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Photo courtesy of Shedd Aquarium.

I’ve been known to sleep around. Of course, I get very little sleep. Petting spiders and snakes, examining formaldehyde cats, rats and bats and camping out next to Nickel the Turtle keeps me up most the night.

If you’ve ever stayed overnight with the little ones at one of our great Chicago museums, you know exactly what I mean. If you haven’t, pack your sleeping bags—this is one family adventure you don’t want to miss.

You can learn a lot more at the museum at night, since there are fewer people and a lot more time to explore. It’s exciting and very hands on. You’ll discover lots of smart activities you won’t find during the day; we’ve gotten the chance to hold a tarantula and a hissing cockroach and go behind the scenes with a scientist. There are no crowds to fight, no reason to rush. At times, you truly feel you have the whole museum to yourself. And it’s no snore, trust me. Curl up next to a T-Rex, sleep next to the fish, or fall sleep inside under the stars or nose to nose with a 727. Little dreams will be rich that night.

If you are planning to check into a museum for the night…

  • Don’t forget a flashlight. It makes nighttime exploring super fun for the little ones.
  • Suggested ages are 6-12, but the younger elementary kids enjoy it most.
  • Grab a group! The more the merrier. We’ve done this with our Girl Scout troop and they had a blast.
  • Pack an air mattress and earplugs. At some point in the night you will want to crash and those museum floors are hard. Earplugs give you just enough quiet to maybe catch some Z’s.
  • Stake out your “camp” early in the night, as scoring a prime spot—like next to the Caribbean Reef—can be a bit competitive.

Overnights at Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, 312-939-2438

Dates: Jan. 16, 30; Feb. 6, 20; March 6, 20
Start time: 6:30 p.m.
Cost: Regular, $75/person ($60/member); VIP, $90/ person ($75/member); Evening-Only, $40/person ($20/member)

Start the night with a family dinner, then off you go to explore the aquarium. Enjoy the aquatic show, a scavenger hunt, crafts, late-night snacks, a game room and a late-night movie—all before sleeping with (OK, next to) the fishes.

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Photo courtesy of Shedd Aquarium.

Dozin’ With The Dinos at The Field Museum

The Field Museum of Natural History, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, 312-922-9410

Dates: Jan. 16, 23; Feb. 6, 23; March 6, 20 and 27; April 10, 18; May 8
Start time: 5:45 p.m.
Cost: $63/person ($55/member)

Meet friendly tarantulas and explore ancient Greece by flashlight. You’ll discover lots of fun at the Field, including crafts, cozy bedtime stories and games from around the world, before drifting off to dreamland in an amazing exhibit.

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Photo courtesy of The Field Museum.

Astro Overnights at Adler Planetarium

Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, 312-922-7827

Dates: Feb. 6; March 6; May 1; June 12
Start time: 5:30 p.m.
Price: $60/person ($55/member or groups with 15+ people)

After an out-of-sight dinner at Café Galileo, you have a whole universe to explore. Start your journey through the cosmos with Night Sky Live. Launch a rocket, walk in space and find out what mysteriously slimy substance has covered Planet X. Then make your own planet and study its gooey properties. Your mission is not accomplished until your bedtime scavenger hunt is complete.

Science Snoozeum at The Museum of Science and Industry

Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, 773-684-1414

Dates: Jan. 30; Feb. 20; March 13; April 17
Start time: 5:30 p.m.
Cost: $65/person

Science is no snoozing matter. Explore the museum’s one-of-a-kind exhibits after everyone else has gone home. Participate in special science activities and scavenger hunts, watch an Omnimax® film and even make your own science toys!