London Sleepovers

In my day, the quality of a sleepover was judged by how many Wagon Wheels the hostess had managed to nick from the biscuit barrel and whether there was a Judy Blume book that mentioned willies.
We talked about boys, whether Andrew Ridgeley was a better snogger than George Michael (give me a break – this was pre-Coming Out and I thought it was perfectly normal for straight men to put shuttle cocks in their shorts and highlight their hair), and we spent hours numbering the boys in school in order of fanciability.
The key was to stay awake until midnight. We never did.

About a year ago, my mum confessed that she knew about the Wagon Wheels and that she knew there was no chance we’d ever reach the midnight feast so always poked her head around the door around 10pm to turn off the lights.
But it was fun. Like, totally, soooooo much fun!

There was nothing like that illicit feeling of doing something after bedtime.
For us, our kicks came from knowing we should be snuggled up, but that we were in fact trying on lipstick, giggling and just simply staying up late.
These days, like so much since my 1970s childhood, things have moved on.

No longer is a sleepover about crumbs in the bed. It is much, much more. What child, for instance, wouldn’t want to be left inside a toy shop at night? And not just any toy shop, either – one of the world’s biggest and best.
Hamley’s, a London landmark since 1760, now opens its doors at night for private sleepovers.
From the moment children arrive at 9pm, it is magical. Boys adopt a princes theme, girls, princesses and it all kicks off in the perfect way with a visit to the in-store Sweet Factory to stock up on the 2011 version of Wagon Wheels.
At 10pm, there is a treasure hunt and various games among the seven floors of toys, before the all-important late-night feast cooked by your very own, personal chef, if you please.
At midnight, sleepover slumberers climb into sleeping bags and curl up with juice and popcorn in front of a movie. Don’t tell Mum!
Breakfast is served at 8am before the famous Regent Street shop opens its doors to the public.
Girls can even choose the ultimate indulgence of incorporating a pamper party into the night which includes hairstyling, a mini cleansing face mask, foot polish and nail polish with funky nail art.
At £450 a head, it’s not cheap, but once in a lifetime it definitely is.
(For more information visit

If adventure is more your wee one’s thing, it doesn’t get much better than an overnighter on the Golden Hinde, London’s full-sized replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Tudor warship.
Billed an "Ovenight Living History Tour," shipmates get the chance to take on crew roles as officers, gunners or barber surgeons in full authentic 16th century costume.
They are given a tour of the ship which is filled with actors also playing in-keeping roles, and activities include cannon firing, navigational workshops, gunners’ workshops – even a mock battle!
2200hrs is officially ‘lights out" on the gun deck but get this, it’s at the "discretion of the staff" so there is still hope for a midnight feast, though this might have to be peas and rice or pigeon pie, or whatever’s in the 16th century fridge.
Not for the feint-hearted is this kind of sleepover but it really is "living history". Organisers of the events have been inundated with letters and emails from children who have loved every minute of the 16 hours of being totally immersed in the dark, dusty, salty past offered by this full-sized working reconstruction of the famous ship.
The actors excel at enthralling their temporary crew with gruesome tales of lice, barbaric surgery and torturous punishment for pirates.
(For more information visit

But if you prefer your history to be of the pre-historic kind, why not spend a night at the museum?
Dino Snores (geddit?) is a sleepover Natural History Museum-style.
No London childhood is complete without craning a tiny, apprehensive neck up at the venue’s world famous blue whale but imagine that at night, torchlit. Spookysaurus.
Sleepovers are generally held monthly and include the torchlit tour through the iconic Central Hall, a live show – Revenge of The Minibeast, about biting, stinging creatures – a chance to make your own fossil to take home and the all-important snuggle down in the shadow of Dippy, the 150-million-year-old Diplodocus skeleton.
(For more information visit

The Science Museum was one of the capital’s first to come up with overnighters and the events are as popular today as when they began.
Its family sleepovers are described as an "unforgettable night of electrifying shows and interactive workshops" and are based around a different theme each month.
Jonathan Ross and Prince Andrew are among those whose children have taken part.
(For more information visit

Bring a whole new meaning to the phrase “don’t let the bed bugs bite” and spend the night with the scaly, slimy and slithery residents of London Zoo’s BUGS exhibition.
Your neighbours could be anything from spiders and beetles to tamarins and stick insects, but don’t worry, they are all safely behind glass so won’t bother you.
As well as checking out the residents of BUGS there are animal talks, tours, games and story-telling sessions, all with a zoological theme.
Sleepover groups are also taken on a night-time tour around the zoo – a chance to see what really goes on once all the visitors and keepers have gone home.
Many of the creatures are actually more active at night and by torchlight, behave more as they would in the wild.
(For more information visit

So parents, never again will the boring old bedroom be a good enough venue for a slumber party. You have been warned! Follow our guide to a sensational sleepover and you’ll be having sweet dreams.