For Søren’s 5th birthday present, we stayed the night at the museum. Which museum? The California Academy of Sciences, of course! It’s located a short drive away in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and they regularly host a Penguins & Pajamas sleepover where you can stay the night at the museum. Isn’t that so cool? Today I’m sharing our experience, and a few tips to make it better if you want to do it on your own.
We arrived around 4:30PM a little on purpose, a little on accident. There was a larger crowd of people there for the sleepover than I expected. Much larger. It still seemed like a smaller amount than would be there on a normal day though. Most of them were school groups and scouts. After the doors opened and we stored our gear in the African Hall, the first place we headed was the Osher Rainforest. It’s our favorite because of all the butterflies that are around and is always super packed with people waiting in line to get in, so we wanted to beat the crowd.
After the rainforest, we headed to a different area for a snake encounter. When the guides asked if anyone loved snakes, almost every hand went up. When they asked if there were anyone who didn’t, mine went up equally as fast and high. I grew up with a pretty large boa constrictor and iguana, and they are not on my favorites list. One of Søren’s favorite animals is a snake, so he was pretty excited to get to pet a ball python. As the sun set over the rest of Golden Gate Park, I couldn’t help but feel
A Pacific Octopus blowing sand as he hides in a globe. I’m not sure if he was doing it as a defense mechanism, or settling in for the night.
We headed to the Steinhart Aquarium next, both to do some learning, exploring, and scouting a place to sleep. We found an enormous aquarium and came to a very soft decision that it would be our first choice spot. After saying goodnight to all the fish, we headed to look at other exhibits.
The jewel above is quartz found inside of sandstone in Montgomery County, Arkansas. It weighs over 1300lbs and each of it’s crystal points have the same hexagonal symmetry. Isn’t it amazing? It was a few feet tall and wide and part of the Gemstone Exhibit which is sadly on it’s way out. After looking at a few of the other exhibits, we made our way to line up to retrieve our gear for the actual sleeping setup.
Our sleeping spot, right next to the California Coast tank.
TIPS FOR STAYING THE NIGHT AT THE CALIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
- Pack your items in stuff that rolls, like a large rolling suitcase.
We packed all of our gear in a large rolling suitcase, as well as one carry-on. Here is our list: Queen size air mattress (they have plugs available, and even brought out power strips!), 2 quick inflate hiking mattresses, 2 lightweight warm sleeping bags, a sheet, a light waffle blanket (mistake! Should have brought warmer sleeping bag), pajamas for all of us, next day’s clothing, snacks for me in case they didn’t offer enough healthy dairy-free food, toothbrushes, dry shampoo, etc. It was very easy for us to take our stuff in and move it from place to place.
- Get there EARLY.
I mean, early. ALL CAPS early. Although you can’t officially line up until 5:30PM, there were plenty of large groups and people there when we arrived at 4:30PM. My husband took the boys to roam around the music concourse and the De Young while I waited with our stuff. I sent him a message when it was time to line up since you are only allowed to if your whole group is there. They split up large groups and smaller groups and the smaller line wasn’t bad at all. We were 3rd in line, and chose our sleeping area (Aquarium) with ease.
- Consider an early dinner beforehand.
I’d heavily consider an early dinner (3PM) before heading over to park. We ate at the Museum Cafe after we were settled in and saw the butterflies, and the food was not amazing. My husband and older son got pizza and macaroni and cheese, and I got a burger and fries. The younger one got chicken strips and fruit, and we all sort of shared items. None were something we’d eat again, especially not for $68.
- Bundle up at night.
Guys, I have to admit, I made a total packing mistake on this. I figured since we were there for a sleepover that they wouldn’t let it get too much colder than during the day. We nearly froze to death under that tiny waffle blanket. We ended up getting up in the middle of the night to put all of our clothes on and it still wasn’t enough.
- Breakfast is included and it’s delicious.
The breakfast was catered by the cafe and included in our sleepover ticket price. We got there on the later side, and the line wasn’t too bad.
All in all we had a blast at the sleepover and would love to do it again once the kids are older. The next one is on June 23, 2017 if you want to look into it for yourself. You can find more information on their website here.
California Academy of Sciences
55 Music Concourse Drive
San Francisco, California 94118
Have you done a sleepover at a museum before? Any tips? If you haven’t, Would you?