10 Unique Museum Events Worth the Trip

Put these must-see museum events on your travel calendar.

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Events Worth Experiencing

Getty Villa outdoor view
 collectmoments/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

 Museums are no longer simply repositories for artifacts, but vibrant cultural institutions with unique programming that changes all the time. While even the smallest museums keep a regular calendar of special events, some are especially worth a little extra planning. These 10 events include a museum sleepover, a Saturday afternoon dance party, a peek inside a dinosaur lab and a lightning show in the New Mexico desert. 

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The Met Gala

You either need $30,000 or a celebrity friend to get a ticket to the "Oscars of the East Coast". This fundraiser for the Costume Institute at The Met Fifth Avenue is always held the first Monday in May. A new exhibition always opens timed with the gala, but the real reason to be there is for what happens on the red carpet. Given that the evening is a celebration of fashion as art rather than runway fashion, this an opportunity for celebrities to go wild.

Vogue's Anna Wintour is always a host and she has the final say on who is and isn't invited. That's right, even if you have the $30,000 to drop on a ticket (or $275,000 for a table), you may still not able to attend. 

Guests tend to dress with the theme of the exhibition, but if you're invited by your friends over at Calvin Klein or Prada, you'll, of course, be expected to dress in their clothes. There's nowhere to hide from the paparazzi at the party of the year. 

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Inside/Out at Detroit Institute of Arts

The super popular program Inside|Out at the Detroit Institute of Arts has been going strong for 8 years. High-quality reproductions of masterpieces from the museum's collection are placed at outdoor venues all around Metro Detroit. Each community will have 7-12 images clustered with a short distance so that viewing them can become a walking or biking treasure hunt.

Community engagement has helped the project soar and in 2017, the number of installation sites will grow from 80 to120 per three-month season. Ten reproductions from the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History will also be included in this year's programming. 

Here are the sites to watch:


Brighton, Clawson, Farmington, Franklin, Fraser, Detroit’s Lafayette Park, Mount Clemens, Novi, Plymouth, Taylor, Wayne 


Allen Park, Auburn Hills, Clarkston, Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, Detroit Riverwalk, Highland Township, Hines Park, St. Clair Shores, Sterling Heights, Troy
Four new venues—Detroit’s Lafayette Park, Allen Park, the Detroit International Wildlife Refuge and Highland Township will also be participating in 2017.

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Night at the Natural History Museum

The American Museum of Natural History has the film "Night At The Museum" to thank for the huge success of its sleepover program. 

Every time AMNH releases new dates, they sell out quickly, even with the steep ticket price of $350 per person.

Sleepovers for kids include tours, interactive events in the galleries and an IMAX movie while adult sleepovers include a cocktail reception, live band and lots of free time to explore the empty galleries. Dinner and a light breakfast are also included. For both events, the actual sleeping happens in the Hall of Ocean Life underneath the famous blue whale.

To find out about the next date call 212-769-5200, Monday-Friday, 9 am to 5 pm or view the sleepover calendar on their website.

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Greek Theater at The Getty

The Getty Villa in Malibu, California was designed to look a Roman villa before the volcanic eruption that destroyed the city of Pompeii. Built atop the Malibu cliffs and surrounded by Mediterranean vegetation, a visit to the Getty Villa is an immersive experience that makes visitors feel like they are in Southern Italy during the 1st century. 

Each fall, visitors can experience classical theater in the Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater, an outdoor venue modeled after ancient Greek and Roman theaters. Tickets, like museum admission, is free, but parking is $10 and must be reserved ahead of time.

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Warm Up at PS 1

Saturday afternoons at PS1, an outpost of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in Queens are all about electronic music and dancing. Now in its 20th season, Warm Up continues to be one of New York's most popular summer events, especially for people under 30-years old and reliably attracts huge crowds of New Yorkers and tourists from around the world.

The galleries are open during the event and Warm Up takes place within a site-specific installation. This museum event even has its own curatorial committee. 

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Lady J's Social Club at the Morris-Jumel Mansion

The event calendar at the Morris-Jumel Mansion is always fascinating, but the event on May 11, 2017, is the crown jewel. Inspired by Duke Ellington’s quote proclaiming the Morris-Jumel Mansion the “Jewel of Sugar Hill,” the Museum’s Spring 2017 fundraising gala will once again transform the Mansion and the surrounding Roger Morris Park into a Harlem Renaissance social gathering. Duke Ellington was just one of the jazz age luminaries who lived just a block away at the apartment building called the "Triple Nickel"

Lady J refers to Eliza Jumel, the Mansion's former owner and resident ghost. Roger Morris Park references the original owner of the Mansion who built it in 1766, making it the oldest house in Manhattan. All around Jumel Terrace are beautiful brownstones built in the late 1800s that later became home to the luminaries of the Harlem Renaissance. 

Like the Met Gala just a few days before, guests will dress up, rub elbows and dance the night away in Manhattan. Unlike the Met Gala, you won't need to be approved by Anna Wintour and tickets are definitely more affordable. The most expensive ticket at Lady J's Social Club is still $29,000 less than the Met's.

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Dia's Lightening Field

Though technically an exhibition rather than an event, The Lightning Field (1977) is an experience that must be booked and planned for extensively. Created by American sculptor Walter De Maria, it is a work of Land Art situated in a remote area of the high desert of western New Mexico. Four hundred polished stainless steel poles are installed in a grid array measuring one mile by one kilometer. It's a sculpture that is meant to be viewed and experienced over an extended period of time.

Though a visit to The Lightning Field does not depend completely upon the occurrence of lightning, the real way to see it is through an overnight visit. Dia, which is based in New York, offers overnight stays in New Mexico during the months of May through October when lightening hitting the poles is most likely. Tickets are very hard to get.

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The Field Museum's Fossil Prep Lab

Part event, part exhibition, the McDonald's Fossil Prep Lab at the Field Museum in Chicago is a chance to peek behind the scenes to see as museum staff work on fossils. Inside the lab, you'll see tables equipped that hold 2,000-pound rocks, microscopes, mini-jackhammers, mini-circular saws, and mini-sandblasters that shoot baking soda strong enough to whittle away rock, but not damage the precious fossils. The surrounding gallery has exhibitions related to the work the scientists are working on inside the lab.

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Film screenings at The Wolfsonian

For all those who may visit Miami Beach and want something more than promenading down Ocean Drive, the Wolfsonian Museum is an oasis of art and culture. If you've had enough sun or it's raining in Miami, check to see if there's a film screening taking place. The museum’s 110-seat auditorium is an amazing venue to see films from genres including German Expressionism, French New Wave, Soviet Cinema, and Italian Neorealism.  

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K2 Friday Nights at The Rubin

On Friday nights, take a guided tour of Rubin's collection of Himalayan art that promises to show you more than what meets the eye. The focus of this tour is ideas. Close observation and dialogue take place between guests and a trained educator designed to open you up to an entirely new art experience. After, the museum's Café Serai becomes the K2 Lounge and offers a special pan-Asian tapas menu. There's a DJ and a Happy Hour that runs from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. with a two-for-one special. Bring a date.

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