Dinosaurs are cool. Everyone knows that. (And quite frankly, anyone who doesn’t think they’re cool probably isn’t worth knowing.) Like many people, an early memory of dinosaurs is going to watch Jurassic Park as a child and being captivated and terrified in equal measures. In fact, dinosaurs fascinated me so much that I went on to have a bearded dragon and a crested gecko as pets. These are kind of like tiny dinosaurs, but you can’t set them on your enemies like a T. rex.
Anyway, the Natural History Museum’s Dino Snores For Grown-ups event has been piquing my interest quite some time. So when I managed to get a pair of tickets, the date was marked off on the calendar and the days were counted down with pant-wetting excitement. Pretty much everyone I bumped into was told about it and also agreed it sounded awesome.
We rocked up at the museum at 6.30pm and were shown inside. My dino buddy had never been to the Natural History Museum, so it was great to share their first impressions of one of London’s best buildings. Stuff the Gherkin, the NHM is where it’s at. We were handed sleeping mats and told to find a spot to set up camp, and elected for a cosy little alcove with a pickled coelacanth. After wandering over to the bar to be furnished with a free glass of fizz, we were told the rules. Essentially, have fun, don’t get too drunk, no drugs and no sex. Easy enough.
Straightaway it was time for a yummy three-course dinner of ham hock terrine, roast lamb with potato dauphinoise and a so-delicious-it-should-be-illegal banoffee mess. The only slight grumble at this point would be the lack of wine on the table, especially as they provided wine glasses. But no fear, there is a bar with reasonably priced booze. A quiz on the table helped to get us chatting with our fellow diners and we were pretty impressed with only getting one question wrong. Well, did YOU know that beached whales and dolphins were property of the Queen?!
We were then ushered off to enjoy a science show that was presented by the lovely Dr Tim Cockerill. Cue cool explosions, glow worm chemistry and the take-home message that ‘insects are normal, we are weird’. Next, it was a bit of science stand-up comedy with Simon Watt, who had us all crying with laughter and hating the panda in equal measures. The botany department then let us take a look at some pressed plants – some dating right back to the 1600s – that are important in the flavouring of gin. Gin was then tasted and we agreed that it was indeed delicious.
After enjoying the shows, all of the museum exhibitions were opened up and we were free to look around with a pint in hand. Wandering the almost empty museum was absolutely incredible. You could spend your time over the exhibits without feeling rushed or having squawking children barging past. Luckily for us, the Wildlife Photographer Of The Year 2014 and the brand-new Coral Reefs: Secret Cities Of The Seas events were there, which usually cost £14 and £10 respectively. We loved this image but were absolutely blown away with the high quality right across the board. In Coral Reefs, you can go on an undersea adventure by controlling a camera that plunges you beneath the waves of important marine sites like the Great Barrier Reef. As scuba divers, we both loved exploring the environments and identifying the animals. We also loved the giant clam specimen, which was easily large enough for a person to crouch inside.
Then we went off to have a look around the insect gallery, before ascending up to the top balcony to try some of the real thing. While the weaver ants were simply flavourless and crunchy, the bamboo worms tasted like pork scratchings. Perhaps they will be the next bar snack trend? I wimped out of trying the crickets and the silk moth pupae as they simply looked too much like the food I give my aforementioned reptiles! We then ambled to the top of the museum to stare in awe at the giant sequoia specimen. It’s a humbling and emotional experience to stand in front of a once-living tree that was over 1,300 years old when it was felled.
We then went off to spend some time with the dinosaurs – weirdly enough, when it’s 2am and you’re getting sleepy, the almost life-size animatronic animals are pretty frightening and really make you appreciate that a T. rex could rip you open like a bag of crisps.
By now, our sleeping bags were calling. More energetic Snorers had the option of an all-night monster movie marathon in the marine invertebrate gallery. But we snuggled down and listened to the harpist instead. Looking around the exhibits is incredible for science geeks. But you simply can’t beat lying back in a beautiful, history-filled building to listen to the haunting sound of Jurassic Park’s theme tune ringing out at 3am, while shadows dance across Dippy. It certainly wasn’t cold that was sending shivers down our spines.
We woke up at about 6am when the dawn light started filtering in through the windows of the museum, which is arguably the best way to arise in the morning. While we didn’t get much sleep, we didn’t really expect to and nobody minded because we were all so excited and giddy from such a wonderful night. At 7.30am it was time for a full English brekkie and a look around the museum shop.
While tickets don’t come cheap at £180 a head, they’re definitely worth it simply because they give you the opportunity to truly appreciate all the exhibits and the beautiful building, while enjoying a wonderful evening with just 200 people. And c’mon – bed, breakfast, an evening meal and entertainment in London would probably cost more than that anyway!