What’s not to love about the Pacific Science Center? They’ve got awesome Planetarium shows, water cannons, a butterfly house, the new Wellbody Academy exhibit and mechanized dinosaurs! Ready to take the next step and experience it Ben Stiller style? That’s right, families can create their own Night at the Museum during the Pacific Science Center’s annual Camp-In program. When you hear “Camp-In” think typical day at the museum, but on steroids, because everything about the museum seems amplified after dark, and there’s an indescribable magic that weaves itself into every evening activity. Your little scientists will never want to leave. And while we can’t promise that the exhibits will come to life, we can promise a crazy-good time for families. So log-on, register and join the Camp-In adventure! After all, Ben Stiller ain’t got nothing on you.

PSC Camp in red sleeping bag

First things first
Families can check-in for the overnight any time between 5:30 pm and 6:30 pm. Just head to the museum’s front entrance where you’ll find Camp-In staff members dressed in bright blue t-shirts, carrying clipboards. They’re pretty hard to miss. And they’ll have an eye out for you, too. The sleeping bags are a dead giveaway. Remember, since dinner isn’t part of the evening’s itinerary, be sure to eat at home, or tack on a little pre-Camp-In experience with dinner at the Armory at Seattle Center.

It all starts with a bang
From the moment they walk through the doors, your little explorers will be off and running. Not to worry, there’s plenty of time to wander before the Welcome Program kicks the evening into full gear with a fire experiment that will dazzle science geeks of all ages. If you didn’t think rules and regulations could be exciting, you’ve clearly never been to a Camp-In.

PSC kids experiment

The main events
There are three main scheduled programs throughout the evening. Zombie Fever, the Energy Boost Workshop and Trip to the Moon, a Planetarium show. The interactive live science show, Zombie Fever, explains disease patterns through a fictional zombie outbreak in Seattle. Little monster hunters will love watching zombie interviews and practicing their zombie moves as they work to locate patient zero. The show runs 4 times throughout the evening, so plan accordingly.

Each family will be assigned to an Energy Boost workshop (you’ll get your tickets when you arrive), so don’t worry about missing this hands-on experiment. We’ll give you a hint but we won’t tell you how. It involves extracting iron from cereal. Cool! If the Trip to the Moon Planetarium show is a can’t-miss for your family, consider getting tickets for one of the later shows. Reclining in comfy seats, watching the stars overhead is a great way to settle those inquisitive brains for a good night’s sleep. Remember that not everyone is able to get tickets to the Planetarium show (it’s a capacity thing), so choose a show time that won’t conflict with your Energy Boost workshop, and then make a bee-line back to the Information Desk right after the Welcome Program. Tickets are first come first serve. And remember, no late seating for this one, so set a timer on your Smartphone if you need to.

PSC food experiment

Wait! There’s more…
When you’re not scheduled to be at a show, take all the time you need to explore the other exhibits in the museum. All your family faves are open, including the tropical butterfly house (save that one til the sun sets) and the touch tide pool, where future marine biologists can interact with some local sea life. Evening’s end will find the campers dancing with the dinosaurs in one final burst of kid-generated energy. If only it could be bottled… The lights may go out at 11:30 pm, but the little zzz’s don’t come til later. Usually by midnight all is quiet under the dinosaurs.

Sleep meter

Wake up, sleepy head
Morning comes early at the Pacific Science Center. 6:30 am to be exact. And rather than roaring dinosaurs (admit it, you were worried), soft music and daylight will help you greet the day. A light breakfast of muffins, doughnuts, yogurt, juice and coffee (you might need a double) will fill your tummy before you’re ushered off to the Laser Dome for the first morning activity. If you weren’t awake already the sights and sounds of the Laser Jukebox Light Show are a guaranteed wake up call. Then head over to the IMAX theater to enjoy the Flight of the Butterflies. This springtime movie is the perfect way to float down from the evening’s high before heading back to the real world. The program officially ends at 9:30 am, but all participants receive a hand stamp good for re-entry to the museum that day. So, grab some grub downtown and then head back for more, if you’re up for it.

PSC Camp in blue sleeping bag

Good to know
As you get ready for your overnight adventure, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Pack light for this awesome experience, and even lighter for your kids. A sleeping bag, pillow, and sleeping pad are a must, as are basic toiletries. Comfy clothes that can be slept in too, help to keep the experience low-key and focused on family fun.
  2. While there are plenty of bathrooms, there aren’t any showers. Where’s that baseball cap again?
  3. An official nacho snack is served at 8:15 pm. Be sure to get there early to avoid the lines. Snacks and drinks from home are okay too. Just remember to eat them in the covered area outside of Building 3.
  4. Bring a sweatshirt just in case. The nights are still a bit cool here in the PNW.
  5. Be sure to check out the Camp-In Survival Guide for other helpful hints.

PSC sleeping bag line

Getting there
Parking at City Center on a weekend evening can sometimes be challenging, so be sure to factor this into your planning. A special $15 overnight camp-in rate, good til 10:00 am the next morning, is offered at the James Albert Claypool Memorial parking garage (at the corner of Denny Way & 2nd Avenue N). Just be sure to select the “Camp-In” option at the machine. On-street parking is another option. It’s cheaper (if you can find it), but you may have to leave early in the morning to re-park your car. Not in the mood to drive? Try bussing it. The number of bus stops around City Center might outnumber the inches of rain we’ve had this spring, so be sure to check the bus schedule and plan a route with Metro Transit first. And finally, the triple axel of Seattle transportation, with an 8.5 difficult rating: park (or get dropped off) around Westlake Center and take the monorail in. Now that’s adventure with a capital “A!”

PSC boys outside

Did someone say discount?
If there’s something you’ll love more than the Camp-In experience, we’re pretty sure it’s saving money on the Camp-In experience. To use the Red Tricycle discount code, register online and choose “PSC member,” even if you’re not a member. After submitting the initial registration page, you’ll be directed to the Camp-In Registration. Here’s where the code goes. Under “Membership Number” type: RedTri2013 (yep, it’s case sensitive) to receive $10 off each individual registered. That should do it. You’re officially a money-saving mama with a can’t miss weekend ahead!

Pacific Science Center
200 2nd Avenue North
Seattle, Wa 98109
Phone: 206-443-2925
Online: www.pacificsciencecenter.org

Dates: May 4-5, May 9-10 & May 10-11

Time: 5:30 pm – 9:30 am the following morning

Ages: 5 and up

Cost: $50 per person (remember to use the Red Tricycle discount code to save $10 per person)

Do you think you will give Camp-In a try with your kiddos? Let us know your thoughts in a comment below.

–Allison Sutcliffe, words and (a few) pictures

Photo credit: John Keatley