We always planned to do our sleepover at the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum. The idea of sleeping under the giant whale in the ocean exhibit had a real appeal for us. However, when we read the descriptions of the sleepovers, the American History Museum won out. Why? The sleepover was designed as a mystery in which the kids must save America's treasures from an evil villain. This description sounded so much like the movie National Treasure (one of Meg's all-time favorite movies), she could not pass it up.
We entered the museum at 7 p.m., dropped off our bags in a lovely old room filled with plush red carpet and Victorian fireplaces and headed to the Stars and Stripes cafe for a snack and orientation. At orientation, we received a detective notebook which would guide us in solving the mystery. At each stop on our mission, we would participate in an activity and then receive a clue that we would solve by exploring the exhibits. Meg and I were directed to begin in the American Presidency exhibit.
Once we made our way from the basement cafe all the way to the third floor exhibits and into the American Presidency exhibit hall, Meg and I began our first assignment. We had to create a campaign slogan and design a campaign button. Meg's slogan was: "Vote for me because I'm the key." We then chose a topic from a hat and were tasked with writing a campaign speech. Meg's speech was to address whether junk food should be allowed in school lunches. Her speech proclaimed that she would be the fruit president. She gave her speech at the presidential podium and followed her own speech by reading Reagan's Berlin Wall speech from a teleprompter. Our clue in this exhibit required that we find a particular desk and chair and answer a question. We quickly located it and were able to move to our next assignment.
Our detective notebook directed us next to the America on the Move exhibit. At this exhibit we each built a race car using half of a red plastic cup, straws, wooden wheels and rubber bands. Meg and I then had to race our cars down a ramp. Both of our cars kept veering to the side. After some consultation with the staff, Meg was able to fix hers and she attempted to help me fix mine. She successfully raced her car down the ramp. My car only made it down the ramp by turning backwards and then backing into the finish line. Yet another solid win for Meg.
We next headed to the Places of Invention exhibit. Meg later told me that this was her favorite activity. We were tasked with getting a marble from one point to another and making the marble ring a small bell. There were a variety of items to work with: blocks, baskets, tape, paper towel rolls, etc. Meg began designing and succeeded in her task with surprising speed. She then received her clue, which we answered, and we were off on our next mission.
We headed back to the third floor for our final mission at the Price of Freedom exhibit. The activity at this stop was to make our own cipher and then decode the clue. I enjoyed this activity a lot. Meg, however, was getting very tired by this point (it was about 10:30 pm) and she had a little trouble thinking it all through. We worked together to decode our clue and then went into the exhibit to find the answer. We both showed our exhaustion at this point as we wandered aimlessly around the War of Independence portion of the exhibit trying to find the answer. Success finally came and we had all of our answers. We now needed to head to the American Stories exhibit on the second floor of the museum to figure out which of America's treasures was being threatened by using the answers we had found during the night. After a few minutes we identified the treasure in peril and succeeded in our mission. We received a lovely Smithsonian Sleepover badge to honor our success.
It was now time for bed. We were instructed to sleep in the American Enterprise exhibit hall and Meg found a lovely spot amidst all the clothing store displays. Thankfully we brought air mattresses because I doubt my 40 year old back would have done well on the hard floor. Meg pulled out her reading Kindle in an attempt to calm down for sleep. We were exhausted but there was also a lot of excitement all around.
The staff for the Smithsonian Sleepover was extraordinary. Throughout the evening, they were friendly, welcoming and always had a smile on their face. They worked to keep everybody (both kids and adults) fully participating. They made it a wonderful and memorable experience.