Amazing Family Sleepovers in the Bay Area and Beyond

February 20, 2017

Monterey Bay Aquarium Overnight
Photo courtesy Monterey Bay Aquarium

If you're looking for a fun and unique overnight experience for the family, try camping out at a museum, aquarium zoo, or wildlife center! Popular family destinations in the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California like the California Academy of Sciences, the Marine Mammal Center, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the San Francisco Zoo, the USS Hornet Museum, and Safari West all offer exciting programs where families can spend the night. It's be kind of like the movie Night at the Museum, except that the dinosaurs and dioramas won't come alive after hours (we hope)!

Needless to say, all of these events require advance reservations and have limited space, so register for your awesome overnight adventure soon! Many of these venues also offer overnight programs for scouts, schools, and other youth groups. All information is correct at time of posting; check each location’s website for complete information, pricing updates, and a schedule of events.

Penguins+Pajamas

California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco
Sleep over next to your favorite exhibit or creature at the Cal Academy in Golden Gate Park! Overnight guests at the popular Penguins+Pajamas program can explore the Academy after hours, see live animal demonstrations, take in a planetarium show, and then settle in for storytime before bed with cookies and milk. Breakfast is in the Academy Café, and museum admission is included if you want to stay and have more fun. We attended this program a while back and it was a lot of fun!

The Penguins+Pajamas experience begins at 6 pm and ends at 8 am the following morning. The program costs $109 per person or $89 for Academy members. Pengiuns+Pajamas is for children between the ages of 5 and 17 accompanied by an adult chaperone age 25 or older. One adult chaperone must be present for every five children. The remaining 2017 sleepovers take place on February 24, April 1 May 5, and June 23, 2017. For more information visit www.calacademy.org. The California Academy of Sciences is located at 55 Music Concourse Drive in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

Seals & Slippers

The Marine Mammal Center, Sausalito
Camp out with the seals and sea lions at the Marine Mammal Center in the Marin Headlands. Sleep under the stars in the Center’s outdoor courtyard, take part in a variety of educational behind-the-scenes programs, and enjoy a delicious dinner in the Commons. In the morning, a continental breakfast is served, followed by a hike down to Rodeo Lagoon and Rodeo Beach. Participants will get a 10% discount on souvenir’s in the Center’s gift shop, too!

The program is best for children ages 6 to 12. The cost is $85 per person, and the program begins at 6 pm and ends at 10 am the following day. Participants must bring their own tents, sleeping bags, pads, and other overnight gear. Scout group sleepovers are available as well. The next events are scheduled for April 7 and May 12, 2017. For more information call (415) 289-7330 or visit www.marinemammalcenter.org.

Seashore Sleepovers

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey
We know that Monterey isn’t in the San Francisco Bay Area, but we love visiting the area and its attractions, especially the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The aquarium’s Seashore Sleepovers program offers fun activities and a chance to explore the aquarium after-hours (without the daytime crowds!) and bed down next to your favorite exhibit. The experience also includes a late-night nature movie, a bedtime snack, and continental breakfast in the Cafe.

Seashore Sleepovers cost $115 per person or $85 for members, and are for ages 5 up. Anyone under age 18 must be accompanied by an adult. The sleepover experience starts at 7 pm and ends at 8:30 am the next morning. 2017 sleepovers are scheduled for February 25, March 18, April 22, May 12 and 27, July 8 and 22, August 5 and 19, September 30, November 4, and December 31. For more information, visit www.montereybayaquarium.org.

Family Live-Aboard Experience

USS Hornet Museum, Alameda
On the other side of the Bay in Alameda, the USS Hornet Museum offers a Family Live-Aboard Experience sleepover for families. Board this famous World War II aircraft carrier and spend an exciting evening sleeping in the original crew bunks, eating dinner and breakfast in the crew's mess, and experiencing personalized a personalized ship tour, activities, and a flight simulator ride. The Hornet is a veteran of numerous naval battles and has the distinction of being the ship that recovered the astronauts from the Apollo 11 moon mission in 1969. All participants receive a certificate, a commemorative patch, and a coupon good for a future visit to the museum.

