Laura and Samara spend their days as non-profit unicorns and fill every spare minute exploring the world of musical theatre as BFFs (that’s Broadway Friends Forever). Follow @bffs613 on Twitter.
When the BFFs were asked if they wanted to check out the Museum of Nature’s very first adult sleepover, we had already packed our Harry Potter PJs and Mamma Mia sleeping bags before the Apt613 editors could finish their sentence.
Due to demand after the success of events at the museum such as Nature Nocturne, museum lovers were eager for a more educational, toned-down adult experience of the exhibits—but still a fun-filled and eventful night. The Museum of Nature did not disappoint.
With plenty of pre-event communication, the museum staff had us prepared with waivers and what to bring for the big night. We arrived with pillows and sleeping bags in tow, along with about 100 eager guests. The entry process was pretty easy; it took some time because of the amount of people, but was pretty steady moving through the security check. Each guest got their sleeping location (we chose the fossil exhibit!) along with a map of events, a drink ticket and an event bracelet. We stored our overnight bags, grabbed the complimentary drinks and started to mingle before the program got going.
The next stage was a three-course meal including a starter salad, a main course of either stuffed squash or chicken and a dessert of apple crumble. The food was delicious and the servers were friendly and seemed just as excited to be there as the rest of us. It was a great kick off to the evening as we met some others seated at our table and would run into each other throughout the night.
Fossil Flashlight Tour
One of our first stops was the fossil flashlight tour, a guided tour of the dinosaur fossil exhibit on the first floor. The catch was that the room was dark except for flashlights. We got to see the exhibit in a totally new and exciting way—and it really felt as though we were in a museum after dark [Editor’s Note: They were!] and we had the rest of the night to figure out if displays were going to come alive Night at the Museum style.
When we see “trivia” we are always all in! We ventured back into the events room for moon-themed trivia and with steep competition and a nail-biting tie breaker we won! (Also, it should be noted we won the tie-breaker question about the distance of the moon from the earth by guessing with a slightly-altered number from a musical!) With cute museum prizes, guests had multiple trivia time slots, so everyone had a chance to compete.
We then got to sit down on the second floor, under the moon installation, and taste test three different whiskies led by an expert, dressed in her PJs of course! Smelling and tasting them, having discussions on what flavours came through—it was a whisky lover’s dream! Even for us non-whisky lovers, it was a very interesting experience. We were pleasantly surprised to see there was no additional cost to do this tasting, as it was a very customized and detailed. [Note: It was a scotch whisky tasting for us, but museum staff say this could be something different every time, like cocktails, kombucha, and other spirits.]
We then headed to the water gallery to check out the touch tank. The staff gave us a great walkthrough and explanation of sea life while we got to touch three different kinds of starfish in the tank and view the interactions of other creatures, like sea cucumbers. Though the tank was small, the staff’s expertise really lifted this experience to a whole other level.
Time flew by and suddenly it was midnight! Even though we missed some exhibits (including the Creatures of the Night and the Moon Photobooth) we had definitely worked up an appetite. So, under the moon installation again, midnight snacks including sweet and savoury pretzels and pizza were served while a harpist in a onesie serenaded us with lovely lullabies and, much to our delight, a few songs from musicals, helping to set the stage for a sleepy night.
All-night Movie Marathon
Surprisingly, it was past 1am and the excitement from the event must have been keeping us awake, because we weren’t ready for bed! Luckily for the night owls, the museum had an all-night movie marathon starting at 1 am going all the way through until morning. It included space-themed movies like The Martian, Alien and Mars Attacks! Don’t worry if you can’t watch movies without snacks, as everyone was well taken care of with nachos and rock candy to munch on in the theatre.
Finally, it was time to pick out the prime sleeping spot. Having chosen the fossil exhibit we had the entire area at our disposal—whether it was under the Archelon Ischyros (the largest turtle ever!) or by some hatching dinosaur eggs—there was really no bad spot. The museum provided foam mats, but guests needed to bring sleeping bags and pillows if they wanted them. Though the mats weren’t super helpful as they were pretty thin, once you found a comfy spot you were pretty much set for the night—plus the museum didn’t limit the amount of luggage you could bring so you could bring your own foam mattress or blow-up mattress if that made you feel more comfortable!
Only a few hours later the sun was pouring in through the museum windows and morning yoga was offered under the moon installation for half an hour to help you stretch out any kinks that may have developed overnight.
Before heading out and putting a close on our nighttime adventure, a continental breakfast was provided in the museum cafe which included plain and chocolate croissants, yogurt, granola, fruit, juice, coffee and tea.
Tips to help you get the most out of your sleepover!
We didn’t know what the attire would be like but a three course dinner does give you a sort of more buttoned-up vision in your head… While we weren’t wearing cocktail dresses, we would have felt even more comfortable just in sneakers and jeans—as the majority of guests were dressed casual and really just set for a night of comfort and exploring! We would also bring slippers or a small blanket for some of the cozier moments—like movie watching—to keep you warm.
Though the museum provided a great list of essentials to bring, we would add a yoga mat to that list if the morning yoga is an activity on your radar. We were able to use the foam mats that were provided for sleeping, however a real mat would have provided better grip.
Speaking of the foam sleeping mats, they are only an inch or two thick, and we found sleeping on our sides was not ideally comfortable. Best to bring an extra mat if you have one, or a single-sized hand pump or blow-up air mattress (spots for double-sized or bigger are trickier to find) as power outlets are rare.
We were surprised how quickly time flew by and missed seeing a few exhibits and activities. It would be great if the whole thing started an hour earlier to give enough time after dinner to see more, or if programming would continue later into the night.
Our only real “snag” was a lack of communication around how to redeem the free parking voucher. We had a parking ticket from the machine when we came in, and the only details we’d been told were that if you left by 9am parking would be free. So, when we went to leave the machine scanned our ticket only to tell us we owed money for parking. Luckily a nearby security guard explained we were supposed to have gotten a sticker on the card that would have waived the fee. He let us out after it was clear we were groggy sleepover participants still in their yoga clothes. (We are really at our most attractive in the early mornings after nights of limited sleep and tons of sugar!)
The entire experience was included in the ticket price. We were guests of the museum, but regular tickets went for $165 and sold out in advance. The only time you have to break out your wallet is for the cash bar which stayed open until 12:30am. For us this is not only our preference, but a sign of a well-run event. Having everything included in your ticket price makes the overall event more enjoyable and lets you know exactly what you are getting into cost wise.
Another highlight was the amazing staff. Not only the servers and bartenders but the mix of museum staff all over the building. Everyone was super happy and helpful—any interaction we had with a staff member was a positive one. It really seemed like they wanted to do everything they could to make this night awesome for their guests—and at this they succeeded.
After spending an entire night in the Museum of Nature, our expectations were exceeded. It was very well organized with so many interesting and fun activities, amazing food and snacks; and was such a unique experience. The only thing that could have made it better was if the exhibits really did come alive at night—but alas, no such luck. At least not this time…
We attended the first event in a series of museum sleepovers for adults, which ran from 6:45pm until 9am the following day. The next Museum of Nature sleepover party is coming up on Saturday February 15, 2020. Tickets cost $175 including a complimentary drink, three-course dinner, whisky tasting, a midnight snack and breakfast, as well as next-day museum admission. Visit nature.ca for tickets and information.