How to Spend a Night at a Museum (For Real)

A couple of museums put on adult only nights regularly so you may want to get on the mailing list or check their website on a semi-regular basis. However, sleepovers are rare to come by and most of the sleepover events I see are for kids.

Adult sleepovers, the type where you keep your clothes on all the time, don't actually happen much anymore these days. For some reason, it stays within the kid or teenage category. So when the Museum of London was putting on its very first sleepover (coincidentally on Valentine's day), I thought this would be a pretty adventurous way to spend the night. When I was preparing for the event, there was a FAQ list but I didn't really know that to expect or how to go about it. There is not that much information about adult sleepovers online in general so I thought I'd share a few tips from my experience.

Keep abreast of museum events

A couple of museums put on adult only nights regularly so you may want to get on the mailing list or check their website on a semi-regular basis. However, sleepovers are rare to come by and most of the sleepover events I see are for kids. London based museums with sleepovers advertised on their website are Natural History Museum and the Museum of London.

Arrive on time

This may be obvious but I actually came to my sleepover an hour later than the start time as I didn't read the agenda carefully. While everything worked out okay in the end, I did not have first dibs on where I wanted to sleep. We were allowed to sleep anywhere in the upper gallery but by the time I arrived, a lot of the isolated corners were already taken. I didn't think it mattered that much at that time but it did at around 3am when my partner was struggling to sleep. However, even if we arrived after the starters were served, the event staff accommodated for my lateness by serving us the starters.

Read up on the agenda beforehand and decide on a Plan A and B

There may or may not be a strict agenda or theme involved at your sleepover. My experience had a pretty relaxed atmosphere, so while there were events going on, people were still generally free to roam around. Reading the agenda beforehand would allow you to 'plan' better for the evening and decide on your options. We decided to attend a talk on the real Sherlock Holmes (as it was a Sherlock themed event) and Blood Splatter analysis before roaming around the Sherlock Holmes exhibition after midnight. All the activities we did turned out to be really cool. To be honest, I don't think I'd get away with attending a talk on Blood Splatter analysis (without raising eyebrows) if it wasn't for the Sherlock Holmes theme.

Having a plan B would also work in case your preferred activity is full, or some conditions don't work out. I know a couple who planned to stay up all night watching the movie marathon (which was a valid option) but found the theatre too cold so they tried to sleep. However, they didn't bring the proper sleeping gear so they weren't able to sleep properly.

Bring some cash

There will usually be a cash bar that will sell alcohol and some snacks till a certain period of time. You will most likely crave something at around midnight when the calories from dinner have melted away. Even if you don't end up spending it, it's better to be safe than sorry. We ended up buying a snack from the bar so good thing we had some cash on us. Also, this will come in handy in case you find out that you can't sleep and desperately need to go home in the middle of the night (via cab).

Read the dinner/breakfast menu beforehand

If you have special dietary requirements, you need to let the organisers know in good time. In an after hours event, there will be very limited food options so make sure that their offering suits. If you tend to eat more than the average person, don't come to the event hungry. Our dinner was composed of a lovely 3 course menu, however I still made sure I didn't come hungry as the portion sizes were average.

Know your personal sleeping needs and account for those

Are you sensitive to light or sound? Do you absolutely need a pillow? Do you easily get cold during the night? These are questions you should ask yourself whilst packing. I'm sensitive to light so I brought an eye mask. I'm also one to need a pillow so I brought a travel sized pillow. Unfortunately, my partner was sensitive to sound (even the light snoring sounds) and didn't bring earplugs. This deterred him from sleeping, and we took 2 re-locations of sleeping area before he could get some shuteye. Obviously, he was very very close to walking out the door in the middle of the night and hailing a cab.

Another thing you need to consider is temperature. As museums don't usually open at night, you might want to dress in layers so you can keep to your ideal temperature. I discovered that my surroundings got colder towards dawn.

Bring (non-messy) food/water if you are a heavy eater or drinker

I drink a lot of water, so I brought a bottle of mineral water just in case. However, during the night, there was actually bottles of water available to consume so I stacked up on those. It might also be wise to bring a cereal bar just in case you get hungry as a result of not being able to sleep through the night.

Know who the staff are in case you need help

I am quite lucky in my experience as the staff were roaming around the area constantly and were quite friendly. However, you generally want to know where they hang out in case an emergency occurs. When my partner was packing up and getting ready to take a cab home, I asked a staff member if it was possible to relocate sleeping areas (twice). I also asked for advice on where we could sleep in isolation. We ended up sleeping near the entrance, and was able to stay the entire night.

Obviously, you can just avoid the hassle that comes with late opening hours and just go during daytime. However, there is an aura of exclusivity that comes with viewing the museum at night. Depending on what a particular sleepover offers, you may be able to access talks or events not normally offered during the day. Also, there's the presence of booze. Even though this isn't the type of activity I'd go to on a regular basis, it's something that I'm proud to say I've tried once.

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