If your family has contemplated travelling down to Dino Snores, the National History Museum’s sleepover for children and their grown ups, then I have a treat today – loads of lovely photos and a video to take you right inside this out of this world experience. If you hadn’t already heard, Airbnb have partnered with the museum, to inspire a whole new generation of travellers, and have installed a special base camp on the Museum’s upper balcony. Upon booking a place at ‘Dino Snores for Kids,’ the museum gives guests the opportunity to win an exclusive spot at Airbnb Base Camp.
I was invited to take one of my children along to test it out, a tough call, but Mr G got the Swallows and Amazons experience last summer, and L is about to turn 11, the uppermost age for the experience, so I took the birthday girl.
In my 1oyo’s words
Going to the Airbnb base camp at the National History Museum was a once in a lifetime opportunity, it was amazing. My favourite thing that we did was the Dino Snores Treasure Trail, and we had to do crayon rubbings to build the dinosaur’s picture and copy the letters down in the dark. I enjoyed the t shirt designing too.
Learning about Mary Anning the fossil hunter and how many fossils she found was so interesting, we learnt a lot at the museum. I slept really well on the comfortable beds we had, it was so silent when we went to bed.
Miss L, aged 10.
Arrival at the Museum
I’ll cover both Airbnb base camp and the Dino Snores activity experiences which we participated in alongside everyone else. Obviously we loved the luxury of base camp, but I think there is also a lot to be said for camping out with everyone else too, you can see both in the videos and photos.
We arrived at 6.45pm and finally found the right entrance, from the tube, walk in front of the whole museum and the Queen’s Gate entrance is round the left side as you face the front of the museum. We joined the main queue, not realising there was a separate Airbnb entrance, but it was fun to be part of the hoards of excited families.
I suddenly felt a lot like we had stepped into a modern day Charlie and the Chocolate factory as we met the other handful of lucky families who had won the golden ticket to stay at Airbnb base camp. A boy dressed in a dinosaur shirt and explorer’s hat and binoculars told me about Mary Anning the fossil hunter, another jumped around excitedly in a dinosaur onesie, a little girl held tight to her clearly very excited Dad’s hand. My daughter, about to be eleven and one of the oldest, while not displaying outward excitement in the way the younger kids were, whispered to me, ‘This is totally awesome!’
We were shown into the museum and walked past the sleeping mats pre laid out on the ground and first floor ready for Dino Snores guests. We loved the VIP experience with Airbnb, but I would also really love to experience the giant communal sleepover downstairs one day. At first it looks like there are just loads of mats, but you soon see families and parties are carefully grouped together in little nooks and crannies. It is very well organised. We carried on, up another staircase, where the Airbnb campfire was waiting.
Airbnb Base Camp
It’s beautiful, with gorgeous attention to detail!
We slept next to an exhibit about the animals that inspired the architectural details in the museum. We became really aware of these beautiful features during our stay, from the monkeys that curl around and watch you from the ceiling arches, to the gecko in a jar who L slept next to, who had inspired the triangular carvings in the museum walls.
The Airbnb area is decked out ready for fun, with a washing line full of explorer props.
The Airbnb campfire area overlooked the Hintze Hall and Hope the Blue Whale. We were entertained by stories from our host, a fictional explorer, who shared stories and fossils with the kids over the campfire as we waited for Dinosnores to begin.
The story of Hope
The museum staff who accompany each Dino Snores party are incredibly friendly and knowledgeable so do pick their brains! We learnt so much about how the museum itself tells a story, from Victorian in some cases showy collections of animals hunted, to Hope, named as a symbol of human’s first global efforts to try and protect a dying species. In 1966 blue whales came close to extinction and it was made illegal to hunt them. Unlike Dippy, the diplodocus who was there before her, Hope’s skeleton is real, she was beached at Wexford and the inhabitants spent 3 days stripping her flesh in order that she could be displayed in the museum.
There are four workshops across the Dino Snores experience and I was really impressed by the variety, delivery and quality. While I hadn’t appreciated the scale of the sleepovers, apparently the museum can take up to 500 people, this didn’t detract from the interactive nature of them, and the workshops rotate with military precision, so it didn’t feel crowded.
