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Boozy Sleepovers and Booby Bounce Houses: Kids’ Activities for Grownups

July 14, 2014

Do you yearn for the halcyon days of your childhood summer vacation, when you could spend the day in a bouncy castle and the night at a friend’s house sneaking in horror movies? Do you remember playing video games for hours? Can you think back to when being bored — instead of stressed-out — was somehow the worst-yet-best thing ever?

Whether or not you were a “Toys ‘R’ Us Kid,” many adults-only activities are taking a childlike approach to fun, making sure you never have to grow up. Or be without a beer while doing so.

Adult Arcades


Bar + Arcade = Barcade in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NYC (Photo: Pixel Fantasy/Flickr)

Sure, there’s a Dave & Buster’s if you’re looking to get your midway on, but for our quarters, it’s a bit too Chuck E. Cheese’s-y. (Plus, I can’t be the only one still suffering from animatronic PTSD.) Instead, we’re big fans of reliving our arcade lizard youth in establishments such as Barcade, a growing tristate area chain that combines — you guessed it — a killer craft beer selection with vintage arcade machines such as Joust, Frogger, and Street Fighter II (damn you, Vega!). A new location at St. Mark’s Place in New York City makes two in Manhattan; the popular chain also has the original in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood and outposts in Jersey City, N.J., and Philadelphia, Penn.

Similarly popular bars are attracting large crowds around the country: Up-Down in Des Moines, Iowa; Insert Coin(s) and Hi Scores in Las Vegas, Nev.; 16-Bit in Columbus, Ohio; Ground Kontrol in Portland, Ore.; Emporium in Chicago, Ill.; and EightyTwo in downtown Los Angeles. San Francisco’s Castro District is getting a pinball-focused joint called Project 22 later this year.

Related: You’ll Never Guess Where to Find the Cheapest Beer in the World

Ground Kontrol in Portland, Ore., is a classic arcade for adults. (Photo: Ground Kontrol/Facebook)

Live Video Games

For adults whose reflexes might not be as fast as they used to be, New York City also offers the chance to experience rather than play a video game. (It’d be akin to living out the crazed maniac horror movie you might have snuck in during a late-night sleepover.) Escape the Room requires you and a group of puzzle-loving friends to do just that: Escape a locked themed room (e.g., office, library, spy agency) in a certain amount of time, using only your wits and the available objects to crack codes and move forward. The clock’s ticking…

Popular in Asia, these live-action puzzlers also see air time in San Francisco as the Real Escape Game, where pop-up events such as Escape From the Time Travel Lab happen throughout the year. There’s also a citywide Treasure Hunt that puts an adults-only twist on the classic children’s scavenger hunt, happening July 19 and 20.

Related: It’s Been 30 Years Since Ghostbusters?! Take the Green Slime Walking Tour of NYC in Homage

Searching for clues in the Victorian-themed Home room at Escape the Room NYC (Photo: Escape the Room NYC)

Slumber … Party!

Sleepovers are so hot right now — especially when they’re held at a museum. (Because, you know, as adults we can have the traditional Truth-or-Dare variety anytime we want at home.)

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City caused a hubbub earlier this week when it announced that one of its popular A Night at the Museum sleepover events would be open to grownups. It would feature a Champagne reception, jazz trio, and late-night romps past spooky taxidermy (BYO sleeping bag). The $375 event scheduled for Aug. 1 sold out in one day, so we imagine there’ll be more to come. Until then, you can party it up in the planetarium during one of its One Step Beyond DJ dance parties.

night at the museum
night at the museum

American History Museum’s “A Night at the Museum (Photo: AHM/Facebook)

Instead of sleeping beneath a fake blue whale, you can sleep next to a live whale shark (the largest fish in the sea) at Atlanta’s Georgia Aquarium during one of its adults-only summer sleepovers. The event features behind-the-scenes tours, activities, and the gentle sound of bubbles to lull you to an undersea slumber.

And in London, the popular Dino Snores events continue at the Natural History Museum, where grownups bed down under “Dippy,” the diplodocus skeleton. Or they stay up all night with a horror movie marathon, midnight bug tastings, and seminars on the sex lives of insects. They also get a three-course dinner and cash bar.

