Ever wonder what it would be like to explore a museum after it closes its doors to the public? Well, remember Night at the Museum? Ben Stiller worked as a night watchman at the Museum of Natural History and subsequently discovers that the exhibits come to life at night. Well, the Museum got inspired by the idea and, while no artifacts come alive, the museum crammed a night's worth of activities for kids and their guardians, like night tours and camping out in one of the exhibits.
Spots all over the country are letting visitors spend the night among exhibits or in special places, or at tourist attractions. Kids who partake in the Intrepid Sea, Air + Space Museum’s “Operation Slumber," for example, get a guided tour of the ship and get to ride the flight simulator as many times as they want. On "adult" night, travelers can have dinner and cocktails on a flight deck before going to sleep on an aircraft carrier.
Some stays are even at actual hotels, but you'd never know that. They are best described as "experiences." Take, for instance, a lodge located on the bottom of the Emerald Lagoon in Key Largo. Can you imagine sleeping under the sea? Or how about living in an igloo with a glass ceiling to see the Northern Lights? Or staying overnight at a monastery? While most offer accommodation for only those who are keen on studying Buddhism, some of them also offer a bed for tourists looking for solitude.
There's no shortage of places to experience the ultimate sleepover—and finally get answers to those long standing questions of what happens when the lights go out. So here are 25 unexpected tourist attractions that we can spend the night.
25 The Philadelphia Zoo, Philadelphia, PA
The Philadelphia Zoo hosts an overnight adventure where guests can explore the zoo at night and camp out in one of the buildings. According to the Philadelphia Zoo, an animal keeper will be on hand for a meet-and-greet, and you can do exciting things like have a late-night hike, make crafts and do other activities. The program starts at 5:30 pm and concludes the following day at 9:30 sharp. Check out the Night at The Zoo info page for detailed information.
24 Star Of India, San Diego, CA
You can sleep aboard The Star of India in San Diego, CA, the world's oldest active sailing ship. The program is wildly popular, and all guests over the age of nine are welcome. Adults flood the overnight option and spend their time learning about all things maritime. Even dinner and breakfast are included, and you have the choice of sleeping aboard the Star of India or the HMS Surprise. Fun fact: HMS is a real surprise, as this ship was featured in the movies Master and Commander and Pirates of the Caribbean 4, according to The Star of India's site. But the best thing is that there are no age restrictions, so like you could go on an overnight adventure with your companions and friends!
23 The Sacred Mount Koya Temple, Japan
22 Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, Finland
21 The Bubble, Attrap' Reves, Allauch, France
In the picturesque countryside of Marseille, in the middle of a beautiful Provincial pine forest, there exists an outdoor living at Attrap' Reves, an inflatable bubble hotel that's both an insane concept and a charming way to spend the night. Each inflatable bubble is clear and surrounded by pure nature, allowing you to take it in and sleep beneath the stars or stargaze using the included telescope. The bubble allows for guests to have peace and quiet in a serene setting, as Cool Stays said. It's entirely private, as the decorated bubble comes with an opaque bathroom. According to Travel Away, bubble hotels in Europe are quite popular, even if we have never heard of one.
20 National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY
Sports lovers around the world often go to the National Baseball Hall of Fame to learn more about their favorite pastime. The museum has an "Extra Innings Overnights," which is a unique sleepover for both kids and adults, as there is no minimum age required. According to the Baseball Hall, visitors can spend their night checking out all the baseball artifacts, or trying out all the programs at the activity stations, or watching a movie in the Bullpen Theater. They can then sleep in the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery that pays homage to old stalwarts like Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth, a late-night snack will stall your cravings and there's even a light breakfast when you awake.'
19 Jules Undersea Lodge, Key Largo, Florida
This under-the-sea lodge is located on the bottom of the Emerald Lagoon in Key Largo. Can you imagine sleeping under the sea? Definitely weird, but also fun. According to Cheap Flights, the first time you check-in, you have to dive 21 feet below the lagoon's surface to get to the lodge's headquarters. It's a prerequisite! But guests are not entirely detached from the outside world; there's a control center connected by an umbilical cord that delivers and monitors fresh air, power, water and communications all day and night. And each lodge, depending on which one you get, has modern amenities. Every lodge has a shower cubicle and a toilet, some have entertainment centers (DVD players, stereos) while others have WiFi, a mini kitchen and couch.
18 Philadelphia Zoo, The Adult Event, Philadelphia, PA
Who says kids get to have all the fun? At The Philadelphia Zoo, not just kids can have a sleepover there. Called "Adult Overnights," the zoo also hosts adults in a sophisticated yet fun atmosphere. As cocktails are passed out during happy hour and night descends, adults get an after-dark park tour where you can get up close to the live animals, get a behind the scenes look at running a zoo, and other after-dark events. According to My City Paper, this 21+ special event can also be customized to your liking.
