Overnights FAQs

If you still have questions after reading the FAQs, please contact us at overnights@sheddaquarium.org.

Registration and refunds

How do I register? What information should I prepare in order to register?

Please contact our reservations department at 312-692-3333 to register for a group or a family overnight. Please have your name, phone number, email, address and method of payment ready. You will also need to tell us how many adults and children are in your party. If you are registering for a group overnight, please have your group name and group leader’s name ready.

Can I add participants to my reservation if there is space available?

Once an event is sold out, no additional participants will be registered.

What happens if Shedd needs to cancel the event?

Shedd Aquarium reserves the right to cancel an event at any time. If your event is cancelled, you will be notified by phone, and a full refund will be made within 30 days. Your refund method will be based on your original method of payment.

What happens if our family needs to cancel? What is the refund policy for family overnights?

For family overnights, no refunds will be issued unless Shedd Aquarium cancels the program.

What happens if our group needs to cancel? What is the refund policy for group overnights?

A refund of 90 percent will be given if your group overnight cancellation is received at least 90 days before your overnight date. A refund of 50 percent will be given if your cancellation is received 60 to 89 days prior to your overnight date. No refund will be given for cancellations made less than 60 days before your overnight date. Refunds will not be given for individual cancellations within your group. If an individual in your group cancels, it is the responsibility of the group to find a replacement.

Are there discounts available for members?

We offer a price reduction for Shedd Aquarium members. Please be sure to mention that you are a Shedd Aquarium member when you register.

Why does Shedd need the email addresses of all adult participants?

As a service to you, we send out updated information and important notices relating to the event you registered for. Email is the fastest and easiest way we can communicate with all program participants.

Age and chaperone policies

What ages are permitted to attend?

Participants must be at least 5 years old. Please note that activities are geared for children ages 5 to 12. You must register and pay in advance for all the people who will be attending.

Do adults need to come with our group or family?

Ye,s adult supervision is required for both group and family overnights. For group overnights, we require one adult chaperone for every five children who register. For family overnights, all children must be accompanied by an adult.

Arrival and departure

What time does the event start?

Check-in for the overnight begins at 6:30 p.m. Guests who arrive early will not be able to wait inside the aquarium.

Can I arrive late?

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

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 members 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.

All group leaders are asked to send in a roster and signed behavior contract before their event. The roster includes the name of each guest, specifying adult or child, as well as email contacts for the adults so that we can provide important event information the week of the overnight program. The behavior contract is an important document listing all of the rules and policies for the event.

Can we leave before 8:30 a.m.?

Guests are welcome to depart any time they need. All doors, except at the main entrance, are locked throughout the event, and any guest who leaves will not be able to re-enter the building except through the main entrance. Security staff members will be stationed in the main entrance to ensure only event guests enter. Please inform an event staff member if you or a guest needs to leave the event and return later.

Can we stay at the aquarium for the rest of the day on Saturday?

Yes, admission to the aquarium galleries, Wild Reef and Abbott Oceanarium on Saturday is included in the overnight package.


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 can 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 arranged to have the lots open starting at 5 p.m. You may 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 a.m. on Saturday. After that time, the lot may charge you for an additional day of parking, give you a ticket, or tow your car.

Food and allergies

What food is served for dinner, the snack and breakfast?

Dinner consists of a chicken finger, macaroni and cheese, vegetables and apple sauce. Milk and your choice of fountain beverages are included. The snack is a packet of goldfish crackers, fruit snacks, water and coffee. Breakfast is continental-style with mini bagels and muffins, a choice of cold cereals, and fresh fruit. Coffee, milk and juice are also served with breakfast.

What can you do to accommodate a food allergy?

Please email us at groupovernights@sheddaquarium.org with a list of food allergies. We try our best to accommodate food allergies, but we are not always able to do so. We will contact you if there are any issues. 

Will bottled water be provided?

Beverages included in the program price are provided at dinner, the bedtime snack and breakfast. Water fountains are available in the aquarium for your use at any time. Bottled beverages 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 and drinks are not allowed during the event. Dinner, a 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 groupovernights@sheddaquarium.org

Is alcohol allowed at this event?

