Arts And Culture

Dinosaurs, butterflies and sleepovers; Oh my!

Dec. 14, 2012, 10:46 a.m.

Kids and parents lay out their sleeping bags for a night at the museum. (courtesy of the Natural History Museum)

The Natural History Museum (NHM) is inviting the public to do what only fictional characters in movies and books have done before; spend a night in the museum. NHM's series of sleepovers continues in the new year with dinosaur adventures, archaeological digs and bonding with the butterflies.

For $50 to $55 a person, kids and their parents can sleep over in one of the museum's diorama halls and get a "behind-the-scenes" glimpse of the Exposition Park museum. Jenny Coyle is the Overnight Program Coordinator at the NHM and said that in recent years they have begun hosting an increasing number of these events, which can accommodate up to 200 people per night.

People arrive around 6:30 p.m. and a brief orientation begins at 7 p.m. Then, kids (who must be at least 5 years old) and their parents do a variety of activities that vary with every camp. For Camp Dino, it can include scavenger hunts, making fossils or even a live animal presentation if the appropriate museum employee is available. For Camp Archaeology, guests may make dreamcatchers, participate in their own dig for pottery shards or get a tour of a certain wing of the museum. Camp Butterfly, which currently only has one weekend scheduled, is just for girls and includes a special tour of the Butterfly Pavilion and butterfly-related crafts.

For every camp, it's lights out at 10:30 p.m. and Coyle says most kids are more than ready to go to sleep by then. Even if they're not, there's no late-night museum wandering allowed so people must stay in their assigned room until 7 a.m. wake-up the next morning. Coyle said they have a lot of return participants, with some families coming every year and checking out the different sleepovers.

Slumber party participants are asked to bring:

- A sleeping bag and pillow; air mattresses are allowed but tents are not
- Appropriate sleepwear and a jacket; museum officials suggest bringing layers because it can get cold in the museum halls at night
- Toiletries: There are no showers available but guests should bring a toothbrush, toothpaste and anything else they may need
- Flashlights; they're fun for sleepovers but not required
- Cameras with a flash and video cameras are welcome at the event

These museum sleepovers sell out quick so Coyle recommends purchasing tickets as soon as they go on sale. Camp Dino seems to be the most popular and is already almost sold out for January and February, but tickets are still available for weekends in March, April and June of next year. The next Camp Archaeology takes place February 2 and Camp Butterfly is May 31. Summer and Fall sleepover dates go on sale starting March 18.

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