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9 Museums You Can Actually Sleep In

Admit it: the idea of sleeping over at one of your favorite museums (with kids or without) is kind of thrilling. At these nine spots, you can live out the fantasy. Strict bed times apply.

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International Spy Museum, Washington D.C.

Few visitors to D.C.’s International Spy Museum may know that when the doors close, the real fun begins. During non-operating hours, the museum gears up for "Operation Secret Slumber," a seven-hour program where kids and adults are granted special access to exhibits and tasked with spy missions, including attending a mocktail party, conducting surveillance, and interrogating a real spy. Attendees sleep in the exhibition galleries and enjoy evening snacks and continental breakfast.

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Wilderness Centre Heritage Museum, Iceland

Have you ever wondered how people of a bygone era truly lived? The Iceland Wilderness Center gives visitors the chance to find out. A former farm close to East Iceland's central highlands, the museum shows how local farmers survived through the centuries, and offers guest rooms for interested overnighters looking to experience their way of life, be it in the old farmhouse or the baðstofa—a large common room with close sleeping quarters where families gathered at night to work and tell stories.

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Photo courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History


American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY

Movie buffs can live out their own Night at the Museum during an "AMNH Sleepover." Groups head out with flashlights to explore the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins, take on a fossil finding mission in the Age of Dinosaurs, witness a live nocturnal animal presentation, and cozy up for a 3-D screening of National Parks Adventure before bedding down for the night beside one of the museum's coolest installations (like African elephants or a volcano). Kid at heart? An adults-only version includes a champagne reception, jazz performance, and access to museum halls before lights out beneath the 94-foot blue whale in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.

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Photo courtesy of Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame


National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY

For a budding ballplayer or devoted fan, there's nothing like being in the presence of one of your favorite players. The next best thing? Getting up close and personal with the game-time jerseys, mitts, baseballs, and all manner of memorabilia that became part of their story. At the National Baseball Hall of Fame in upstate New York, families are welcome to stay after hours and have the museum to themselves during "Extra Innings Overnights," during which they can enjoy a private movie screening in the Grandstand Theater, staff-led activities, the chance to sleep in the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery beneath legends like Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson, and Babe Ruth, and, for junior participants, a special memento of their once-in-a-lifetime visit.

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Photo by Franco Folini


Natural History Museum, London

Dinosaur encounters are one of the best parts about visiting a museum of natural history—from the massive bones to the fossilized tracks to the ginormous skeletons that give us a glimpse of what it might've been like to walk beside them. "Dino Snores" for kids at London's Natural History Museum feature torch-lit trails through the museum's most exciting rooms, dinosaur t-shirt making, and live animal shows, along with camp set-ups beneath the Diplodocus ("Dippy") in Hintze Hall—but we prefer the adult version, which comes with welcome drink and three-course dinner (natch) before special events like live music, stand-up comedy, insect tasting, and an all-night monster movie marathon.

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Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Global


San Diego Zoo, San Diego, CA

For many of us, embarking on an African safari might be a little out of range. The next best thing? Spending a night at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park during a "Roar and Snore Safari." After-dark hours are filled with guided walks around park enclosures, dinner and conversation around a campfire, and exclusive behind-the-scenes experiences normally off-limits to regular visitors. Best of all, guests camp out in spacious canvas tents, some of which look out over the African Plains exhibit, home to giraffe, rhino, and lion.

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Photos left to right: Max Gordon, Tina Fineberg

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Photo by Lyn Hughes


Rubin Museum of Art, New York, NY

One night a year, New York's Rubin Museum of Art is literally the museum of—or is it for?—your dreams. The museum, which explores ancient Tibetan art and Buddhist philosophy, hosts an annual "Dream-Over" in which attendees arrive already in their pajamas and sleep beneath a work of art selected—via a self-reflective questionnaire—just for them. In between zzzs, all are treated to bedtime stories, lullabies, discussion groups, and upon waking, a short dream interpretation session with a psychoanalyst.

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Photo courtesy of Mona/Rémi Chauvin


Mona Pavilions, Berriedale, Australia

There are certain experiences you fly around halfway around the world for. MONA (The Museum of Old and New Art), outside Hobart, Tasmania, is one of them—an expectation-defying contemporary structure built out of an abandoned sandstone quarry that houses the multimillion-dollar art collection of entrepreneur David Walsh. Here, you'll find provocative pieces by names like Basquiat and Hirst—but the property's most striking feature might be the eight individual accommodation "pavilions" in which guests can stay. These cubist structures, built with glass or wood and steel, are their own private galleries (Ron Arad and Philippe Starck are duly represented). While you may not be sleeping in the main museum per se, you'll still have the run of your own private gallery.

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USS Lexington, Texas

Enthusiasts of history—and escaping solid land—will love this unique adventure on board a real-life aircraft carrier, which saw action in World War II and was featured in the movie Pearl Harbor. Guests of "Live Aboard" have the chance to tour all 11 levels of the massive ship with expert guides, who're happy to reveal tales of the Lexington's past, before setting off on a scavenger hunt. You'll even get a real taste of sailor life as you take a trip down the chow line, exchange ghost stories while bunking in the crew's original quarters, and take part in a patriotic flag ceremony.

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