Where can families eat at city-wide evening events?

There’s an interesting discussion going on over at this CultureVultures blog post about Leeds Light Night. Light Night and Nuit Blanche events also take place in cities all over the world, just like Museums at Night, so there’s a lot that we can learn from experiences shared by people who organise and visit them.

In this case, the debate is around family-friendly places to eat during the evening’s events. I’ve left a comment pointing readers towards our case study about the city of Dorchester, reproduced below. Although Dorchester’s event was on a smaller scale, with 2000 visitors as opposed to 15000, it offers a model that could potentially scale much larger.

A photo of smiling children with a worksheet in a museum

Young visitors to Museums at Night in Dorchester

In Dorchester, World Heritage (which operates the Dinosaur Museum, Tutankhamun Exhibition, Teddy Bear Museum, & Terracotta Warriors Museum) partnered with the Dorset County Museum, the Keep Military Museum and 10 eateries – attracting over 2000 visitors for Museums at Night.

World Heritage and the Dorset County Museum had been a part of Museums at Night in previous years, offering discrete events, but recognised that by working together they could offer a more exciting package, so they set up the partnership for 2010 resulting in something totally unique. By working with local restaurants, they encouraged people to see their museums visit as part of a whole evening’s entertainment.

Being part of Museums at Night 2010 “raised the profile of Dorchester and all six museums both locally and nationally. It brought in many visitors on the night that had not been before, or had certainly not been for many years. Cross-fertilisation of business from one museum to another occurred, and it also raised the museums’ profile with local businesses. They were perceived as a force for good in the town.”
Tim Batty, World Heritage

A photo of two women smiling in a museum

These two friends came to Dorchester specially for Museums at Night

The museums decided to focus on encouraging visitors to enjoy their existing collections by offering a family ticket costing £6 that covered admittance to all of the museums involved. The event was a great success and for 2011 the museums are looking to develop the visitor information available by providing a map and possibly developing a trail linking all six venues.

“It’s good value for money! It’s something nice, something different, something educational but it’s also fun as well.” “We just wanted something nice to do with your children for the evening – we made use of the offer for dinner, so we had a meal out as well.”
Family who travelled from Bournemouth to Dorchester for Museums at Night.

All photographs courtesy of Rachel Hayward.

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