If Ben Stiller or Kevin James inspired you to discover what happens in museums and zoos at night, consider taking the family to an overnight program at a zoo or animal attraction near you or your vacation destination. Some of the country's best zoos are opening their doors to provide a nocturnal glimpse at their animals and exhibits. Here's your chance!
1. National Aquarium, Baltimore, MD
Kids 8 and up are invited to a "Sleepover with the Sharks" at the Baltimore aquarium, running through mid-September. Families can see just how active the sharks become at night, while enjoying behind-the-scene areas and taking part in hands-on crafts and activities in the Shark Discovery Lab. Unroll your sleeping bag and sleep in the underwater viewing area and watch the wildlife glide by as you drift into sleep. The program begins at 6 p.m. and ends at 9 a.m. and includes aquarium admission, a visit to the 4-D Immersion Theater and reserved seating at "Our Ocean Planet: The New Dolphin Show." Dinner and breakfast are also provided. Admission is $94.95 for adults and children, with discounts for members and groups of 15 or more. Visit the museum's website for more information.
2. Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Washington, D.C.
Okay, so maybe you cannot overnight in a Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C., like Ben Stiller, but the Smithsonian zoo welcomes families for sleepovers through September. The "Snore and Roar" overnights for children 6 and up and their parents include a two-hour Zookeeper-led exploration, a late-night flashlight hike through the zoo, 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., are for Scouts or FONZ members only, which begin at $45 per person, plus the $65 per person overnight program fee that covers most tours. At least one adult must accompany every three children at the sleepovers, and a maximum of six people may register together. Visit the museum's website for more information.
3. Zoo Miami
Miami's zoo offers a popular and annual sleepover event, the Big Cat-Nap Campout. Families are invited to pitch their own tents in the zoo's "grasslands" for a real camping experience that includes behind-the-scenes tours, zookeeper guides, campfire and S'mores, continental breakfast, and a commemorative 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 at least 6 to attend, and the program is $64 per person. Visit the museum's website for more information.
4. San Diego Zoo
The famed 100-acre San Diego Zoo features Zoo Sleepovers for families to enjoy the zoo under the stars in Balboa Park. With prices ranging from $119 to $149 per person, depending on the event's theme and a child's age, children 4 and up can join parents for a true campout. Sleepovers feature zoo-provided tents, and include dinner, an evening snack and a hot breakfast, as well as a take-home gift. Visit the museum's website for more information.
SeaWorld, with locations in Orlando, San Antonio and San Diego, offers family sleepovers during the summer and holidays. Summer programs provide entire families with a fun-filled night of activities, allowing families to sleep in sleeping bags next to 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 but start as low as $78 per person, or $103 with next-day SeaWorld entry tickets, in Orlando. Visit the museum's website for more information.
6. Philadelphia Zoo
Special overnight programs are also available at Philadelphia's zoo, giving families a glimpse of animal life at night. The most popular program is its Night Flight, where children 5 to 12 and their parents can enjoy a fun and adventurous overnight adventure. Special themed programs, such as Who's Awake in Winter, showcases 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. The $50 per person admission includes games, activities, a snack and breakfast, as well as a commerative patch and zoo admission for the following day. Families check in at 6:30 p.m. and stay until the zoo opens the next morning. Visit the museum's website for more information.
7. Safari Park
San Diego Zoo's Safari Park is a unique safari for families, without the flight to Africa. The Roar and Snore Safari program helps complete a true safari experience, providing 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, with rates beginning at $182 for adults 12 and up, $152 for children 3 through 11, and $30 for infants. Visit the museum's website for more information.
8. New England Aquarium
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. Overnights include 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., and cost $50 per person. Visit the museum's website for more information.
9. Zoo Atlanta
Join the NightCrawlers at Atlanta's zoo for a nocturnal adventure that includes behind-the-scenes experiences, up-close encounters with zoo animals, and the use of night-vision scopes provide a unique experience. 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 for $60 per person. Only continental breakfast is provided, so families should bring snacks and dinner. Visit the museum's website for more information.
10. Nashville Zoo
Join the Night Owls program at the Nashville Zoo and don't forget your sleeping bags! The overnight program gives kids a chance to learn about the animals in the zoo through live animal presentations, a night tour, games and crafts. Themed events revolve around various animals and exhibits, with the program the cheapest of the various nationwide programs, at just $25 per person. Visit the museum's website for more information.
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