Forget sleepovers with spooky stories around a campfire -- how about sleeping underneath the American Museum of Natural History's blue whale, or getting woken up by the barks of sea lions?

For the ultimate zoo or museum experience, here's a look at overnight programs for families at New York City's cultural institutions.

 

FOR BUDDING SCIENTISTS

New York Hall of Science

On the agenda: NYSCI Sleepovers typically feature science activities, from studying optical illusions to how ants communicate to a scavenger hunt, and a pajama party in front of the museum's 3-D theater, before bed. In the morning, kids can further explore the museum's exhibits.

Where you sleep: Among NYSCI's exhibits

Geared toward: Community groups, scout councils and service units (not available to individuals)

Upcoming available dates: April 25 (for Girl Scouts)

Cost: $69 per person

Also includes: Parking, 3-D theater show snacks, breakfast, special NYSCI Sleepover badge

Info: 47-01 111th St., Corona, 718-699-0005, nysci.org/nysci-sleepovers

 

FOR MILITARY AND MARITIME BUFFS

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

On the agenda: During Operation Slumber, overnight guests can experience what it's like to live aboard the Intrepid while participating in scavenger hunts, ride the XD Theater Cosmic Coaster and explore the Space Shuttle Pavilion, which details the history of the Shuttle program.

Where you sleep: Among the planes and exhibits in the Hangar Deck

Geared toward: Families, organized youth groups such as scouts troops and camp groups and their chaperones, youth ages 6-17 (ideal for ages 8-12)

Upcoming available dates: April 25, July 25, Aug. 8, Sept. 26, Oct. 17 and 24, Nov. 7 and 21, Dec. 5 and 12

Cost: $120 per person

Also includes: Dinner, snacks and breakfast, cots, goody bag, complimentary voucher for museum admission good for 60 days

Info: Pier 86, W. 46th Street and 12th Avenue, 877-957-7447, intrepidmuseum.org/groups/overnights.aspx

 

FOR NATURAL HISTORY FANS

American Museum of Natural History

On the agenda: After hours during the museum's sleepovers, guests can go on a fossil fact-finding mission by flashlight, explore the live-animal exhibitions or meet live animals and watch a 3-D show in the LeFrak Theater.

Where you sleep: Either the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life under the blue whale, in the Hall of African Mammals beneath the dioramas or in the Hall of Planet Earth among the geological formations

Geared toward: Youths ages 6-13 (Scout nights, 6-16)

Upcoming available dates: July 17, Aug. 7, Oct. 9, Nov. 7 (Boy Scouts night), Nov. 13 (Girl Scouts night)

Cost: $145 per person

Also includes: Evening snack, breakfast, cots, take-home activities

Info: Central Park West at 79th Street, 212-769-5200, amnh.org/plan-your-visit/amnh-sleepovers

 

FOR ANIMAL LOVERS

Bronx Zoo

On the agenda: Pack a tent, sleeping bags and dinner and experience the zoo's Family Overnight Safari. The experience includes activities like a scavenger hunt, crafts and sing-alongs, as well as visits to exhibitions. The wake-up call comes courtesy of the sea lions.

Where you sleep: Southern Boulevard section of the zoo, near the Sea Lions and Peacock Garden

Geared toward: Ages 5 and up

Upcoming available dates: May 2, June 13, Sept. 12 and 26

Cost: $150-$185 per person

Also includes: Beverages, dessert, late-night snack, breakfast, commemorative T-shirt

Info: 2300 Southern Blvd., Bronx, 718-220-5100, bronxzoo.com/programs

 

Queens Zoo

On the agenda: The Queens Zoo offers a similar experience to the Bronx Zoo with its Family Overnight Adventures. Bring a tent, sleeping bags and picnic dinner for a night under the stars among the zoo animals. Educational activities include working with the staff to prepare animal treats, a night tour of the zoo, meeting the animals and, in the morning, a bird walk.

Where you sleep: On the lawn by thick billed parrot exhibit

Geared toward: Ages 4 and up

Upcoming available dates: May 16, June 6

Cost: $125 per person

Also includes: Beverages, dessert, late-night snack, breakfast

Info: 53-51 111th St., Corona, 718-271-1500, queenszoo.com/programs