Alcoholic beverages are strictly prohibited with no exceptions! If anyone in your group is caught with alcohol, the entire group will be escorted off the premises, per the behavior contract.

What's included

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.

Do we get to see an aquatic show?

During the event, there is a guest orientation and an aquatic show. The animals that are part of the show are on a rotating schedule, so each show is different. The show 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.

Sleeping arrangements

Where do we sleep?

Guests will sleep in the Waters of the World galleries and around the Caribbean Reef exhibit. Sleeping is prohibited in Amazon Rising, Wild Reef and the Abbott Oceanarium.

Will our group be able to sleep in the same area?

For group overnights, to ensure that there is enough space for each group, we assign sleeping spaces based on the number of guests. We try our best to keep the groups separated by sex, but understand that this is not always possible. For example, if we can, we will assign all Cub Scout packs in one area and all Girl Scout troops in another area. Aquarium staff members will inspect sleeping bag arrangement and might ask you to adjust your gear to maintain state-required emergency exit corridors. If there is not enough space in your designated sleeping area, guests with air mattresses (see below for details on air mattresses) might be asked to relocate, which may be away from the group and animal exhibits.

For family overnights, can we choose where we sleep?

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.

What should we bring?


  • Sleeping bag
  • Pillow
  • Camping pad (for added comfort)
  • Toothbrush and paste
  • Clothes to sleep in (guests must wear pants and shirts at all times, shoes must be worn when walking around the aquarium) 
  • Extra money for vending machines and gift stores (optional)
  • 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.

What SHOULDN'T we bring?

  • Personal coolers 
  • Outside food (exceptions permitted for allergy/medical needs)
  • Alcohol is strictly prohibited—no exceptions
  • Tents 
  • Flashlights, laser pointers, glow sticks, etc.

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 forbidden during your overnight adventure due to fire safety hazards. You may bring an air mattress  to the event, but you will be charged a $15 convenience fee for each air mattress. You must pay in advance when you register for your overnight experience. Some good alternatives to air mattresses include inflatable pool mats or camping pads.

Is it very dark after lights out?

We turn off all unnecessary lights after lights-out. For animal and human safety, some lights will remain on during 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 you maintain a comfortable sleeping temperature.

Can we use flashlights?

Flashlights and flash photography are not permitted. Bright lights and flashes can cause stress in many of our animals, and animal safety is a top priority for us. Flashlights might be used by staff members for guest and aquarium safety reasons if necessary.

Safety and security

What are the supervision requirements for children? Can I leave my child unattended during the event?

Children may not be left unattended during the event. For group overnights, we ask that one adult be present for every five children. For example, if you have 22 children in your group, you will need to have at least five adults attend the event. For family overnights, we require that all children have an adult with them.

What precautions are taken to ensure our safety?

We view your safety as one of our top priorities. We have security staff members on duty 24 hours a day. Event staff will also stay overnight. 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. 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?

Staff members and trained volunteers will be stationed throughout the aquarium to help you enjoy your time during the event or address any issues that arise. We adjust our staffing levels as necessary.

Are shoes required at all times?

For everyone's safety, shoes or rubber-soled slippers must be worn while guests move around the building.

Where can I smoke cigarettes?

In keeping with 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.

For group overnights, where will our gear be stored during the evening activities?

For group overnights, when you arrive, an aquarium guide will greet you and lead you to your sleeping space. Your group will drop off gear in your sleeping space and then proceed to dinner. You will be able to set up your sleeping gear starting at 10 p.m.

For family overnights, 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 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.

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 8:30 a.m. Coin-operated standard-sized lockers are available to guests for day use.

Other questions

Will my scout earn any badges at this event?

The activities are not designed for Scouts to earn badges. Check with your Scout leader to see how the overnight’s activities fit into your Scout’s merit plan. 

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.

Can I buy overnight t-shirts or patches at the event?

Shedd Aquarium gift stores will be open during the event and have overnight themed T-shirts and patches. T-shirts are $14.99 plus tax for children's sizes and $16.99 plus tax for adult sizes. Patches are $3.99 plus tax.

Can I order overnight t-shirts or patches for my group?

If you would like to order these items in advance, please call our gift store at 312-692-3285 and ask for a manager or director.