A Night at the Museum of Natural History

Until this year, I thought sleeping at a museum was something only Ben Stiller got to do in the movies, but apparently, it is a real thing that the Girl Scouts do every year. Sleepovers at the American Museum of Natural History are also open to the public, so if you would like to sleep among strangers, I believe you can sign yourself right up.

Hopefully with a child present, otherwise that’s kind of creepy.

Mazzy is in her first year of Girl Scouts (Rank: Brownie), so I was beyond excited when I found out about this very special mother daughter event. We were instructed to bring sleeping bags, pillows, flashlights and an overnight bag.


Then Mike drove us uptown and dropped us off at the entrance. Mazzy and I were on our own. After checking in and locating where our troop was assigned to sleep for the night (The Hall of African Mammals), we began our very lengthy itinerary for the evening.


There was an origami lesson in making jumping frogs…

….and a walk through the butterfly garden, which was swelteringly hot and not exactly how you’d like to start an all nighter with no shower options.

A Night at the American Museum of Natural History

At a certain point, we had an evening snack of milk, cookies and bananas and then wandered through the museum until we found the live animal show.

Here’s something you should know about me: I am not the kind of person you want to get lost with. I will be of no help whatsoever. If there is a group of people trying to find a location, I might pretend to study the map and listen to whoever is giving directions, but really I am just depending on someone else to do the hard job of getting us there. I will plant myself firmly in the middle of the pack and follow. As a courtesy to everyone involved, I will never ever get annoyed if the people doing the tough job of leading, lead us to the wrong place. Which is what happened but it was fine. We found it eventually. Through no help from me.

A Night at the American Museum of Natural History

Midway through the live animal show, Mazzy got exhausted and hot (it was really stuffy in there) and insisted that we leave. She wanted to go back to our cot and change into her pajamas before the next leg of the evening— the flashlight scavenger hunt in the dinosaur wing.

A Night at the American Museum of Natural History

I agreed (she was sweating) but then I found myself alone with Mazzy in a HUGE museum having no idea where to go. Normally, in such a situation, I will ask a new person every ten steps where I should go next, but there were no such people around. There were very few workers in the place overnight and all the Girl Scouts were watching the animal show.

I took out my map from the packet and studied it carefully. A little too carefully.

“Mommy, are we lost?”

“No, we are not lost.”

We were totally lost. I doubled back. Studied the map some more.

I knew our cots were on the second floor but there didn’t seem to be any Hall of African Mammals on the second floor. It said it was on the third floor so instead of trusting my gut (which is always wrong), I trusted the map. Turns out the Hall of African Mammals is two stories with the third floor being a balcony looking down on the second floor. So, I was able to find our sleeping quarters, we just had to jump down several hundred feet. Fortunately, I figured out how to get down before Mazzy raised an eyebrow. PHEW.

After we changed, we grabbed our flashlights for the scavenger hunt, which was really way too advanced for Mazzy’s age. As far as she was concerned, this was just an excuse to run around in the dark. And even though the place was filled with women and children, it was still pretty terrifying, because if you weren’t careful, you could lose your kid in an instant. All the blips of light running around looked exactly the same.

At one point, I did lose her and nearly panicked. There was a good ten minutes when I was searching around before I found her— safe with her friend and her mom, totally oblivious to the fact that her mom almost had a heart attack.

Once we realized the kids were not really doing the scavenger hunt, we ended up all hanging out in the room with the Titanosaur— the new dinosaur they found recently that is so big, it can’t even fit in one room. It’s body curves around with its head flung clear out the door.


I told Mazzy that I would be standing in one place so she could run around, but not to leave the room. The moms chatted while the kids went crazy and this was probably the most relaxing part of the evening.

Afterwards, we all headed down to the iMax 3D theater where we watched a movie about ocean life.

It was fantastic and Mazzy loved it. I’m not sure if she was overtired, caught up in the moment or just excited to have friends all around the theater, because she ooohed and aaahed and narrated the whole thing as if I was a blind person who needed her color commentary to understand what I was watching.

After about 45 minutes, her head went limp on my shoulder and she requested to go to bed. By this point, I was pretty familiar with my surroundings and could lead us both easily back to our cots (no map or panic necessary).

Mazzy ran around the elephant display with her friends as I got our toiletries together. Probably one of my favorite parts of the evening was leading her through the front lobby to go to the bathroom. The entrance of the American Museum of Natural History is quite iconic with two huge dinosaur skeletons. It is always packed with people trying to purchase tickets so it was quite a trip to see it completely empty. Let alone as our route from bathroom to bed.

I wish I could say the night ended as we all settled into bed and fell asleep, but unfortunately, that was not the case. The kids all slept fine, but one mom’s snoring (compounded by the echo in the cavernous Hall of African Mammals) kept all the grown-ups awake. Every time I dozed off, the snoring would wake me up a few seconds later. It was pretty brutal. Luckily, I had brought my Kindle so I was able to read through the night.

All in all, it was an incredibly unique experience that I’m excited to be able to do again next year. Especially since we got to wake up to the sunlight streaming through the front doors.


I would just revise the packing list to: sleeping bag, pillow, flashlight, change of clothes, toiletries, bread crumbs, ear plugs and sleeping pills.

Maybe even something stronger. Those dinosaurs make quite a racket at night.