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Have a Date Night at the Museum

Curate an evening of cocktails and culture with these 10 artsy nights out

By Barbara and Jim Twardowski

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Jon Mattrisch Photography/Milwaukee Art Museum

Next time you’re yearning for a unique date night or a fun outing with friends, search the websites of local museums. These repositories of knowledge are opening their doors after hours to adults. You can mingle and socialize among priceless pieces of art, ancient artifacts and stimulating science exhibits. Conversations will never lag when you can use the surroundings as a jumping off point. Programs range from parties and performances to demonstrations and interactive play. Here are 10 museums where learning and dates are never dull; scroll through the slideshow to read all about them.

Exploratorium Press Office

After Dark Thursday Nights: Exploratorium in San Francisco

After dinner and drinks by the Bay, play with hundreds of interactive displays or crawl through the pitch black Tactile Dome. Each evening includes a thought-provoking program like delving into the science of sound or talking with avant-garde filmmaker Ernie Gehr. Since 1969, this lively public lab of learning has encouraged visitors to explore the world through science, art and human perception. The After Dark series is every Thursday night from 6 to 10 p.m. Tickets for a single evening are $19.95.

Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee/Ogden Museum of Southern Art

Ogden After Hours: Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans

The weekly entertainment series Ogden After Hours brings a range of performers to this vivacious Warehouse District museum from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays. Of course, there’s a cash bar and various food pop-ups. The events showcase Southern musicians, films, authors and more. The delightful sounds of Swamp Pop, Cajun, rockabilly, jazz, folk or blues pair nicely with the museum’s comprehensive collection of art. Cost: $13.50, but it's free with proof of a Thursday admission, which is $13.50 for adults under 65 and $11 for those 65+.

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

After Dark: The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

No kids are allowed at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis monthly After Dark series. Guests, who must be 21 and older, buy tickets ($19.75 to $20.75) with proceeds benefiting The Children’s Museum Fund. The biggest children’s museum in the world hosts fun, themed events like Weird Science and '80s Pop. The After Dark program won a “Best New Hangout for Adults” award from Indianapolis Monthly.

Adler Planetarium

Adler After Dark: Adler Planetarium in Chicago

A romantic evening with the best view of Chicago’s skyline is sure to impress your date. Adler After Dark changes its theme every month (cost: $20 to $25 for nonmembers; $15 to $20 for members). The recent “Aliens Among Us” was a hit, and the costumes were optional. Adults 21 and older gain full admission to the exhibits and galleries, hear special lectures, participate in stellar hands-on educational presentations, watch sky shows in three theaters, enjoy live entertainment and may access the Doane Observatory (weather permitting). Held the third Thursday of the month. Hugely popular — buy your tickets in advance.

The Franklin Institute

Science After Hours: The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia

An evening of experiments, games and demonstrations created by the pros at Philly’s premiere science museum is a formula for fun at Science After Hours. From exploring time travel to concocting cocktails, there’s a different theme each month (October/Spirits, November/Hollywood and December/Ugly Sweater Party). Wander through the museum exhibits, enjoy live performances and drinks from a cash bar. Must be 21 to join the fun. Tickets are $20 for non-members.

Michigan Science Center

After Dark: Michigan Science Center in Detroit

Known as the “Thinking Person’s Happy Hour,” the Michigan Science Center hosts After Dark the third Thursday of each month. A little bit of nostalgia, a little bit of geek — the adult-only events are a bargain at $15 and a cash bar. Inspiration for the fun-filled evenings has come from James Bond, nocturnal creatures, vintage videos, Mardi Gras and the kinetic ’80s.

Amy Logan Carr/Explora

Adult Night: Explora in Albuquerque, N.M.

Drawing several hundred people, Adult Night has been a hit with singles clubs, active retirement communities, groups of friends and couples for a decade. For only $8, attendees can roam the two floors, listen to music (usually a live band), observe ham radio operators and get a telescopic view of the night sky on the observation deck. Held every other month with changing themes such as “The Science of Beer.”

Fernbank Museum of Natural History

Fernbank After Dark: Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta

Debuting this year, Fernbank After Dark is an adults-only science series. Tickets are $15, and an additional $5 gets you admission to the Giant Screen Theater. Drinks and food are available à la carte from the 42-foot long Mesozoic Bar staffed with seven bartenders and the Fernbank Cafe. Live music complements the party atmosphere on the second Friday of each month from 7 to 11 p.m.

Jon Mattrisch Photography/Milwaukee Art Museum

MAM After Dark: Milwaukee Art Museum

Held 10 months out of the year, MAM After Dark attracts sold-out crowds of more than 2,000. Folks gather for food, music, drinks and art in the city’s architecturally amazing building. The museum’s coffee shop turns into a wine and cheese lounge. Guests can dine on a three-course prix fixe dinner at Cafe Calatrava Lounge. Meet professional artists and purchase their works. Play at DIY art stations. This is the ninth year the museum is hosting these uber-popular themed events.

Minneapolis Institute of Art

Third Thursday: Minneapolis Institute of Art

There’s no better way to experience the sixth largest art museum in the United States than going to the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s (Mia) monthly Third Thursday series. The always-free museum offers a free, themed evening from 6 to 9 p.m. with rotating elements of live music, libations and community engagement. Themes range from Nerd Thursday to Hello Summer and Pride, with some yearly recurring Third Thursdays like Art of Food, Bike Night and Art & Lit. October’s theme is Artoberfest featuring craft brew tastings inspired by a local craft brewery exhibition. Attendees will mingle with the brewers, create their own koozie (a foam sleeve for a beverage container) and peruse Mia’s normally ticketed gallery exhibit at no cost.



Barbara and Jim Twardowski write about travel, lifestyle and boomer topics from the New Orleans area. Read More
Jim Twardowski writes about travel, lifestyle and boomer topics from the New Orleans area. Read More
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