Sleeping With Strangers: Group Sleepovers, New York’s Latest Summer Trend

This summers offers a variety of family and 21+ sleepovers at major tourist attractions across the city

"A Night at the Museum" (Photo courtesy of AMNH)

“A Night at the Museum”
(Photo courtesy of AMNH)

New Yorkers looking for a unique night out—or should we say in—are unrolling their sleeping bags in large groups at various museums, zoos and parks this summer.

Looking at the extensive list of overnight programs on the Daily News, it’s apparent that sleeping with strangers has become all the rage. These group sleepovers truly run the gamut, with events for children ranging from midnight safaris at the Bronx Zoo to a comet demonstration at the Intrepid and even some new ones for adults, like a three-course reception and nighttime viewing of the Dark Universe Space Show at the American Museum of Natural History.

Unfortunately, the idea of exploring the mysterious halls of the history museum, with champagne glass in tow, was so enticing that the event, planned for August 1, has sold out.

Brad Harris, Senior Director of Visitors’ Services at the American Museum of Natural History, told the Observer, “We would get calls from adults daily asking if we had such a program and then we sold the first night out in three hours. In the first week after the adult launch, we received over 1700 email requests for tickets.”

The Rubin Museum experienced a similar draw to its own adult sleepover, without offering booze or opportunities for socializing. The museum has hosted its “Dream-Over” program each summer since 2011, for those who desire an intimate night of deep self-reflection. After guests sleep next to a piece of artwork specially selected for them, based on a personality questionnaire, they have their dreams interpreted, amidst the music of a live sitar player.

Director of Public Programs & Performance at the Rubin Museum, Tim McHenry explained to the Observer, “The Dream-Over offers the public a chance to spend quality time, in the real sense of the word, with a singular piece of art in the gallery and also connect with people on the same path, trying to identify what really motivates them in life.”

Rubin Museum Dream-Over (Photo: Tina Fineberg)

Rubin Museum Dream-Over
(Photo: Tina Fineberg)

Although, if finding life’s purpose, or even just spending a boozy night with T-Rex, seems a little heavy for a sleepover, a host of family-friendly overnight experiences have proven equally popular amongst the young and the restless.

It all started with the original museum sleepover program, “Night at the Museum,” prompted by the movie of the same name. Children and parents have the opportunity to spend a night at the American Museum of Natural History (just like Ben Stiller in the movie), viewing live-animal exhibitions and sleeping beneath the 94-foot-long blue whale.

The New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) also offers a unique sleepover program geared toward children, including a science scavenger hunt, 3D movie accompanied by milk and cookies and the opportunity to explore the museum’s exhibits in a closed setting.

Dan Wempa, NYSCI’s Vice President for External Affairs explained the purpose of the sleepover program to the Observer, “Our goal is to give visitors a variety of ways that they can engage with the content of our exhibits and programs.”

Mr. Wempa may be spot-on, because a higher level of engagement seems to be the main draw for sleepover attendants. Case in point: on July 19, baseball enthusiasts and their families had the opportunity to sleep directly upon the beautifully manicured grass at Citi Field, the very place that their beloved Mets call home. Although the event was completely dry (not quite the classy champagne venture of the history museum), guests were served endless hot dogs, pizza and ice cream. After dozing and dreaming in the outfield, participants woke up the in the morning to a full-fledged feast of doughnuts and coffee.

Camping Program at Alley Pond Park (Daniel Avila / NYC Parks)

Camping Program at Alley Pond Park
(Photo: Daniel Avila / NYC Parks)

While sleeping on a field seems pretty outdoors-y to us, for those who want to immerse themselves in nature, with a night beneath the stars, the Urban Park Rangers are offering their popular weekend camping program this summer.

Sarah Aucoin, NYC Parks’ Director of Urban Park Rangers told the Observer, “For about 10 years, our mission has been to link New Yorkers to the natural world and camping is a fundamental way to do this that also allows for family bonding. The idea that city dwellers can go camping actually in their own neighborhoods is what sets us apart.”