An Adults-Only Night at the Museum

The famed stay-overs aren’t just just for kids anymore! Sleep with the fishes (or under the Giant Blue Whale) at the American Museum of Natural History.

Photo by Roderick Mickens/AMNH

A lot of us have probably wondered what happens at the American Museum of Natural History once the lights are turned off. Do the elephants in the Akeley Hall of African Mammals come to life and roam the hallways? Are the cavemen waking to get caught up on one another’s days? It’s time to find out.

The insanely popular Night at the Museum for Grown-Ups is back with a vengeance for its last two sleepovers of the season on May 5 and June 30. The entire night is designed to feel like an elementary school field trip…except with less supervision and a lot more champagne. Popular exhibits like the Fossil Halls and the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems will be open for your private viewing pleasure, as will Hayden Planetarium, the newest “Mummies” exhibit (which adds a spooky edge to the all-night affair), and the rest of the museum’s 45 permanent exhibitions.

The “Lunar Lounge” in the Rose Center for Earth and Space. Photo by Roderick Mickens/AMNH

It’s personally been a lifelong goal of mine to spend a night in the museum—although logistics to accomplish this were murky until AMNH announced its first adult sleepover a few years ago—so getting to check that off my bucket list was an achievement. My parents surprised me with a ticket to last year’s event on Valentine’s eve, which meant I was the only solo slumberer among a sea of couples. People I met that night might’ve joked about my being alone on Valentine’s weekend, but this was the ideal way to explore one of the city’s most iconic museums after hours.

Dinner and unlimited champagne, beer, and wine were pleasant enough, but I wasn’t there just for the drinks. Exploring the halls sans tour guide (and crowds) allowed me to get insider tips from the guys who’ve seen AMNH from every angle—the security guards. One pointed me toward the recently opened Titanosaur exhibition, where I found a roaming paleontologist who worked exclusively on prepping the 122-foot-long herbivore for its world premiere. Not many museumgoers can say they took a one-on-one walk-through of a new exhibit, but I had the rare opportunity to do just that. I almost forgot I was wearing my pajamas.

I’m a sucker for gazing at the stars, so a trip to the next-door Hayden Planetarium for a twilight showing of Dark Universe (narrated by famed astrophysicist/author/podcaster/avid tweeter Neil deGrasse Tyson) was right up my alley. Also nearby in the Rose Center for Earth and Space was the Lunar Lounge, which was completely empty by the time I stumbled upon it. I stocked up on (too many) cookies from the midnight munchies buffet and charged my phone for my long quest back to the close-knit sleeping quarters underneath the Giant Blue Whale in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.

Lucky guests sleep under the Giant Blue Whale model. Photo by D. Finnin/AMNH

Waking up was a bit of a struggle, and not just because I didn’t want to leave the museum after the designated 9 a.m. departure time. Waiting on line to use the ladies’ room to freshen up (showers not included) was a half-hour process in itself, and the breakfast selection is limited to atypical pastries and coffee that’ll barely give you enough of a buzz to get home with your sleeping bag. A swift walk over to Levain Bakery for a bomboloncini (and a dark chocolate peanut butter chip cookie for later) will more than suffice for your commute home.

The price tag may seem daunting, but you’re truly getting a lot out of the experience. Aside from having the freedom to roam around a museum without tourists cramping your style, the entire staff at AMNH caters to almost all of your needs. Food? It’s covered. Drinks? They’re constantly flowing. They might’ve even tucked me in and told me a bedtime story at 3 a.m. if I requested it. The point is, you can’t put a price on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and there are very few occasions when you’ll be able to sleep in a New York City institution again.

I didn’t catch any roaming elephants, but my night was magical nonetheless.

A Night at the Museum Sleepover for Grown-Ups
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at West 79th Street
Fridays, May 5 and June 30, 2017
7 p.m.–9 a.m.

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