Ever since we spent the night at the National Archives in January, my daughter had been asking when we were going to try another area overnight, so I was thrilled when we heard about the upcoming  Smithsonian Sleepovers at the Museum of American History, the Natural History Museum, and the newly announced program at the National Portrait Gallery. Thanks to heads up about a collaboration with Scholastic to launch a Summer Reading Challenge at the American History Museum, my daughter and I registered to try that Smithsonian Sleepover first.

The National Museum of American History sleepover was ideal for my daughter, who’s 10. It was a scavenger hunt of sorts where we had to find the answers to various challenges in each of the major exhibits of the museum. Here’s the official description of events:

Solve a Smithsonian mystery of historic proportions! The devious diva Miss Rose has stolen six valuable objects from the National Museum of American History—and you need to discover what’s missing before evening’s end.

Become a detective and roam through the museum’s galleries. Use your cunning and skills to collect clues that guide you to the crime scene. Along the way, take part in some great games, experiments, and craft projects—and even become a presidential candidate.

After you have solved the crime, roll out your bag and sleep soundly knowing that you’ve protected some of America’s treasures—and had plenty of fun.

I don’t want to spoil too much of what we did, but here are five of our highlights from being History Detectives for the night.

1. The First Ladies: During one of our stops, we had to look through the exhibit of First Ladies’ gowns, Presidential china, silverware and gifts. In addition to searching for a specific item, we had the chance to design and paint our own Presidential china. The craft was a lot of fun, but we especially loved just wandering around the usually crowded exhibit space and pointing out our favorite gowns.

A photo posted by Sandie Chen (@urbanmama1) on

2. Presidential Slogans: On another stop, we learned about the various ways that politicians try to engage the electorate. Sometimes it comes down to a good slogan to wear on a pin and an impassioned speech, and that’s exactly what we did. My daughter helped me come up with “Vote for Sandie, She’s Quite Handy!” other attendees sported slogans like “Vote for Mama, Cuz She Says So” and “Vote for Claire, She’ll Take Good Care” (I’m paraphrasing, of course).

Afterward we picked a topic from an envelope and had to prepare a speech in favor or against the topic. Surprisingly, my daughter was in favor of homework over the weekend, as long as it meant less homework over the week.

Presidential Speeches

3. Plate Game: In the Food section, we played a game with another family “against” two other families on the opposing team. It was a relay race to see which team could make the ideal plate by running to a container, picking out food items, and running back to stick them on our dinner plate. It was more fun than I’m making it sound, especially since we had to communicate with one another to make sure the runner wasn’t just grabbing random food. Once we already had a protein, for example, no one else needed to get meat. We won, by the way, which delighted my daughter and the other parents’ son, but the opposing team was happy too! It was a fun, educational competition.

4. America on the Move: My daughter and I each got to build a car and then race each other for bragging rights. I won’t spoil what the cars were made of, but I will admit defeat. My daughter’s car totally smoked mine. Vroom, vroom!

5. Rosie the Riveter: Before we even went exploring as history detectives, we were greeted by none other than Rosie the Riveter. Rosie explained a lot to the crowd, making sure we understood the meaning of her name, who the “real” Rosie the Riveter was, and what it was like for women to work during wartime. My daughter and I talked at length about Rosie, because we’re big fans of the iconic Rosie the Riveter “We Can Do It” poster. We even made our own poster at one of the stations in her honor!

We Can Do It!

If you’re looking for a wonderful night to remember with your kids (ages 8-12 are welcome), check out the Smithsonian Sleepovers. We went as one parent and one child, but we saw all sorts of groupings — one parent with three kids, two parents with one kid, an extended family, even two Scout Troops.

The remaining dates available for a Smithsonian Sleepover at the National Museum of American History are:

  • Saturday, Aug. 1
  • Friday, Aug. 7
  • Friday, Aug. 14
  • Friday, Aug. 28 – LIMITED AVAILABILTY!

Open to kids 8 to 12 years old. There must be at least one adult for every three children in any group that registers. No siblings younger than 8. No adults without children.

To register, call 202-633-3030 (M-F, 9-5) to order tickets. $135 General Admission and $120 for Smithsonian Associate members. Each child and adult must have a ticket. Price includes: exclusive access and activities in a Smithsonian museum, evening snack, interactive exploration, arts and crafts activities, and light breakfast.

Disclosure: Although we did pay for our Sleepover, the Smithsonian Associates offered us a media discount of $75 per person. All opinions are our own.