There are your typical slumber parties, and then there are these entirely amazing overnight experiences the kids will be talking about for years. Whatever you choose, we’ve rounded up the most unique places. Book early; many of these spectacular museums, zoos, and aquariums sell out way in advance.
Just like the kids in the movie, your lucky brood can explore NYC’s natural history museum after dark with only a flashlight (and a guide) to find their way. Witness live animal exhibitions and explore the hallowed halls of the museum (wait… did you see something move over there?). End the night sleeping in the Hall of Ocean Life under the largest mammal on earth, a 94-foot-long giant blue whale. Guests can also bunk next to the African elephants or at the base of a volcanic formation. This experience books up quickly, so you’ll want to plan 3–6 months ahead.
American Museum of Natural History, $145/person. Ages 6–13.
Central Park West at 79th St., New York, NY.
Sleep on cots aboard this retired aircraft carrier in the shadow of the huge space shuttle, on the flight deck or elsewhere on the ship. Spend your evening on a flashlight tour of the deck or take a ride in a flight simulator. FYI: There are only a handful of dates this year and they sell out fast!
Operation Slumber at the Intrepid, $120/person. Ages 6–17.
Pier 86, W. 46th St. and12th Ave., New York, NY.
Stay at the science museum and solve a mystery, too. Guests put their heads together to help find a priceless stolen artifact, experience the pitch-black “Touch Tunnel,” watch a 3-D IMAX adventure (in their really cool, domed theater), and see tons of hands-on exhibits, as they track down the missing item. After a light breakfast, you can spend the whole day at the museum (free of charge!). These special nights are offered a few times a month, though some nights are for boys or girls only.
Liberty Science Center Camp-In, $60/child.
Adult chaperone required for every 5 children.
222 Jersey City Blvd., Jersey City. Ages 6–13.
Sleepover parties at the Garden State Discovery Museum mean spending time in an indoor treehouse and a storybook castle. Kids get manis and pedis, make their own jewelry, eat popcorn for a “midnight” snack and sing karaoke. Breakfast is included, and parents get a gift too—no party clean-up.
Garden State Discovery Museum, $35/child, 15 child minimum ($25 for every additional child).
2040 Springdale Rd., Cherry Hill. Ages 6 and up.
856-424-1322 ext. 305, discoverymuseum.com
On select weekends, snuggle up beside toothy predators with Adventure Aquarium’s “Shark in the Dark” program. Guests sleep with the fishes all night on the floor next to the tanks. There are plenty of after-hours perks too, like an exclusive dive show, a behind-the-scenes tour, a shark-themed scavenger hunt and extra time at the touch tanks without the crowds.
Adventure Aquarium, $65-70/person. Ages 6–12.
1 Riverside Dr., Camden.
Most Friday and Saturday nights during the summer, this giant floating museum conscripts pint-sized sailors (and their parents) for “active duty” aboard Battleship New Jersey. Kids stow their belongings in lockers, eat in the mess hall and then sleep in bunks, just like the real sailors did. When you aren’t snoozing, you can explore the turrets, participate in a 4-D simulated launch of a tomahawk missile and climb up and down the ship’s original ladders.
Battleship New Jersey, $62/person. Ages 6–17.
62 Battleship Place, Camden.
866-877-6262 ext. 144, battleshipnewjersey.org
Explore the zoo after dark as a “Night Flighter,” where you hike along with an animal keeper who teaches kids how to care for all sorts of wild creatures. You also get to sleep in the
treehouse (think less Swiss Family Robinson, more indoor play area filled with a rainforest tree and giant dino eggs). Plus, there’s a mystery to solve that involves saving apes around the globe. The next morning, pack up your things and take a morning stroll, you can spend the rest of the day at the zoo. They also offer “Under the Stars” programs, where families can bring their own tents to sleep outside on the Impala Lawn. There’s a late-night snack (animal crackers, of course), or buy dinner or breakfast at the Tiger Terrace. Be warned: There’s heat, but no air-conditioning, so dress accordingly.
Night Flight at the Philadelphia Zoo, $55/person
3400 West Girard Ave., Philadelphia, PA. Ages 5–12.