17 Bailin Zen Monastery, China
One of just a handful of Zen temples in China to allow foreign guests to live with the monks, the 1800s Bailin Zen Monastery offers overnight or weekend stays. This excursion benefits visitors who want to find themselves, as the peaceful setting and the secluded temple make for an ideal retreat. You get to live like a monk (except for the provided modern conveniences like soft beds, hot water for bathing and Western toilets) and, according to The China Culture Center, this means you can participate in prayer ceremonies, learn how to meditate and learn more about Zen. This is an adults-only retreat.
16 Kokopelli’s Cave, Farmington, New Mexico
We had no idea, but apparently, hotels with rooms built inside man-made caves are a popular choice when traveling. Kokopelli’s Cave is a bed-and-breakfast in Farmington, New Mexico. A 1,659 square foot one-bedroom cave is perfect for couples who are looking for something different and unique. According to ABC News, the cave was carved out of 65-million-year-old sandstone and is 70 feet below ground. You have to walk down a sloping path and take the steps and then a ladder to get in. Inside the cave, there's a grotto-like bath with Jacuzzi and a waterfall shower, a kitchen and a barbecue, and other modern amenities.
15 The American Museum of Natural History, New York City
There's so much to explore at The American Museum of Natural History in New York, right across from picturesque Central Park. Luckily, the museum hosts a "Night at the Museum" where kids between 6 and 13-year-olds and their parents can explore the halls after hours, from 6pm-9am, and camp out in one of the exhibits. Inspired by the wildly successful Night at the Museum movies, the museum dims its light at night, making for an exciting way to explore its exhibits by flashlights. Here are the details.
14 Intrepid Sea, Air + Space Museum, Hudson River, New York City
13 The Bronx Zoo, The Bronx, NY
The "Overnight Safari" at the Bronx Zoo hosts adults and children on different nights. For children 5 and up, the adventure starts in the classroom, where animals are brought in for kids to admire. Then there are scavenger hunts, loads of planned activities and, according to MommyPoppins, "lights out is after a 10 pm 'midnight' snack and breakfast is served at 7 am." The Adult-Only overnight, according to The Bronx Zoo, includes zoo general admission, parking, campsite and tent, educational activities, commemorative keepsake, adult beverages (wine and beer) and a selection of food stations. You have to be over 21 to attend the Adult-Only night.
12 Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago
Called 'Dozin' with the Dinos,' this program allows guests the chance to see the Field Museum in a different light when they spend the night at the museum. Travel + Leisure called Dozin' "one of Chicago's most anticipated family events of the summer." You can wander the museum and even participate in night-time workshops. You have to bring your sleeping bags to sleep in, and The Field Museum also urges kids to "stay up late with museum scientists, and enjoy activities like dissecting owl pellets and playing instruments from around the world." The event is open to adult groups, parents, and kids ages 6 to 12.
11 Hemis Monastery, Ladakh, Kashmir
The Hemis Monastery is a popular destination site, as thousands of visitors come here in search of a spiritual experience and a sublime environment. Tourists are invited to stay the night, and if they wake up early, they can attend early morning prayers and enjoy the breathtaking views. The monastery gets crowded during its annual festival, the Hemis Festival, a time where you can witness vibrant dances and Buddhist rituals performed, according to tripoto. The nearby Hemis National Park is the highest altitude park in India and is a must-see for wildlife lovers, according to India.com.
10 National Aquarium, Baltimore, MD
The National Aquarium's "Shark! Ocean Predator Overnight," allows kids to explore this tourist attraction after dark. Once the museum officially closes, the aquarium becomes a magical place for kids who can spend the night learning about water-bound predators through some interactive activities. The program includes a kid-friendly dinner and a guided tour of the aquarium. And of course children can walk the renowned shark catwalk where the aquarium's largest sharks swim just inches below. FYI: while designed for kids, adults are welcome. Children over 8 and under 16 need to be accompanied by an adult. Refunds will not be given for participants who do not meet the age requirements.
9 The Liberty Hotel, Boston, MA
If you're traveling in Boston for vacay and want to sleep over at a tourist attraction, why don't you go to prison? We don't want to end there but we're curious. That's why people stay at The Liberty Hotel in Boston's historic district and which used to be the Charles Street Jail. While the hotel is luxurious now--rooms start at $250 a night and go up to $1,500--it does pay homage to its past and has kept some original finishes. According to the hotel, the jail’s central atrium was preserved (it now houses the core of the hotel), the famous catwalks were kept, and you can find actual jail cells within the hotel's restaurant.
