Staying overnight at a museum used to be a once-in-a-lifetime event, but now it’s a unique experience no child should miss. Here's what to expect from a night at the museum...
The Natural History Museum, London (Pict: NHM)
There’s an exciting, but eerie stillness to the air when you walk down a hallway of a museum at night. Maybe it’s the fact that you don’t expect to pull a weekend all-nighter in a museum, maybe it’s the unusual shadows cast by ancient bones and dim lighting. Whatever it is, as soon as you step into the Natural History Museum for a Dino Snores event, you, and the children, know it will be a special night.
There probably isn’t a person in England who hasn’t visited the Natural History, Design, V&A or Science museums, all vying for patronage on Cromwell Road in the London borough of South Kensington.
Admittedly when it comes to after-hours activities, you’d be hard pressed to find a better one than the Dino Snores for Kids at the Natural History Museum.
Teaming up with Airbnb, visitors can also win a chance to say at the museum in a specially-designed sleepover Base Camp run by the accommodation rental company. Situated underneath the 1300-year-old giant sequoia tree base in the mezzanine of the Hintze grand hall, the Base Camp comes complete with camp beds, tents and an imitation camp fire.
If you’re not staying in the Airbnb camp you’ll be bunking underneath the breathtaking 25 meter long whale skeleton, Hope. ( Please note: that the sleeping areas may change and the museum doesn’t guarantee where you’ll be sleeping on the night.)
What is the one item I have to have when I staying at Dino Snore for Kids?
If you’re staying in the camp or below in the great hall you’ll need to have warm clothing, especially night clothes. It gets really cold up in the Base Camp as you’re near the roof and windows and it gets really draughty.
Lower down in the hall you will be lying on floor, so I’d recommend you bring an inflatable bed or padded mat to lie on as well as a warm sleeping bag.
Wrap up warm and bring as many comfy night time layers as you can.
How it works:
The first thing I’d say about Dino Snores is that it’s a long night; expect to be up until midnight, when the lights are turned out.
You arrive at the museum at 6:45pm, where you’re met by museum staff and given your very own bunk and space for the night. This is followed by a welcome briefing for all guests in the Hintze hall, which is round about the time my 9-year-old niece started to actually process the fact that she was staying the night at the museum, and the excitement from her and the many other children staying on the night was palpable.
Usually the museum aims to have around 250 guest stay per night, this sounds like a huge amount of people, but believe me it’s not. The Natural History Museum is so big that you could easily not see half of the other guest throughout the night. The staff also split visitors into 5 groups, so that it’s more manageable.
From 8pm to 11:15pm there are a range of fantastic activities for the kids, including an educational science talk, t-shirt making workshop and, the highlight of the night for us, a torch-lit scavenger type hunt.
What’s the best age for children staying at the Natural History Dino Snores?
The Dino Snores event is advertised for children aged 7-11-years-old, but I’d say it’s ideal for kids 9 and above. The main reason for this is that it is a very long night, as I mentioned earlier, so you should expect to stay up to at least 11:30pm.
You could probably miss the last activity, which finishes at 11:15pm, but as the rest of the guests aren’t likely to be in bed until just before midnight you’ll probably be kept up by the comings and goings of other guests. So you may want to bring ear plugs for the night.
Another reason the night time adventure is better for older children is because the activities are better suited for them. We loved hunting by touch-light amongst dinosaur bones for clues in the dark, but it was a very different story for a few of the younger children who were quite scared to be in the dark.
In between the range of activities you’ll be able to grab dinner at the restaurant, and with everything from burgers and chips to pizza, pasta and beef stew there will be a dish for all members of the family.
You can also grab a quick coffee and cake, to keep you energised for the rest of the night.
Lights in the museum get switched off at midnight, but you’ll probably all be so tired from the excitement of the evening that you’ll be asleep by 12:05.
The next day you’ll be up bright and early, whether you like it or not, at 7am and breakfast will start at 7:30am.
On the way to the canteen we were welcomed by the smells of a full English breakfast wafting towards us and the breakfast did not disappoint. A full English fry up, pastries, some of the best granola I’ve ever eaten, there was a vast selection of food, much like there was at dinner.
Breakfast is followed by the last activity of the trip, as we stayed near Christmas we got to meet Santa and his reindeer. To be honest Amirah (my 9-year-old) wasn’t too impressed with Saint Nick, but she did love watching the reindeer.
Her second favourite activity for the morning was to visit the gift shop. We spent quite a bit of time shopping, which really meant she picked things up and asked if she could buy it and I said no 90% of the time.
Once I was all shopped out it was time for the museum to open to the public and our extra special exclusive night in the Natural History Museum had come to an end.
There was a time, when I was younger and had less money that I could be found in a museum every weekend. But over time I fell out of that routine, so while I wouldn’t call myself the most enthusiastic museum goer anymore I would say that this is an experience everyone should have, young or old.
What it Costs
To stay in the Natural History Museum for the night including breakfast tickets cost £60 each (same price for children and adults)
While the event is held up to twice a month the tickets do sell out fast. In fact the Dino Snores for Kids event is booked up well into March 2018.
Want to go without the kids?
For Adults Only!
I rejoiced when I found out they do Dino Snores for adults! It’s all the fun of staying at the museum overnight with alcohol, a three-course meal, stand-up comedy, all-night monster movie marathon and loads of other activities. So it’s safe to say I will be going back to a Dino Snores soon, with or without the kids.