Family Overnight FAQ

How do I register?
What information should I prepare in order to register?
What is the refund and cancellation policy?
What time does the event start?
Can I arrive late?
Is parking available for the event?
Can we park in the parking lot early?
Will I be able to leave my car in the parking lot while we explore the aquarium on Saturday?
Where do we enter and check-in for the event?
Can we leave before 8:30 a.m.?
What food is served for dinner, snack and breakfast?
What can you do to accommodate a food allergy?
Will bottled water be provided?
Can I bring my own food and drinks in a cooler?
Is alcohol allowed at this event?
Will we get to see all the exhibits?


How do I register?
Please contact our reservations department at 312-692-3333 to register. 

What information should I prepare in order to register?
Please have your name, phone number, e-mail, address and method of payment ready. You will also need to tell us how many adults and children are in your party.

What is the refund and cancellation policy?
No refunds will be issued unless Shedd Aquarium cancels the program. Shedd Aquarium reserves the right to cancel the event for any reason. If your event is cancelled, you will be informed via phone as soon as possible. In the event of a cancellation, you will be fully refunded within 30 days. Your refund method will be based on your original method of payment.

Arrival, Check-In and Departure

What time does the event start?
Check-in for the overnight begins at 6:30p.m. Guests that arrive early will not be able to wait inside the aquarium.

Can I arrive late?
Check-in is from 6:30 – 8 p.m. If you will be arriving after 8 p.m., please call aquarium security staff at 312-692-3308. Let them know you are a program participant and they will contact event staff so  you can be accommodated to the best of our ability.

Is parking available for the event?
For the overnight events, there are two parking lots available: the East Lot between The Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium lot. Parking is around $19, cash only, but this price may change at any time. Shedd Aquarium does not own the parking lots and does not control the cost.

Can we park in the parking lot early?
We have pre-arranged to have the lots open starting at 5 p.m.  You can park your car before the event begins, but there is no guarantee that you will be let into the aquarium before 6:30 p.m.

Will I be able to leave my car in the parking lot while we explore the aquarium on Saturday?
Your parking payment gives you access to the parking lot until 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. After 9:00 a.m., the lot may charge you for an additional day of parking, give you a ticket or tow your car.

Where do we enter and check-in for the event?
Guests can drive into Shedd’s bus turnaround, where they will be greeted by aquarium staff and volunteers. Here, they can unload any sleeping gear and enter through the registered group entrance (up the ramp behind the bus turnaround). Drivers should then park their cars in the appropriate lot. Check-in occurs in the South Lobby/Group Entrance.

Can we leave before 8:30 a.m.?
Guests are welcome to depart any time they need. All doors, except the Kovler Hall main entrance doors, are locked throughout the event and any guest who leaves will not be able to re-enter the building unless they enter through the main entrance. Security staff will be stationed in the main entrance to ensure only event guests enter. Please inform event staff if you or a guest needs to leave the event and return at a later time.

Food and Beverages

What food is served for dinner, snack and breakfast?
Dinner is a kid-friendly meal. Milk and your choice of fountain beverages are included. Snack is a packet of goldfish crackers and fruit snacks, water and coffee. Breakfast is continental-style with mini bagels and muffins, choices of cold cereals and fresh fruit. Coffee, milk and juice are also served with breakfast.

What can you do to accommodate a food allergy?
We try our best to accommodate food allergies, but are not always able to do so. If you have concerns about any allergy during the event, please e-mail us at with a list of food allergies. We will do our best to accommodate your needs, but will contact you if there are any issues.

Will bottled water be provided?
Beverages included in the program price are provided at dinner, bedtime snack and breakfast.  Water fountains are available in the aquarium for your use at any time. Bottled beverage products are available from on-site vending machines at your own cost. We encourage you to bring your own reusable water bottle to refill as an alternative to purchasing bottled water.

Can I bring my own food and drinks in a cooler?
Outside food or drink are not allowed during the event. Dinner, snack and breakfast are included in the price of each ticket. Snacks and drinks are also available in vending machines in the building. If you are concerned about the menu for medical or allergy reasons, please contact the program coordinator at

Is alcohol allowed at this event?
Alcoholic beverages are strictly prohibited with no exceptions! If anyone is caught with alcohol, they will be escorted off the premises.