The USS Hornet's family overnight program costs $100 per person or $75 for museum members. All participants must be at least 5 years old. Visit www.uss-hornet.org for more information and to download an application packet, or call (510) 521-8448 x280. The USS Hornet Museum is located at 707 West Hornet Avenue in Alameda. Family Live-Aboard events in 2017 take place on March 3 and 17, April 14 and 28, May 12 and 26, June 16, August 25, September 15, and December 1. In addition, they host sleepovers for scout and other youth groups and even a STEM-focused overnight program.

Fall and Spring Family Campouts

Slide Ranch, Muir Beach

Slide Ranch's Family Campouts are special overnight trips for the whole family featuring farm activities, crafts, and nature exploration. Enjoy a potluck dinner on Saturday night, and gather ‘round the campfire for stories and songs, then set up camp in a spectacular coastal meadow under the stars! On Sunday everyone helps with farm work before enjoying a continental breakfast, then makes and bakes treats harvested from the ranch’s organic garden.

Family Campouts cost $80 per person; children 2 years and under are free. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Campouts begin at 10 am on Saturday and end at 1 pm on Sunday. Participants must bring their own camping gear and a dish to share for Saturday night’s potluck dinner. These events often sell out, but they'll put you on the wait list in case something opens up. Their spring Family Campouts take place on May 13 and May 20, 2017. For more information, visit www.slideranch.org.

Stay Overnight at Safari West

Safari West, Santa Rosa
Enjoy a night of family “glamping” in the luxury tents at Santa Rosa’s 400-acre Safari West preserve, home to animals like zebras, giraffes, gazelles, rhinos, birds, and more. Take a Safari adventure at the Bay Area’s own slice of the Serengeti, then sleep over with the sounds of Africa echoing in your dreams. Family tents at Safari West are equipped with bunk beds and cost $250 to $375 per night, depending on day of the week and season. Safari-style dining is available on-site at the Savannah Grill. Continental breakfast is included. Read about our experience at Safari West.

Overnights at Safari West do not include Safari reservations, which cost between $40 and $98 per person, depending on day and season, although overnight guests receive a discount of $10 for adults and $5 for children. Children must be at least 3 years old. For more information, call (800) 616-2695 or visit www.safariwest.com.

Family Wild Nights

Francisco Zoo
Experience the sights and sounds of the zoo in a special overnight experience! Enjoy special keeper talks, activities, and evening snacks, then camp out on the zoo grounds.A continental breakfast will be served the next morning.

The minimum age for the zoo’s Family Wild Nights campouts is 6, and all children must be accompanied by an adult. The cost is $100 per person, or $90 for San Francisco Zoological Society Members. Group discounts are available. This year's campouts take place June 17, July 1, August 19, and September 2. Call (415) 753-8135 or visit www.sfzoo.org for more info.

Family Sundown Safari

Oakland Zoo
Nature lovers: grab your tent and sleeping bags and get ready for an overnight adventure at the Oakland Zoo! The zoo’s Family Sundown Safari program includes dinner, nighttime and morning tours of the zoo, a special behind-the-scenes experience, live animal presentations, a Wildlife Theater magic show, activities, s’mores, and a hot breakfast in the morning.

Family Sundown Safari begins at 5 pm sharp and ends at 10 am the following morning, and is for families with children ages 4 and up. Activities are geared toward kids ages 4 to 10, but older siblings are welcome. The cost is $85 per person or $75 for Oakland Zoo members. Reservations must be made at least two weeks in advance. For more information, call (510) 632-9525 ext. 220 or visit www.oaklandzoo.org.

Summer Sleepovers

Children’s Fairyland, Oakland
A Summer Sleepover at Children’s Fairyland is a magical experience for kids of all ages! Camp out in the Teddy Bear Picnic Grove at Oakland’s beloved storybook park and enjoy rides, puppet shows, special performances, dinner, and a continental breakfast.

Check-in begins at 5:45 pm and the experience ends at 8:30 am the next day. Rides stay open until 9 pm, and lights-out is at 9:30. The cost is $55 per adult and $30 per child. 2017 sleepover dates are July 15 and 29 and August 5 and 19. For more information, call (510) 452-2259 or visit www.fairyland.org.