Little Kids: 3-6 • Big Kids: 7-9 • Tweens: 10-12

8 Best Zoo Sleepovers for Kids

Sleeping Panda; Courtesy of enmyo Shutterstock.com
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Museums aren’t the only attractions that offer sleepovers with after-hours access to the exhibits! These U.S. zoos open their doors to provide unique, nocturnal experiences with animals. Consider one of these zoo sleepovers for your next outing with the kids.

Lincoln Park Zoo Sleepover; Courtesy of Lincoln Park ZooLincoln Park Zoo Sleepover; Courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo1. Lincoln Park Zoo

For Ages: 5 to 12
Head to Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo for Campout at the Zoo! The zoo sleepover begins with pitching tents and prepping campsites; next comes visiting the animals, animal-themed activities, and finally, campfires with S’mores! The next morning includes breakfast and a hike through the zoo — after you’ve been woken up by the call of the gibbons, that is! All children must be accompanied by an adult; there should be one adult for every five children. Campout at the Zoo is offered on select dates in the summer.

2. SeaWorld

For Ages: 4 to 14
SeaWorld Orlando, SeaWorld San Antonio and SeaWorld San Diego all offer 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.

3. National Aquarium, Baltimore

For Ages: 8 and Up
Children are invited to dolphin or shark sleepovers at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. You can actually unroll your sleeping bag in an underwater viewing area and watch wildlife glide by! The program begins at 5:30 p.m. and ends at 9 a.m. the following day. It includes a behind-the-scenes tour, a 4D immersion film, dinner, and a light breakfast.

4. Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Washington, D.C.

For Ages: 6 and Up
So, maybe you can’t overnight in a Washington, D.C. museum like Ben Stiller did, but the National Zoo welcomes families for sleepovers! The “Snore and Roar” program for families 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 zoo sleepovers begin at 6 p.m. and end at 9:30 a.m. the following day. At least one adult must accompany every three children at the sleepovers, and a maximum of six people may register together.

5. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

For Ages: All Ages
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay features a number of overnight opportunities and zoo late nights that begin at 6 p.m. and end the next morning at 9 a.m. Guests receive dinner, breakfast, a water bottle and a Camp T-shirt, with themes like Survival of the Fittest, Serengeti Safari, Nights Tales and Physics Sleepovers. Theme park admission is discounted for sleepover guests the following day.

6. Philadelphia Zoo

For Ages: 5 to 12
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 and their parents. Special themed programs, such as Critters of the Night, 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 and a snack, and dinner and breakfast are available for purchase. Families check in at 5:30 p.m. and stay until the zoo opens the next morning at 9:30 a.m.

7. San Diego Zoo Safari Park

For Ages: 3 and Up
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 3 and older, which begin at 4:15 p.m. and end at 9:30 a.m. Families can select Premium, Vista or Classic tents. Admission to the park is not included.

8. Zoo Atlanta

For Ages: All Ages
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. Themes include Awesome Aldabra Tortoises, Terrific Tigers, The Veterinarian Is In, Outrageous Orangutans, and Giant Panda Birthday Celebration for the twin pandas.