Event Details

Will we get to see all the exhibits?
All of the exhibits, including the Abbott Oceanarium, Wild Reef, Waters of the World and Amazon Rising, will be open for specific amounts of time during the event. Some exhibits do close for animal care and safety during the event. These times are marked on the itinerary guests receive upon checking-in. Guests have the option of staying the following day, after an overnight, to view the exhibits if they would like to spend more time with the animals.

What will we be doing at the overnight?
Guests are free to explore any of the open exhibit spaces throughout the event. We also have scheduled events to enjoy throughout the evening. Here is a tentative itinerary for an overnight event:

6:30-8:00  Check-in, dinner and explore the Abbott Oceanarium
7:20  Event orientation and aquatic show
8:00-9:30  Planned activities in the aquarium galleries, explore the Wild Reef
9:30   Caribbean Reef Dive Presentation
10:00   Evening-only guests depart
10:00  Set up sleeping space, late night snack, movie and game room open
11:00   Lights out!
6:30 a.m.  Wake up, brush up, pack up and bring your gear to the Group Reception Center.  Explore aquarium galleries after your gear is stored.
7:00  Breakfast
7:30   Explore Abbott Oceanarium
8:00   Explore Wild Reef
9 a.m.  Aquarium opens to the public

Do we get to see an aquatic show?
During the event, there is a guest orientation and presentation of an aquatic show. The animals that are part of the show are on a rotating schedule, so each show is different. This presentation begins after the event orientation around 7:30 p.m. This is the only aquatic show scheduled for the event.

What movie is shown? Is it in 4-D?
Currently we are showing the film Blue Planet: Ocean Deep. It is shown in standard DVD format and is not in 4-D.

What to bring:

Do bring (for Overnight guests):
o Sleeping bag
o Pillow
o Camping pad (for added comfort)
o Toothbrush and paste
o Clothes to sleep in (guests must wear pants and shirt at all times, shoes must be worn when walking around the aquarium)
o Extra money for vending machines and gift stores (optional)
o If you want to bring an air mattress there is a $15 convenience fee per mattress. This can be paid at the time of registration. The aquarium does not rent air mattresses or pumps to inflate them. If you would like some extra cushion without paying extra for it a good alternative is a self-inflating camping pad, or a pool inflatable.

Do not bring (for all event guests):
o Personal coolers
o Outside food (exceptions permitted for allergy/medical needs)
o Alcohol is strictly prohibited –no exceptions
o Tents
o Flashlights, laser pointers, glow sticks, etc.

Sleeping Accommodations

Where do we sleep?
Guests will sleep in the aquarium galleries and around the Caribbean Reef exhibit. Sleeping is not allowed in Amazon Rising, Wild Reef or the Abbott Oceanarium. Families are allowed to choose their own sleeping space. Larger groups may not be able to all fit in the same area, but there is plenty of room throughout the aquarium to find a spot next to an exhibit.

Are electrical outlets accessible in the sleeping areas?
Electrical outlets are available in the sleeping areas. Please ask a staff member or volunteer for assistance.

Can I bring my air mattress or tent?
Tents are strictly prohibited for fire safety reasons. We encourage guests to leave their air mattresses at home. All attending guests will be more comfortable if everyone brings sleeping gear that does not take up an excessive amount of space (a twin-sized air mattress can occupy as much space as two sleeping bags). If you choose to bring an air mattress, be aware that you may be asked to adjust your sleeping arrangement in order to accommodate the needs of all participants, as well as emergency safety codes. Good alternatives to air mattresses include inflatable pool mats or camping pads.

Is it very dark after lights out?
We do our best to turn off all unnecessary lights after lights-out. For animal and human safety, some lights will remain on for the duration of the night. If you require complete darkness to sleep comfortably, consider bringing an eye mask.

Does the aquarium get cold at night?
Because we are a living institution, temperatures vary from one sleeping area to another. Dressing in layers will help ensure a comfortable sleeping temperature for you and your group.

Can we use flashlights?
Flashlights and flash photography are not permitted due to the safety and health of our animals. Bright lights and flashes can cause stress in many of our animals, and animal safety is a top priority for us at Shedd Aquarium. Flashlights may be used by staff for guest and aquarium safety reasons if necessary.

