Did Night at the Museum make you and the kids want to visit a museum or zoo late at night? Well, here's your chance to do just that! Many zoos open their doors to provide these unique, nocturnal experiences with animals.

1. National Aquarium, Baltimore

Children ages 8 and up are invited to a "Sleepover with the Sharks" at the Baltimore Aquarium, which runs through mid-September. You can actually unroll your sleeping bag in an underwater viewing area and watch wildlife glide by! The program begins at 6 p.m. and ends at 9 a.m. the following day, and includes a behind-the-scenes tour, reserved seating in the dolphin amphitheater, a 4D immersion film, dinner, and breakfast. Visit the aquarium's Web site for more information.

2. Smithsonian's National Zoo, Washington, D.C.

Okay, so maybe you can't overnight in a Washington, D.C. museum like Ben Stiller did in Night at the Museum but the National Zoo welcomes families for sleepovers through September. The "Snore and Roar" program includes a two-hour tour of an exhibit area, a flashlight hike through the zoo at night, and breakfast paired with a morning activity. Guests also get a four-person tent provided by the Friends of the Zoo (FONZ) on Lion/Tiger Hill. The sleepovers, which begin at 6 p.m. and end at 9 a.m. the following day, are for Scouts or FONZ members only. At least one adult must accompany every three children at the sleepovers, and a maximum of six people may register together. Children must be at least 6 years old to participate. Visit the National Zoo's Web site for additional information.

3. Zoo Miami

Zoo Miami offers a popular, annual sleepover event called the "Big Cat-Nap Campout." Families are invited to pitch their own tents in the zoo's "grasslands" for a camping experience that includes behind-the-scenes tours, zoo guides, a campfire and S'mores, continental breakfast, and a T-shirt. The event takes place from 6:15 p.m. to 8:30 a.m., and campers receive free admission to the zoo the following day. Children must be at least 6 years old and in first grade to attend. Visit the zoo's Web site for more information.

4. San Diego Zoo

The famed 100-acre San Diego Zoo features several themed Zoo Sleepovers for families to enjoy. Your family will receive a zoo-provided tent, a souvenir, dinner, an evening snack and a hot breakfast the following day. Themes include Slumber Down Under, for families with children 4 and older to explore the Australian Outback area, and a Spooky Sleepover in October. Visit the San Diego Zoo's Web site for more information.

5. SeaWorld

SeaWorld, with locations in Orlando, San Antonio and San Diego, offers family sleepovers during the summer and holidays. Summer programs provide families with a fun-filled night of activities, allowing them to sleep right next to the aquariums. During holidays, kindergarteners through eighth graders (depending on the park) can enjoy a family event that includes an activity, animal interaction, pizza dinner and continental breakfast. Sleepover prices vary by park and season. Visit Sea World's Web site for more information.

6. Philadelphia Zoo

Special overnight programs are also available at the Philadelphia Zoo, giving families a glimpse of animal life at night. The most popular program is its Night Flight, for children ages 5 to 12 and their parents. Special themed programs, such as Who's Awake in Winter, showcase particular animals and seasons. Night Flights run every Friday and Saturday night, January through June and October through November, as well as the first two weekends in December. Admission includes games, activities, a snack and breakfast, as well as a souvenir patch and zoo admission the following day. Families check in at 6:30 p.m. and stay until the zoo opens the next morning. Visit the Philadelphia Zoo's Web site for more information.

7. San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park provides a unique experience without a long -- and costly -- flight to Africa. The Roar and Snore Safari program provides luxury tents in campgrounds overlooking the park's African Plains field exhibit. Programs include accommodations, camp activities, an after-hours look at the animals, guide walks, a campfire program, dinner and hot breakfast, as well as a souvenir. Families can select the Family Night Sleepovers for children 6 and older, and in some cases, 10 and older, or the Junior Sleepovers for children ages 6 and younger. Families can select Premium, Vista or Classic tents. Visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Web site for more information.

8. New England Aquarium, Boston

When in Boston, visit the New England Aquarium for its overnight program. Snacks and continental breakfast are provided for families with children 6 years and up. Families will sleep in the carpeted West Wing, with a tour of the Main Aquarium offered the following morning. The program includes games and learning presentations, and families receive free admission to an IMAX movie the following day. Programs run 6:45 p.m. until 9 a.m. Visit the aquarium's Web site for more information.

9. Zoo Atlanta

Join the NightCrawlers at Zoo Atlanta for a nocturnal adventure that includes behind-the-scenes experiences, up-close encounters with zoo animals, and the use of night-vision scopes. Private guided tours are led by zoo rangers, and families can sleep in a climate-controlled facility. The program begins at 6 p.m. and ends at 10:30 a.m., and is available year-round. Only continental breakfast is provided, so families should bring snacks and dinner. Visit the zoo's Web site for more information.

10. Nashville Zoo

The Night Owls program at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere gives kids a chance to learn about the animals through live animal presentations, a night tour, games and crafts. There's also a Zzzoofari Slumber program held twice annually, with an animal show, hayrides, crafts, a hot dog and marshmallow roast and breakfast the following day. The program is recommended for families with children ages 4 to 12. Visit the zoo's Web site for more information.

More from Family Vacation Critic:
10 Fun Zoos for Families
12 Resorts That Get You Close to Animals

Written by Lissa Poirot



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