Do you usually find the experience of visiting a museum:
A) so dull that you want to fall asleep; or
B) so interesting that you don’t want to leave at the museum’s closing time.
Either way, you could benefit from a museum that provides visitors a place to sleep. Here’s our rundown of five museums where you can spend the night among the art galleries and science exhibits:
21C | Louisville, Kentucky U.S.A.
Is the 21C a museum that’s also a hotel or a hotel that’s also a museum?
At this uber-cool refurbished warehouse in downtown Louisville you can check into a fabulously appointed room with a large screen HD TV set, an iPod-compatible stereo and a comfy bed with high thread-count sheets. So you might think that the 21C is a hotel.
Except . . . the 21C also has 9,000 square feet of gallery space with world-class contemporary art. So, it’s a museum.
Except . . . the art exhibits at the 21C are open 24 hours a day. And the museum’s art is not confined to the gallery spaces but incorporates the entire building. In the lower gallery, for instance, there’s an exhibit of red penguin statues arranged like terra cotta warriors. There are also red penguins peering down from the 21C’s roof, red penguins situated at the urinals in the men’s restroom, red penguins by the weights in the gym, and red penguins standing around the 21C’s restaurant tables, and in its hallways and guest rooms. (You’ll never know where at the 21C you might find a red penguin. The staff randomly, and regularly, move them around. Or maybe the penguins move themselves?!)
All we know for sure is that the 21C is one of our absolute favorite hotels and one of our absolute favorite museums anywhere. No matter how you label the 21C an overnight stay there is surreal and artistic and completely wonderful.
Benesse Art Site | Naoshima, Japan
Almost anyone with a passing interest in contemporary Japanese art and design knows of Hiroshi Sugimoto and Tadao Ando. Sugimoto is the preeminent Japanese photographer famous for his work with large format cameras. Ando, winner of the prestigious Pritzker Prize, is Japan’s foremost modern architect.
Those two giants of today’s Japanese art scene come together at the Benesse Art Site on the remote-feeling Nao Island off of Honshu’s southwestern coast. The buildings of this “art island” are designed by Ando. Sugimoto displays his photos here. Many of Japan’s best contemporary sculpture artists exhibit here too.
And all of it—the photo displays, the sculptures, the interactive art works, the buildings, the island itself—all of it is designed to provide a single holistic experience. So you won’t find art here displayed behind glasses cases or velvet ropes. Instead the art is mixed in with Naoshima’s natural surroundings and with the Benesse Art Site’s cafes, restaurants, spas, libraries and, yes, hotel guest rooms. One does not make a casual visit to this museum. One makes a pilgrimage here to see, touch, feel, hear, bath, eat and sleep art.
A trip to Naoshima requires quite a bit of advance planning. The island is difficult to get to and the sleeping spaces fill quickly. But those who expend the effort to journey here will experience one of the coolest artistic locations on Planet Earth.
American Museum of Natural History | New York City
If you’ve seen the Ben Stiller comedy Night In A Museum then you know what happens when the sun goes down on New York City’s American Museum of Natural History. (And if you haven’t, see the movie trailer below). Yet, despite the threat of being attacked by a skeletal remains of a dinosaur, spending the night at this museum is wildly popular among youth groups. Maybe that’s because overnight guesst get to explore the museum, including the live animal exhibits, by flashlight before going to sleep beneath a gigantic blue whale. The museum’s overnight program is aimed towards kids; adults who want to go will have to gather up a group of 8 to 12 year olds.
Related post: New York’s Budget Boutique Hotel
Great Lakes Science Center | Cleveland, Ohio U.S.A.
At this highly interactive, kid-focused, science museum on the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland youth groups can participate in an all night “camp in.” On the museum’s overnight program kids don’t only have free reign over three floors of exhibits but also get a pizza dinner, continental breakfast and late-night IMAX movie screening.
Related post: San Francisco’s Exploratorium Science Museum
This post was updated May 2009