Dozin’ with the Dinos’ and my daughter at The Field Museum

Admit it: you’ve always wondered what, exactly, the halls and corners of your favorite museum looked like after hours. Whether you were inspired by movies like “Night at the Museum” or Sesame Street’s lesser-known gems ‘Don’t Eat the Pictures,’ you’ll be happy to know that spending a night in Chicago’s famed Field Museum is absolutely a real thing you can do. Even better? It’s totally legal, includes breakfast and even offers free parking. (The Chicago trifecta of fun, right there.)

Nora, 7-year-old sidekick extraordinaire, joined me at this month’s Dozin’ with the Dinos for a night of excessive flashlight usage, nonstop exploring and questionable sleep. These overnights are available for small families and large groups alike (Nora was thrilled to pal around with friends from school) and come in a variety of packages. Premium ticket-holders, for example, get to cozy up in the Dinosaur Hall of Evolving Planet, and folks who take advantage of a Tour Package get behind-the-scenes time with a Field Museum scientist. All packages, however, include hands-on workshops covering everything from pellets to antlers and back to ornithology. (Fun fact: my previously squeamish daughter now wants to practice taxidermy and keep a Snowy owl. I said we’d see.)

“It’s not time for bed yet, is it?” My early-to-bed gal kept asking. “Nope,” I told her. “It’s not bedtime until you say it is.”

The kids agreed that their favorite part of the night was the ability to wander with flashlights, checking out Egypt, crystals and those rather incredible dinosaurs as slowly or–sigh–as quickly as they’d like. We took advantage of the 3-D film, ‘Waking the T-Rex: The Story of Sue,’ and cozied up with some glasses and gigantic teeth before setting off to explore some more.

Soon enough it was snack time–which every good sleepover should have–and everyone enjoyed sandwiches, cookies, apples and juice. (And coffee. Sweet, sweet coffee.) Midway through her cookie, however, I noticed my little explorer had started to wave the white flag; as in, her eyes were at half-mast.

“What do you want to do next, sweetheart?” “I’m going to bed,” she informed the table.

So at the positively respectable hour of 9 p.m., we headed upstairs. We made our way past duffel bags and pastel pillowcases, air mattresses and camp rolls. We set up a cozy nook for ourselves near the Daspletosaurus–everyone’s favorite–and prepared for lights out. ( … At 10:30 p.m. Listen, some kids can hang, and we wholly admire them.

Geared towards ages 6-12, there was more programming and fun to be had even after the sleeping areas tucked in. After all, there’s quite a bit of time between 10:30 p.m. and the official decree of Everyone in Sleeping Bags by 12:30 a.m.

While I heard some of the boisterous fun from my sleeping bag perch, the one with a clear view of an architecturally stunning window eave, my partner-in-paleontology had headed off to dreamland with a flashlight in her hands.

And the biggest smile on her face I’d ever seen.

To plan your own visit, check out:

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