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sleepover at the national archives: 3 reasons your family will love it

Aug 7, 2014 // 1 comment // Categories: family life, travel // Tags: , , , , , .

We did it.national archives sleepover

We slept at the National Archives.

The National Archives Museum in Washington, DC.

Slept. In the museum. All night long.

With sleeping bags and pillows all bundled up in the famous rotunda.  Snoozing near the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

So crazy, right? So fun.

The super-cool thing is that there will be more sleepovers at the National Archives in the next few months, and you can go.

And? I’ve got a discount for you for you to use at the National Archives store if a sleepover’s not your thing.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Sleepover at the National Archives–3 Reasons Your Family Will Love It:

The National Archives Museum Sleepover was the perfect amount of time: 6:30pm -8:30am.

national archives sleepover |

national archives sleepover |

Our schedule Saturday:

7:15 — orientation

7:45-9:15 –activity stations and snacks (activities included a scavenger hunt, crafts, games, dancing, learning about explorers, and more)

9:20-10:10 — interview an explorer

10:15-10:45 — storytime and movies

10:15-10:45 — get ready for bed

11:00 — lights out!


Our schedule Sunday:

7:15-8:30 — breakfast

7:30-9:00 — historic chocolate demonstration

8:00-8:30 — trivia game

9:00 — departure

national archives sleepover |

It was an evenly timed event. Just enough activity mixed with just enough time to move at our own pace and enjoy the event.

Here are three reasons I’m betting your family will love the event, too:

 national archives sleepover |

1. You will learn a few cool things about our country’s history.

The focus of our sleepover was Heroes, History, & Treasures, so we learned a bunch about Matthew Henson, Meriwether Lewis, and Louise Arner Boyd-three heroes of exploration–along with others and their contributions to our country.

Throughout the night, all of our activities in some way reflected the Heroes, History, & Treasures theme.  Adventurers and explorers, and all the cool stuff they find.

national archives sleepover |photo from u.s. national archives

national archives sleepover |photo from u.s. national archives

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

You know I love life when things are organized like this in a pretty little package.

We spent time in the Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures exhibit, and our scavenger hunt took place here. It was a fun and interactive way to experience it.


national archives sleepover |

2. You will find activities that speak to each person in your family.

As an educator, I’m always aware of the fact that each person has different learning needs, and those needs can vary greatly within families.

One person learns best by doing; another learns best by listening. Others may learn best by reading or watching. We’re all different that way.

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

national archives sleepover |photo from u.s. national archives

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

So the music and singing, the dancing, the hands-on games and drama, mixed with the reading and watching that we did was the ideal recipe for learning and fun.

Some individual activities and some group activities. It was a great mix.


national archives sleepover |

3.  You will have a truly unforgettable experience.  

Undoubtedly, a sleepover at the National Archives is something your family will never forget.

From the anticipation leading up to the event to the event itself, your kids will feel connected to one of the most important buildings in our Nation’s Capital.

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

The small group–100 participants total–really allows you to feel like you’re an integral part of the event. Any time we had a question, there were at least two or three Archives workers there to assist us.

I loved having so many hands in the kitchen; it made me feel like there were a lot of eyes on our kids–which made me feel so much more at ease.

And having all children be between the ages of 8-12 years old means that for the most part, all of the kids were on the same playing field.


national archives sleepover |photo from u.s. national archives

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

We met a bunch of great people from–surprisingly–all around our country.  Most families were from the DC Metro area, but some came as far north as Maine or as far west as California!

It was a really cool experience.

national archives sleepover | photo from u.s. national archives

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives


The Archivist of the United States, Honorable David S. Ferriero, made pancakes for us in the morning!

He had some help, but to be honest, his chocolate chip pancakes were fabulous! (And you want to know why I really like the AOTUS? He writes a blog!)


archives sleepover AOTUS pancakes



Check out more photos from the National Archives sleepover (August 2014): 


What would I suggest that families do if they’re planning on attending? 

  • Definitely read the information from the National Archives about what to bring for the sleepover. And bring what they suggest!
  • Have some easy way of transporting your sleeping bag, pillow, overnight bag. Whether a loved one drops  you off at the building and then picks you up in the morning or if you simply arrange all of your gear in a simple way, do it. The hardest part for Maddy, Owen, and me was the walk from the parking garage to the Archives and then from the Archives to the parking garage in the morning.


national archives sleepover | photo from u.s. national archives


  • Look for an overnight garage. We also didn’t plan this part well, so we had to do a little city driving and searching before the event. We ended up using LAZ parking at 616 E St. for about $45, but definitely check best parking to find what will be best for you.
  • Consider bringing earplugs. Seriously. I can sleep anywhere, any time. But lighter sleepers may need these.
  • Bring books or something for the kids to read before bed. I totally forgot these, and though I can fall asleep anywhere, any time, Maddy and Owen needed their books. #momfail
  • Prepare your kids. Even if it’s just a little bit. I printed out a bunch from the National Archives website, and we simply had it around to read and talk about in the days leading up to the event. I wanted the kids to have an idea about why this building was important and what we’d see when we were there.

national archives sleepover |


And now? If you’re interested in attending the next sleepover, visit the National Archives Sleepover page.  The next one is scheduled for October 18, 2014.

If the sleepover isn’t your thing, then do some shopping! Check out the National Archives store– –and use the code 14SLEEP14 for a 15% discount on your purchases until 8/15/14. Enjoy!

The feather pen in the picture above? My kids have been rockin’ them for the last few days, doing what they can to make their mark. Grab one at the Archives store!

Pretty cool if you ask me!


Stay connected:

What questions do you have? I’d love to help! 


fyi: I was given three tickets to the National Archives August sleepover in exchange for sharing my honest opinions in a blog post and via social media. As always, opinions are my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator and by my two little explorers.  

History, Heroes & Treasures is supported by the Foundation for the National Archives; John Hancock Financial; Ridgewells Catering; Control Video; American Heritage Chocolate; Mars, Incorporated; The Coca-Cola Company; Minute Maid; and DASANI.

Many of the photos (most unwatermarked) in this post are from the National Archives and are in the public domain. 

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Comment (1) | Leave a comment

  1. Sounds really fun! Like … someone should write a middle grade book and set it here!


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