Looking for a fun family outing around North Carolina? Try a museum or zoo sleepover!

Family sleepovers at zoos and museums around North Carolina are serving up unique and unforgettable experiences for children and adults alike and are becoming more commonplace (read: affordable). If you have ever dreamed of living out your own Night at the Museum adventure (thanks, Ben Stiller) I’ve got great news for you!

These overnight adventures provide an opportunity to explore the exhibits after hours, participate in exclusive behind-the-scenes tours, and even sleep among the very creatures and artifacts that fascinate us during the day!

One of the primary draws of museum and zoo sleepovers is the chance for hands-on, immersive learning. Imagine waking up in front of a fish tank of exotic jellyfish or having breakfast with giraffes. Children can engage in interactive activities, educational games, and workshops tailored to the venue’s theme, whether it’s natural history, space exploration, or cultural heritage. These experiences foster a deeper appreciation and understanding of the subjects at hand, sparking curiosity and a love for learning.

As the sun sets and the crowds disperse, the museum or zoo takes on a magical quality. Families can wander the dimly lit halls, flashlights in hand, discovering exhibits from a new perspective. The thrill of spending the night surrounded by dinosaur skeletons, ancient artifacts, or exotic animals is an adventure that children will cherish for years to come.

Family Bonding at a Zoo Sleepover

For parents, a museum or zoo sleepover provides a unique opportunity for family bonding. Away from the distractions of daily life, parents and children can connect through shared experiences, creating lasting memories. When I was young, my parents took my brothers and I to a zoo sleepover in Tampa, Florida. That was such an amazing experience and is a defining memory of family fun for us! Whether it’s participating in a scavenger hunt, stargazing through a telescope, or simply snuggling up together in a sleeping bag, these overnight events foster quality time and strengthen family ties.

One of the coolest aspects of the sleepover programs are the exclusive behind-the-scenes access, allowing families to glimpse areas typically off-limits to the public. Children may have the chance to meet zookeepers, curators, or researchers, gaining insights into their work and the care and preservation of the exhibits. These rare opportunities inspire awe and appreciation for the dedication and expertise required to maintain these institutions.

Family sleepovers at zoos and museums are truly one-of-a-kind experiences that combine education, adventure, and quality time. By immersing themselves in these captivating environments overnight, families create cherished memories that will inspire a lifelong love for learning and exploration. Luckily, we have some great options right here in the Southeast!

  • North Carolina Aquarium Fort Fisher

    900 Loggerhead Rd, Kure Beach, NC 28449

    Sleeping with The Fishes!
    Spend a night with the fish at the Aquarium with your group! Groups will learn about some of the animals and make their very own Gyotaku craft. Sleep and dream in front of a 235,000-gallon Cape Fear Shoals habitat as sharks, eels, and a sea turtle swim close by. The Aquarium provides your group with snacks, craft supplies, and breakfast. Reservations can be made here.

  • Snorin' Safari at The North Carolina Zoo

     4401 Zoo Pkwy, Asheboro, NC 27205

    Experience the North Carolina Zoo after hours at one of their overnight family camping adventures. Designed for adults with school aged children aged 6-18. Complete with an evening walk through the Zoo, S’mores by a campfire, and engaging activities.  Offering as well adult only sleepover dates for the ultimate date night! But a word of advice, tickets sell out quickly, so move fast! More information can be found here.


  • Smithsonian Sleepover at the Natural History Museum- Washington D.C.

      Just like the blockbuster movie, you can join fellow adventurers at one of the world’s most visited museums for a night of fun! Wander through the Fossil Hall, where dinosaurs cast giant shadows, learn about Earth’s past and discover the ocean’s aquatic wonders, visit pollinators and walk softly past mysterious mammals.  

     Ticket information can be found here.


  • North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

    Nature Exploration Center
    11 W. Jones Street, Raleigh, NC 27601 North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences hosts Night at the Museum! Guests will sleep either in our Coastal North Carolina Hall on the 1st floor or in the Mountain Cove, Mountains to Sea Overlook, Tropical Connections, “Early-to-bed Zone,” or T. rex “Kid-free Adults Zone” on the 3rd floor. Make sure to indicate your preferred sleeping area when prompted during checkout. An upgraded sleeping experience in the “Terror of the South” exhibition (nicknamed “The Acro Dome”) is also available for a premium fee and can be purchased at the time of booking. Space is very limited, and will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets for the Acro Dome include one “Terror of the South” backpack.  Book your adventure here.

  • Riverbanks Zoo & Garden

    500 Wildlife Parkway, Columbia, SC

    Riverbanks Overnights! Gather your class, troop, pack, youth group, or neighborhood friends for a one-of-a-kind evening! Find out what the animals are up to after the sun goes down and the rest of our guests leave. Don’t miss this wild opportunity to explore Riverbanks. Bring your sleeping bag and sense of adventure for a memorable overnight experience at Riverbanks. Education staff will guide you through a fun-filled evening of exploration and hands-on fun. Overnights are designed for participants in grades Kindergarten and up. 

    More information here.


    Things to do in Columbia Thursday Zoo Edition 🦒🌿

    ♬ original sound - Nichole Ward
  • Sea Life, Charlotte-Concord

    8111 Concord Mills Boulevard, Concord, NC 28027

    SEA LIFE is a unique, intimate, interactive aquarium experience perfect for kids, couples, families and friends, and conveniently located at entrance 7 of Concord Mills.  Spend a night under the sea, including crafts, activities, pizza/snacks, breakfast and more! Reservation information here.



    🐠🐡Have you been to SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord? This magical place is in our own backyard! This aquarium has 1,000+ aquatic animals! Plan your visit today! 📍: 8111 Concord Mills Boulevard, Concord, NC 28027 #charlotte #charlottenc #nctiktok #704 #aquarium #aquariumfish #aquariumsoftiktok

    ♬ The Island Paradise - ZydSounds

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