We have been members of the Jurassic Coast Trust for a number of years now and have attended many events, from activity days to dinosaur walks.
Last year they hosted a dinosaur sleepover at Dorset Museum and we just missed out on tickets, so when I found out they were doing it again I made sure we booked as part of Eliza’s birthday present.
We last visited Dorset Museum when Dippy was on tour and it has since undergone a massive refurbishment, so we were excited to see what had changed.
We were sorted into groups before the event and were allocated Team Triassic which involved wearing red. We were advised to arrive from 17.20 on the night of the sleepover, armed with our sleeping bags, roll mats, pillows and pyjamas.
There is no parking at the museum, but there is a large carpark in the road opposite which cost just £1.50 for our overnight stay.
Once we were booked in, we were invited to go and find our idea sleeping spot in the Victoria Hall. As Eliza and Sebby are older than some of the other visitors, we chose to sleep on the mezzanine floor, which runs around the top of the Victorian Hall and set up in the far corner.
We were given some time to set up our sleeping arrangements before the welcome and safety information. From then, we had three organised activities with the Jurassic Coast Trust.
Our first activity was Pliosaur’s Lunch, a fossil hunt activity in the Natural Dorset Gallery which is home to the Weymouth Bay Pliosaur, one of the best preserved fossils of its kind.
The Natural Dorset Gallery also features 250 million years of natural history and reveals the secrets of the county’s geology, landscapes, habitats and wildlife. Sebby and Eliza were given worksheets and challenged to find the answers to the questions, some of which were harder to find than others.
Once our time was up, we shared our answers with Guy who confirmed whether we were right or wrong and then got to take our worksheets away with us.
Sebby and Eliza were keen to complete the worksheets themselves, but there were volunteers around to assist and families with younger children all worked together. There was also the chance to dress up and pretend to be a pliosaurs lunch!!
Our next activity was Story Time in the Hardy Dorset Gallery.
At the back of the gallery is an old fashioned, wood panelled sitting room and the kids all relaxed on sofa’s and cushions to listen to a story.
The story reminded me of the film “Night at the Museum” only with a Dorset and Jurassic twist and had the adults and kids all listening, waiting to find out what happened next.
Our final organised activity of the evening was one that the kids were looking forward to most – fossil polishing.
The kids all got to choose a fossil to polish from the table and then had to work there way along a series of different sanding tables to get the best results. Eliza chose fossilised wood and Sebby chose an ammonite.
Once we had finished, we left our fossils with the team, where they were varnished so we could pick them up later and take them home nicely preserved.
Silent disco in the Victorian Hall
Once we had cleaned our hands from the fossil polishing, we treated ourselves to a hot chocolate and biscuits before heading back to the Victorian Hall for the silent disco.
It was great fun trying to guess what we were all dancing to and the changing channels to match who looked like they were having more fun.
There were two film screenings to choose from, one for the younger kids (Ice Age) and Jurassic World for the older ones, which was shown on a big screen in the Victorian Hall.
Although not cinema quality, the sound echoed around the hall and the dinosaurs sounded quite scary. We all hoped that Kevin (the Pliosaur) from the story, wouldn’t appear.
Once the film at finished, we headed upstairs to our bed for the night.
Eliza and Sebby was so tired from all the activities that they went to sleep almost immediately and didn’t wake up until 7am. All that cubs / scouts training has definitely paid off.
We headed downstairs for breakfast, before exploring the rest of the museum before we headed home.
It was brilliant fun exploring the museum before it opened to the public for the day. All the galleries are now open and airy and packed full of interesting objects from yesteryear, right up to modern day, with a fun 80’s themed art show currently being held.
We had a great time at the Dinosaur Sleepover. Eliza wants to be a paleontologist when she is older and was very excited to meet a fellow enthusiast and find out what subjects she needs to study at secondary school to achieve her dream.
We were more than comfortable on our roll mats and sleeping bags, but many people did take inflatable beds. I would advise taking ear plugs if you are a light sleeper as these are surprisingly noisy as people move around as they sleep.
The next Dinosaur sleepover is on Saturday 18th March. Keep an eye on the Jurassic Coast Trust facebook page for their upcoming activities, you won’t be disappointed.