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The National Archives Sleepover, An Epic Sleepover in DC

The National Archives Sleepover, An Epic Sleepover in DC


What’s it like to have an epic slumber party at a National Archives sleepover?


In the words of my 8-year-old son, a National Archives sleepover is AWESOME!


You may remember last October, we told you about the National Archives sleepover, History, Heroes, and Treasures and how excited we were to attend as guests of the National Archives Foundation. The National Archives Foundation hosts these overnight programs once or twice a year. They fill up quickly so we were certainly honored to be their guests at the October sleepover. Read on to find out WHY this is one outstanding overnight program you are going to want to do with your kids.


National Archives Sleepover

All smiles as we get ready for an epic night.


How to prepare for a National Archives Sleepover

Since I am very type a, I wanted to make sure I was as prepared as I could be for spending the night at the National Archives building. The National Archives does not have their own parking garage. I used the Parking Panda app to prepay for a parking space at a nearby parking garage. You can sign up for Parking Panda app with our link. Knowing I had paid for parking in advance and had a specific address to drive to saved me a lot of stress and time. I didn’t have to worry about how much parking would be, could I park there overnight, or where to park.


We left New Jersey early too. I didn’t know what to expect for traffic. It’s always easier to arrive early than risk being late. We used the extra time to revisit the United States Navy Memorial, located within a few blocks of the National Archives. Then, we grabbed dinner at a restaurant across from the museum. There is no dinner served during the National Archives sleepover, so you’ll want to make sure you eat before arriving. A snack time is offered between 8 and 9 pm.


We used the National Archives Foundation suggested packing list to help us pack light. If you need sleeping bags or yoga pads for you or the kids, check out these on Amazon with our links to their sleeping bags and yoga pads. To make things easier, we rolled our pillows around the rolled-up yoga mats. We rolled the sleeping bags around the pillows. You can keep it all together using the strings on the bags, belts, or bungie cords. I’d also suggest carrying the sleeping bag in a trash bag. It’s easier for kids to carry and keeps it clean. Remember your kids will likely be carrying their gear from the car to the museum or the train station to the museum, you’ll want to keep things light and manageable.


National Archives Sleepover Jersey Family Fun

Jenn’s boys pose for one last picture before leaving the National Archives.


For clothing, we dressed in comfortable layers. My boys wore sweatpants while I wore yoga pants. They are comfortable for sleeping in and yet functional for the activities.


Checking in for the National Archives Sleepover

Checking in for the National Archives overnight program could not have gone easier. The line went quickly as we gave our names and got our schedules for the night. A photographer took our before picture and volunteers downstairs tagged and labeled our gear then stored it for us to get  later that night. Then it was on to a night of fun.


National Archives Sleepover


Our favorite National Archives Sleepover activities

You can read more about our National Archives sleepover on Traveling Moms (coming soon). Here we’re sharing some of our favorite moments and activities from History, Heroes & Treasures.


National Archives Sleepover program schedule


Save the Day: Activity Stations

We had 90 minutes to rotate between activities. Kids could take as little or as much time as they wanted at each activity station. Some National Archives sleepover activities had us looking for clues through the exhibits while others had us sitting down to play or create together. My 8-year-old son enjoyed playing the role of investigative reporter. He closely examined artifacts and signage detailing his findings in a journal. My 12 year old showed off his artistic skills designing a superhero comic book based on the historical figures we were learning about. They both voted for the best wake up song that would play the next morning as they woke up. Trivia games challenged them to see who knew the most about government and laws.


National Archives Sleepover

Playing the role of investigative reporter, he’s journaling important details about what he’s learning.


National Archives Sleepover

He’s working on his superhero comic book based on historical facts and figures.


National Archives Sleepover

They are writing letters to President Obama.


Archives Reports: Interview Our Heroes!

Kids and parents gathered in the McGowan Theater to hear from actors portraying Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, John Dunlap. As each of them took turns giving their monologues to introduce themselves, it was hard to believe they were actors. We really did feel we were watching these real historical superheroes tell us their life stories. There were facts and details I had never heard before that night and I found myself as intrigued as my kids. After they finished telling us about themselves, they graciously took time to answer questions from the kids.


National Archives Sleepover

We were honored to be joined by super historical figures, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, John Dunlap, that shared their stories with us.


Storytime and Movies

As bedtime approached little kids could retreat to the Rotunda to go to bed early. Kids not quite sleepy yet had their choice of listening to a bedtime story or watching a movie.  When we saw the Peanuts gang, dressed in colonial attire, we knew we had made the right choice to watch the movie. We love Charlie Brown and his friends.


Lights Out for Bedtime

When is bedtime exciting? When you’re sleeping in the Rotunda for the National Archives sleepover, you can’t help but not want to close your eyes. Just a few feet in front of our sleeping bags was the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Above us and around us was the beautiful architecture of the National Archives building. Below us were smooth marble floors. With no lights allowed, including smart phones and eReaders, our eyes did eventually close and we drifted off for the night excited for what the next morning would bring.


Exploring Exhibits

I was not sure if a building with historical artifacts and archives could hold my boys’ interest as other museums have. But the National Archives did! Even though we had time during the evening before sleeping and the morning after breakfast, my 8-year-old son and 12-year-old son could not get enough. (My 10 year old missed out due to a soccer conflict.) My boys read through letters written from kids to past presidents. They searched computer records and found naturalization papers for famous celebrities. They flipped through cards discovering unique historical facts and they even wrote letters to President Obama. We easily could have spent more hours just exploring all the National Archives exhibits. The sleepover was a great way to get introduced to a Washington DC museum we know we want to come back to.


Soaring Superheroes Team Challenge

After an outstanding overnight program and a morning of chocolate chip pancakes and activities, we headed into the McGowan Theater for one last activity, the Soaring Superheroes Team Challenge. We were divided into four teams. Questions were asked and as we answered correctly we earned points and moved along a path to a finish line. In the end, we came so close to winning, but lost out by mere points. My boys were excited though to get special treats not only for completing a scavenger hunt type questionnaire, but also for having come from New Jersey to attend the National Archives sleepover. Kids who had traveled a distance to get there were called down by state for prizes.


National Archives Sleepover

Yum! Yum! It’s time for a catered breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes.


While we had till 9 am to depart the National Archives, we certainly wished we could have stayed longer. The volunteers and staff were just as organized and courteous as they had been the night before at check in. There were pictures and swag bags for kids and adults alike. We all loved the souvenirs they gifted everyone. (Yep, you don’t need to be a blogger to get in on National Archives sleepover swag.)


Photography is not allowed in many of the National Archives exhibits, but we were able to get some pictures in random spots and between activities. If you want to see more head over to this Facebook album. You can see a preview below.


My boys’ final thoughts on the National Archives sleepover was recorded in this video.


For more ideas on things to do with kids in Washington DC, please visit our Eat, Stay & Play in Washington DC. To register for the next National Archives sleepover, History, Heroes, & Treasures visit their site at Don’t forget to pin this with your collection of travel ideas for your family.


The National Archives Sleepover, An Epic Sleepover in DC


family vacation to Washington DC


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