medical school where the overnight call room in the county hospital was just this one room packed with beds along the walls. Overnight calls meant staggering into the room whenever you got some downtime, and waking up whenever someone paged you, or your other unfortunate housestaff compatriots. But that was years ago, and I was ON CALL. Come to think of it, the whole Overnight at the Museum did feel like an overnight call: the anticipation and excitement, educational activities, chaotic shouts, sleep deprivation, and oh yes, alarms and noises going off in all corners of the room. Plumster called it a night around 9pm, declaring that she was going to bed. I had no idea that the room we were sleeping in was part of the late night scavenger hunt (!). I woke up to kids shrieking and counselors shouting. In a fog, I thought I was back in my medical school call room, doing my Ob/Gyn rotation.
Bonus question: Is this the Daylight Saving weekend? And if you answered “yes” to all of the above questions, where you enjoy going to bed after midnight with kids running and shrieking, on a bed layed out on a rock hard concrete floor, in a cold room full of dinosaur bones, and noises and phone alarms going off in all corners of the room; as if that was not enough fun, go ahead and pick the daylight saving weekend for this overnight trip! You will get to wake up an extra hour early the next day!
Lucky for us, even though I did not check “yes” for any of the above questions, and we weren’t even aware that this weekend was the one where we lose an hour of sleep, we had an AWESOME time. We started with a big welcome in the Northern American Mammal Hall, where the room was filled to the brim with families and boy scouts.
We were assigned to the Triceratops group. The Triceratops group’s first order of business: “Fossil Casting in the Otis Booth Pavillion”. Plum chose to make a casting of a dinosaur claw:
Next came “Behind the Scenes Tour with the Puppeteers in the Discovery Center”
These wonderful puppeteers showed the children how they put on their dinosaur “puppets” like a backpack and how they moved the eyes and legs and how they roar. The children were mesmerized and thoroughly entertained.
The puppeteers were followed by a guided “Secrets & Legends of the Museum Tour in the Foyer”. Our guide took us to many “STAFF ONLY” rooms and passages and told the children scary ghost stories. At one point, the guide asked if someone could go into a room first to see if there is “anyone” (wink wink, perhaps a ghost?) in the room. Plumster happily volunteered, among ten other kids much older than her. The tweens muttered among themselves incredulously, “did that LITTLE GIRL just walk in to see if there is a ghost in that room for all of us?!” She came out triumphantly and exclaimed, “Nope! I didn’t see ANYONE in there!”
Despite the late night and the discomfort, this, this glorious view greeted me in the morning:
As the sun rose through the window, I thought to myself, “I am waking up in a MUSEUM full of dinosaur bones. How fabulously cool is that?!” As I walked into the gift shop, what is that aroma I smell dancing in the air? COFFEE!!
To those of you who want to take on this challenge, and I highly recommend that you do, the key ingredients to making an Overnight at the Museum (or Acquarium, Zoo, Farm, or whatever else they can think of) a success are: air mattress, warm blankets, a good night’s rest the night before, and ear plugs! Bon voyage!