Gift Stores

Can I buy overnight t-shirts or patches at the event?
Shedd Aquarium gift stores will be open during the event and selling overnight themed t-shirts and patches. T-shirts are $14.99 plus tax for child sizes and $16.99 plus tax for adult sizes. Patches are $3.99 plus tax.

Safety and Security

What precautions are taken to ensure our safety?
We view your safety as one of our top priorities. We have uniformed security staff members on duty 24 hours a day. A security guard will be posted in the sleeping area throughout the night, and event staff will be sharing the sleeping space with guests. We will be available to assist you at any hour.

The aquarium has staff trained in first-aid, CPR, and the use of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). The building is also equipped with fire alarms and extinguishers.We have evacuation plans in place should it become necessary to leave the aquarium for any reason. If you need help at any time during the event, please contact the nearest staff member and we will assist you.

How many aquarium staffers will be present during the event?
During the event we have staff members, trained volunteers and security officers present. We also have staff, volunteers and security officers stay overnight as well. These staffing levels are adjusted as necessary.

Getting to Your Overnight Adventure

Is Shedd accessible by public transportation?
Shedd Aquarium is easily accessed by public transportation. For all transit information, go to or call 312-836-7000.
The Museum Campus (where Shedd Aquarium is located) is served year-round by the CTA's #146 bus. Service hours are until 10:30 p.m. every day.

From State Street downtown, North Michigan Avenue or the north side of Chicago:
Board the southbound CTA bus #146 Marine-Michigan to the Museum Campus (daily) or board the Red or Orange Line CTA train toward the Loop and exit at the Roosevelt Road/Museum Campus station, where you can transfer to the #146 Museum Campus bus.

From O'Hare Airport:
Board the Blue Line CTA train and exit at Washington, where you can board the southbound #146 bus on State Street.

From the south side of Chicago or from Midway Airport:
Board CTA bus #6 Jeffery Express (daily) and exit across from the Museum Campus or board the Orange Line CTA train toward the Loop and exit at the Roosevelt Road/Museum Campus station, where you can transfer to the #146 Museum Campus bus.

Miscellaneous Other Questions

Are shoes required at all times?
For your safety, shoes or rubber-soled slippers must be worn while guests move around the building.

Where can I smoke cigarettes?
In keeping with the Shedd Aquarium’s intent to provide a safe and healthful work environment and in compliance with the Chicago Clean Indoor Air Ordinance of 2005, smoking in the building and within 15 feet of all public entrances is prohibited. Guests can exit and enter through the Kovler Hall main entrance doors at any time during the night, as those doors will remain unlocked and guarded by security.

Where will our gear be stored during the evening activities?
Sleeping gear will be stored in our Group Reception Center until the 9:30 p.m. Caribbean Reef dive presentation is over. This space is unlocked all evening, so guests do have access to their gear. This area is not guarded by staff. Do not bring valuables to the event. Keep any valuable items (i.e. wallet, purse) with you at all times. Shedd Aquarium is not responsible for any lost or stolen items. Coin-operated lockers are available if you would like to use them. In the morning, all gear must be returned to the Group Reception Center and stored until the end of the event. Gear must be removed by 9 a.m. on Saturday.

Can we stay at the aquarium for the rest of the day on Saturday?
Yes, admission to the aquarium galleries, Wild Reef and Oceanarium on Saturday is included in the overnight package.

Where can we store our gear while we explore the aquarium after the event?
On Saturday morning, guests will bring gear down to the Group Reception Center for storage while they eat breakfast and explore the aquarium. All gear must be moved out of the Group Reception Center by 9:00 a.m. Coin-operated, standard-sized lockers are available to guests for day use.

What can I do to “go green” for the overnight?
- Bring a reusable water bottle or mug.
- Bring your gear in a reusable bag.
- Borrow a camping pad, sleeping bag or other gear from a friend rather than purchasing it new.
- Carpool or take public transportation to the aquarium.
- Use the recycling bins placed throughout the aquarium.

More Questions

If you have questions that cannot be answered when you register, your contact information will be given to the Education Department so that program staff can contact you. If you have questions after you register, please contact us at

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