Night at the museum, Chicago-style

If your kids have watched the two “Night at the Museum” movies, they may be interested in having their own overnight experience at a local museum. Most of the major museums in Chicago offer families the chance to bunk down with the exhibits and experience your own version of the movies-without the wild horseback rides and gunshots.

A night at the museum lets families visit exhibits at their leisure in a kid-friendly environment. “The museum’s really big and sometimes it takes families a while to get through it,” says Beth Crownover, public programs and operations director at the Field Museum. “(During overnights) they have an extended period of time to explore the building on their own terms. They can sit in front of Sue and draw pictures or visit exhibits at their own pace.”

Age ranges for the nights at local museums vary slightly, but most require that children be at least kindergarten age. “Anybody younger than 6 is going to freak out when the lights go out and you have animals in cases around you,” Crownover says. Many allow children up to 11 or 12 and include plenty of activities for all ages, as well as free time to explore the exhibits.

Be aware that the overnight adventures at the larger museums can sell out months in advance. Prices range from -, depending on age and the museum, and usually includes admission, activities, an evening snack and breakfast.

Remember to dress comfortably and bring a sleeping bag or air mattress. “This is definitely one of those short weekend adventures, so bring just enough so that you can easily carry it up the steps,” Crownover says.

“Have your adventure cap on and be ready to go.”

Asleep with the Fishes
Shedd Aquarium

Cost: includes admission to the aquarium, Oceanarium and Wild Reef, animal presentations, activities and crafts, dinner, bedtime snack and continental breakfast.

Adler Planetarium

Cost: includes telescope viewing, demonstrations, hands-on activities and shows in the Sky Theater. You’ll get a late-night snack before sleeping in the galleries and wake up to a continental breakfast in Galileo’s Cafe.

Bunking with the Butterflies Overnights
Notebaert Nature Museum

Cost: child, adult; child member, adult member. Fee includes museum admission, activities, evening snack, breakfast and a Bunking with the Butterflies patch.

Dozin’ with the Dinos
Field Museum

Cost: , members includes family workshops, tours and performances. Premium packages cost extra but let visitors reserve a spot in the Evolving Planet or Hall of Dinosaur exhibition areas.

Museum of Science and Industry
Cost: includes admission, activities, a Snoozeum patch, snack and breakfast.

Readers’ night at the museum

Chicago Parent families tell us what adventure they would expect to have if they spent the night in a museum:

“My children would want to pet, feed and play with the chicks at the Museum of Science and Industry, and perhaps sleep inside the Chicago Trolley for an adventure.”
-Jose Carrillo

“I think both boys recognize their adventure would not be anything like the movie, but I do believe that they would both expect some ghostly experiences with the mummies.”
-Julie Tremberth

“My two small sons (4 and 5 years old) would expect all the exhibits to come to life, just like in the movie “Night at the Museum.” As a mom, I would go along with their imagination and adventure.”
-Aracely Carrillo

“After seeing Night at the Museum,” my kids would be disappointed to see the exhibits NOT come alive.
-Melanie Freisinger de Gonzalez

“Our 5-year-old son would imagine the planes at the MSI flying around on their own. Our 19-month-old would just enjoy using the main hall as an echo chamber for his high-pitched squeals!”
-Bill Pardue

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