Related: The Virginia Museum Where Parade Floats Go to Die

adult sleepover
adult sleepover

Dino Snores at the London Natural History Museum (Photo: Dabby Peace/Twitter)

Other popular museums that cater to children are also getting into the late-night game for grownups:

• Adult Swim at the Madison Children’s Museum in Wisconsin invites adults to its Summer Speakeasy (July 25), a 1920s-themed Prohibition party with interactive games.

• The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis held an Adult Swim event in February, at which the world’s largest children’s museum turned into a casual cocktail lounge and playground for 2,000 people.

• The Boston Children’s Museum has been turning into the Boston Grownups Museum for monthly parties, including an ’80s theme night in June. It was a sellout — the bubble station is fun, especially without rambunctious 5-year-olds milling about — so expect tickets to the museum’s July 30 Beach Party to go fast as well. 

grownup museum
grownup museum

Partiers getting their learning on at the “Boston Grownups Museum” (Photo: Boston Children’s Museum/Facebook)

planetarium party
planetarium party

Adler Planetarium during an after-hours ’80s party (Photo: Adler Planetarium/Facebook)

• After Dark at the Exploratorium combines cocktails and provocative live entertainment with this San Francisco institution’s acclaimed hands-on exhibits, and it’s only for adults. Changing topical themes include music, electricity, and sex.

• Chicago’s Adler Planetarium hosts once-a-month cocktail parties with themes such as Superhero Science and Hops n’ Bots.

Related: Space, the Final Frontier: Becoming a Cosmonaut in Russia

Conceptual artists Bompas & Parr’s “Jump for Joy” installation at the Museum of Sex in NYC (Photo: © 2014 by Museum of Sex)

While it’s not geared toward children, the latest exhibit at New York City’s Museum of Sex, called “Bompas & Parr’s Funland: Pleasures & Perils of the Erotic Fairground,” explores the sexual subtext of one of those traveling highlights of our youth: the carnival. Museumgoers can “Jump for Joy” on a moon bounce made of giant, inflatable breasts or climb “Grope Mountain,” a fuzzy wall of, uh, orifices and appendages before heading into the mirrored “Tunnel of Love” (use your imagination).

Climbing “Grope Mountain,” artists Bompas & Parr’s new installation at the Museum of Sex in NYC (Photo: © 2014 by Museum of Sex)

Finally, if your idea of culture means cheering for the home team, the New York Mets are welcoming fans (plus their families) to a Citi Field Sleepover on July 19. West Coast baseball lovers can get into the outfield camping fun during the San Francisco Giants Annual AT&T Slumber Party on July 30.

Related: No Tents Allowed: The Best Tepee Hotels and Camps in the Country

Adult sports fans (and their families) camp out at the Citi Field sleepover in July. (Photo: New York Mets)

Summer Camp, Revamped

Scenes from the Great Horror Campout: Sweet dreams are definitely not made of these. (Photo: Ten Thirty One Productions)

If you were weened on “Friday the 13th” or “The Blair Witch Project,” camp-outs carry a special place in your thumping, terrified heart of yore — and the Great Horror Campout is ripe for flashbacks. Campers divide into a “Chicken Zone” and “High Startle” areas depending on their tolerance for things that go bump in the night. They can also choose to join an interactive “Hell Hunt” where coming face-to-face with murderers and monsters — and being forcibly handled, bound, hooded, chained, shoved in a trunk, and covered in gallons of blood — is a very real possibility. It’s an immersive, interactive, haunted theater of the macabre deep in the woods, from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., and definitely not for children. The event is touring in California; Seattle, Wash.; and Portland, Ore. through August. 

Related: Bigfoot or Bust: Where to Encounter America’s Mythical Monsters on Your Summer Road Trip

Archery is just one of the many daytime activities during the WeWork Summer Camp in Upstate New York. (Photo: WeWork)

WeWork Summer Camp (Aug. 22–24) isn’t your typical kumbaya gathering around the campfire. Now in its third year, this long-weekend event in the Adirondacks at Raquette Lake Camps takes the creative vision of the company’s collaborative workspaces (19 locations in six cities around the country) and remakes a sleep-away camp experience for startup-minded adults.  Daytime activities include ziplining, archery, canoeing, and seminars by leading tech CEOs and entrepreneurs; at night there’s plenty of partying.

Daytime seminars meld into a nighttime music festival at WeWork Summer Camp at Raquette Lake Camps. (Photo: WeWork)

Justin Ocean is a contributing editor at Yahoo Travel and the New York Post. He’s never been to summer camp but plays a mean game of Galaga.

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