Our first experience was theatre style, looking at ‘Terrific Tentacles’. I was so impressed with Zoe Hughes, Curator of Fossil Invertebrates, who delivered it. We’d entered the museum and found ourselves largely surrounded by 7 and 8yo boys, so it was inspiring for me and my 11yo daughter (and the brownie group who were in our group too) to see a female scientist, who was cool, witty, super knowledgeable and clearly loving her job. Zoe will be a reference for cool careers in Science in our house now.
I loved this workshop, the learning aim was so well matched to the creative and fun T shirt making activity. In order to investigate how scientists work out what dinosaurs might have looked like we stripped them back to their bones and then added layers using evidence and ideas the scientist shared with us. Again, another brilliantly inspiring female scientist, whose name I sadly missed, to inspire my daughter and the brownies!
Dino Treasure Trail
I loved that our group got to do the Treasure Trail last as it was a real high to end the night on, although, I can also see how doing this early on when you aren’t so tired has its advantages too. Torches, treasure to find, but in the dark in the Dinosaur gallery – how cool? I loved how the torches lit up the dinosaur skeletons, this is what being in a museum at night is all about.
Our, once again female, scientist teased loads out from the highly excited and enthused kids about dinosaurs from the activity. As the session drew to a close, children began to slow down and snuggle up to parents. The questions kept going though, and the answers kept coming, just long enough to ensure everyone was truly sleepy. Top marks to Dinosnores, they know how to wear kids out and signal it is bedtime!
I loved the moments walking from activity to activity, when the museum felt surprisingly empty, because everyone is moving around in groups there is much more space and peace than during the day.
Sleeping at Base Camp
We settled into our beds around 11.30 and at midnight the lights went out, and the museum went suddenly silent. Top marks again to the Natural History museum, it’s hard enough imposing lights out when you have a handful of children over for a sleepover, but to silence a museum full is pretty impressive. L and I drifted off straight away, although I heard the chat went on a little longer downstairs.
I loved that from our bed we could see this slice of a giant sequoia (Canadian redwood tree) which is over 1300 years old, and the other way we had a balcony looking down over the museum below.
L slept the whole night, I woke up at 4 needing the toilet and had to creep through a silent museum which was quite exciting.
Breakfast and The Animal Man Show
After breakfast round the campfire we got to meet The Animal Man and his extensive gathering of animals, owls, meerkats, snakes, skunks. He was very knowledgeable, protective of each species and his delivery was punchy and witty, perfect for a very sleepy audience. He managed to get a lot of kids, including all the birthday children up to meet an animal.
I would have loved to stay a little longer and wander round the museum for 30 minutes before it opened to the public, something you don’t get too much opportunity to do during the sleepover, but after a day in London and a night in the museum, L was tired, happy and ready for home. But we will definitely go back again, with renewed reverence and understanding of the museum. I would also love to go back for a grown up’s sleepover which looks to have a very different pace 😉
Thanks to the Natural History Museum and Airbnb for having us, what an absolutely incredible and unforgettable and beautifully organised experience. Pure magic. The sleepover is aimed at 7-11 years olds, but sometimes seems to attract more 7/8yo boys and Dads, so mums please do take your older girls too – it’s brilliantly inspiring for all ages. The one thing I would say is that while it was wonderful to do as mother and daughter, I can see it being exciting to experience with a sibling or friend. The Brownie pack were having an absolute scream!
Watch the video to see it all come alive:
Our top Dino Snores tips
Pack layers – The temperature varies a lot, I expected to be too cold but it was very warm at times in some parts of the museum. It dipped at night but wasn’t cold (we went in September). However, you also need to pack warm waterproofs on the off chance you need to leave the building.
Pack for comfort – clothes that go seamlessly from activity to sleepover and don’t look too crumpled in the morning! Think long haul flight clobber.
I saw quite a few people taking extra roll mats to put on top of the ones supplied, def take a comfy pillow, and a teddy is a great idea too.
Pack snacks – especially water, it’s thirsty work!
Pack easy toiletries – face wipes and tooth tabs/mints.
Pack camera and phone charger battery packs – you can’t plug in and you will want to take lots of photos!
Pack an eyemask as security lights need to stay on, it was dark but you could end up near a security light.
Ear plugs/ear defenders might be useful for kids/adults who struggle with noise. It seemed immediately very peaceful to me once the lights went out, but parents I chatted to said the chatter went on longer downstairs.
We were guests of Airbnb and The Natural History Museum, all opinions remain my own. Video music from Jukedeck – create your own at http://jukedeck.com