8 Nashville Zoo, Nashville, TN
The Nashville Zoo, one of the top destinations in Nashville, attracts more than 980,000 visitors annually, according to Clarksville Online. "Zoofari Slumber," a family-centric sleep-over, is designed for families and escorted children between ages 4-12 years old. Family activities after dark include hayrides, jumping around in inflatable castles, animal shows and even craft making. But what kids love the most is the evening hot dog and marshmallow roast and gathering around for campfire songs, according to Escape Here. NB: guests need to pack as if they were going camping, so bring along sleeping bags and camp lights, for example.
7 Smithsonian National Zoo, Washington, D.C.
The Smithsonian's "Snore and Roar" allows you to set up camp overnight at the zoo and fall all asleep to the sounds of howling wolves and awake to the call of the wild. According to Mommy Nearest, when the doors close, kids and their guardians get a two-hour guided tour of the exhibit areas. There's also a flashlight hike through the zoo at night. In addition, there are also other events, such as playing games or partaking in a few activities. For adults, there's a separate adult-only sleepover, and all snacks are served with wine.
6 Wat Pah Nanachat, Thailand
While the Bailin Monastery offers you Western comforts, an overnight or weekend experience at the Wat Pah Nanachat forest monastery in Thailand completely immerses you into the Buddhist monk lifestyle. There are no teachings or courses here; it's a "learn on the job" experience, according to Luxury Travel Advisor. If you follow the traditions--being cooperative, showing respect, and being entirely selfless--your initial visit may be extended, according to Wat Pah Nanachat. Then you must follow the daily routines of the monastery, and join in with all communal meetings and work activities. It goes without saying that this visit is only for those who are serious about learning how to be a Buddhist monk.
5 Tabo Monastery, Spiti, India
Tabo Monastery in India, according to Luxury Travel Advisor, was rumored to be founded by a Buddhist king who descended from Tibetan royalty over 1,000 years ago. One of the oldest working monasteries in the world, as well as the most important in Spiti, Tabo's Sarai building allows you to stay overnight in a peaceful and remote setting. Built atop a hill, you'll wake to amazing vistas, heavenly views of the mountain, as well as a small village below. As India declared, Tabo's "inspiring preservation of Buddhist heritage through centuries will truly inspire you."
4 International Spy Museum, Washington, DC
What if your kids can pretend to be James Bond? At The International Spy Museum, “Operation Secret Slumber” lets kids (9-13) stay overnight, where they can perfect their alias, take on a secret identity, create a cover story and transform themselves through disguise in order to become a spy. According to DC Social Guide, kids also gather intelligence, break secret codes, uncover secrets, interrogate real spies, hunt down moles and track down "enemies." Adults will have their own mission—to experience Operation Spy (the Museum’s action-packed interactive spy mission). Early evening and bedtime snacks are included, as well as a continental breakfast. Check out the spy museum's page, to learn what you need to bring.
3 Parador de Santo Estevo, Spain
How about staying overnight at a former Benedictine monastery? That's exactly what you can do if you're in northwest Spain in the Ribeira Sacra region. The former monastery dates back to the 6th and 7th centuries and has been updated for modern hotel uses; there are 77 rooms and each of the rooms are different and unique. According to How Stuff Works Adventure, you can explore the restored classic architecture, buildings from the Romanesque, Renaissance and Gothic periods. The monastery has become so popular that couples come here to get married, "a place that lives and breathes the concept of immortal love," according to Parado.com
2 The University of Pennsylvania Museum, PA
Penn's "40 Winks with the Sphinx" allows kids, age 6 to 12, to explore the museum after dark. According to Philly.com, kids get to explore ancient Egypt, the mummies and hieroglyphics, the ancient Greeks and Romans and the world of the ancient Maya. Kids also have exclusive access to special exhibitions, play a live gameshow where they can compete with friends or other kids and take part in a scavenger hunt throughout the galleries. How cool is it that kids can fall asleep in their sleeping bags and be surrounded by statues of Egyptian gods and goddesses? Definitely cool.
1 Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Harrodsburg, Kentucky
Shaker Village, a 200=year old living history museum and working village, seeks to preserve the Shaker way of life. You can travel back in time to the 19th century for a simpler lifestyle, and stay at one of the guest rooms in the restored Shaker buildings. Named as a top hidden travel destination by BBC News, Shaker Village is also America’s largest Shaker community. According to Bed and Breakfast, costumed interpreters recreate the Shaker world and guests can attend workshops and educational programs that are designed to offer insight into Shaker beliefs and customs.
Sources: Cheap Flights, BBC News, Bed and Breakfast, ABC News, Philly.com, How Stuff Works Adventure, My City Paper, DC Social Guide, Luxury Travel Advisor, Travel + Leisure, Departures, Mommy Nearest, India.com, Wat Pah Nanachat, Cool Stays, Travel Away, The China Culture Center, Escape Here, Baseball Hall, tripoto, CNBC, NYC On The Cheap, Matcha, MommyPoppins.