Note: This is part of a series of blog posts pinpointing under-the-radar, enriching stops on field trips to Julian Tours’ top destinations. Experience tells us these sites will help you beat the crowds and create a truly memorable experience on your next group trip. For more entries in the series, click here.
In the 2006 film “Night at the Museum,” the scaredy-cat night watchman Larry saw the museum’s stuffed creatures, dinosaurs and exhibits spring to life in the middle of the night. The film inspired dozens of museums across the country to offer sleepover programs for children, and one of the best makes for a unique Philadelphia field trip at a little-known museum.
The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is one of the top places in the world to see ancient Egyptian artifacts (outside of Egypt, of course, and London’s British Museum). The collection at the Penn Museum, as it’s commonly called, includes the largest sphinx in the Western Hemisphere (and the third-largest granite sphinx in the world). It sits among 3,200-year-old pillars from the palace of a pharaoh named Merneptah.
In the shadows of that 15-ton sculpture built to honor Ramesses II (Merneptah’s father) and alongside the columns carved with mysterious hieroglyphics, children and their parents or chaperones can curl up in sleeping bags during the Penn Museum’s “40 Winks with the Sphinx” sleepover program.
Students will participate in a scavenger hunt, flashlight-lit exploration of the museum, arts and crafts activities and games. Will an ancient Egyptian curse be unleashed, as happened in “Night at the Museum?” Who knows?
After surviving the night with mummies watching, all guests receive a souvenir patch.
Aside from the Egyptian collections, the museum also contains art and artifacts from Africa, Central America, China, Etruscan Italy, Israel, Greece, Japan and Mexico.
Some notes to keep in mind when planning your participation:
- The program is available for children ages six to 12.
- One adult is required for every five children in attendance. So you may need additional chaperones to accommodate your school group.
- Each participant will need to tote along what he or she needs to sleep comfortably, such as a sleeping bag, extra blankets, pillow and yoga mat or camping pad. You may not bring inflatable mattresses or cots.
- Everyone should also pack a flashlight, for use during a low-lit evening exploration.
- The only meal provided is a light breakfast. We suggest your group have an early dinner before arriving at the museum and pack a few snacks. You should arrive between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m.
- Each sleepover session is limited to 175 participants, and dates often sell out in advance. Julian Tours should be able to assist you in getting reservations—if they are still available, of course.
Will you sleep very much? Probably not—but that’s okay. The uniqueness of the experience will make it worth it. We do suggest planning modest activities for the next morning, as your group will likely be a little tired.
Admission to the 40 Winks program includes museum admission, so you could do further exploration the next morning.