101 Ways to Blow $100
Don't fight the urge to splurge
Did somebody say, "Calgon, take me away"?
The big news in spas is something ancient--thhouse culture, imported from Russia or the Far East. What that tends to mean: You pay an entry fee, and you get access to an entire community of watery goodness, usually a steam room, a dry sauna, a hot tub, a cold plunge pool, and some chaises to rest. (Sweating is hard work!) Contemporary bathhouses have separate areas or times for men and women, communal nudity being an essential part of the experience, though some do offer coed hours. Treatments always cost extra, and kids are discouraged, if allowed at all.
Aquariums, zoos, and child-friendly museums around the country now offer occasional family sleepovers that come with behind-the-scenes tours, special lectures and games, and the unique chance to explore your kids' favorite spots without the crowds of daytime. Dinner, breakfast, and a souvenir are often thrown in (but you have to pack your own PJs). Some overnights, such as the Halloween one at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium (from $60, 312/692-3351, sheddaquarium.org), sell out well in advance. Others don't require as much advance planning. At the National Aquarium in Baltimore, you spend the night at an underwater viewing area for stingrays, zebra sharks, and other creepy creatures ($59 to $65; 410/576-3833, aqua.org). Expect to hear the sounds of lions roaring and monkeys howling--but don't expect all that restful a night--the San Diego Zoo ($81 to $110; 619/557-3969, sandiegozoo.org), the Honolulu Zoo Society ($39; 808/926-3191, honoluluzoo.org), and the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago ($65 to $75; 312/742-2053, lpzoo.com). Bunk with the fishes as part of the Family Sleepovers program at SeaWorld Orlando. Reserve an overnight stay in the underwater viewing areas and exhibition spaces, and wake up next to manatees, sharks, and polar bears ($75 per person, including pizza and continental breakfast, for children 6 to 12 accompanied by a parent, 800/432-1178, swbg-adventurecamps.com). Campers play Top Gun in a flight simulator in an overnight "encampment" aboard the battleship New Jersey, on the Delaware River across from Philadelphia ($50; 866/877-6262, ext. 203, battleshipnewjersey.org); or sleep in bunks on the U.S.S. Cobia, a WWII sub in Manitowoc, Wisc. ($30; 866/724-2356, wisconsinmaritime.org). If your family is already booked for summer, sleepovers that somehow make science seem cool are held during the school year at Philadelphia's Franklin Institute Science Museum ($41, 215/448-1114, fi.edu) and at the Dallas Museum of Natural History ($30, 214/421-3466, ext. 308, dallasdino.org).