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Avoid crowds at after-hours programs

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Updated: February 25, 2013 12:36PM



If you’re looking for a great family museum experience but without the crowds, go after hours.

No, you don’t have to hide behind an exhibit case at closing time or look for a window inadvertently left open. Museums are offering an increasing number of after-hours programs that offer visitors more unique and personal experiences.

Snoozeums

One example is Snoozeums at the Museum of Science and Industry, where you might unroll your sleeping bag next to the Boeing 727, in the midst of Science Storms or next to the giant heart in “You the Experience” after an evening of activities throughout the museum.

“The fun of the night is to explore,” said Meredith Black, the manager of specialized experiences at the museum.

“We have 14 acres of exhibit space, so even with hundreds of others there it feels private, like the museum is yours. There are no lines to wait to be at the controls of an activity, like over the holiday break. Snoozeum has make-and-take projects and sessions of the live science show — a fun chemistry show where we blow things up. You can go into the coal mine or visit the U-505 submarine, and we have an Omnimax movie running all evening,” added Black.

All of these activities, plus an evening snack, breakfast, a commemorative patch and indoor parking are included in the admission price of $65 per person.

That compares to $59 for adult admission to the museum, coal mine, U-505, Omnimax and parking, but the overnight experience can be priceless, as has been my experience from the many times my daughter and I reminisce about our fun overnight years ago at the old Chicago Academy of Sciences.

Go to www.msichicago.org and search for Snoozeum to get links with upcoming dates and details about the program, or call (773) 684-9844, Ext. 2687.

Dozin’ with the Dinos

Chicago’s Field Museum offers Dozin’ with the Dinos, an overnight experience for families with children ages 6 to 12. The base price of $63 per person includes activities, projects, an exhibit tour by flashlight, stories, snacks and parking. There are also add-ons for a sleep space in the dinosaur hall, a behind-the-scenes tour with a museum scientist, or tickets to the 3-D movie. For details, go to www.fieldmuseum.org and click on Happening, or call (312) 665-7525.

Asleep with the Fishes

Asleep with the Fishes is an opportunity for families with children ages 6 to 12 to spend the night at the Shedd Aquarium following an evening of special programs, games, hands-on activities, plus access to the aquarium, Oceanarium and Wild Reef that evening and the entire next day. The $65 per person fee also includes dinner, a late snack and breakfast. Details can be found at www.sheddaquarium.org, then click on Education and Families, or call (312) 692-3333.

Hearthside Suppers

Conner Prairie, the interactive history park in Fishers, near Indianapolis, has a number of wonderful after-hours programs, special events and historic trades classes throughout the year.

Now through March it offers Hearthside Suppers.

Costumed interpreters welcome visitors into the historic Conner home, built in 1823, and then lead in preparing a seasonal period meal with recipes from historic cookbooks. Parlor games and entertainment follow the delicious candlelight dinner.

Hearthside Suppers are $60 per person. For dates and details go to www.connerprairie.org, scroll over Plan your Visit, and go to Special Events. The site also has an informative video about the dinners. Reservations are required; call (800) 966-1836.



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