Private Party at The Met Museum For My 36th Birthday

Last updated: May 25, 2023

As a kid in Texas, I never went to a big summer camp.

The closest I came was probably the Boy Scouts.

Me as a Tiger Cub. Photo by my mother

After listening to an episode of This American Life about summer camps, I was inspired by the idea of teamwork, activities, and having fun in a special place with rituals and traditions.

Theme: Camp Metropolitan

I asked the Museum Hack team to help make a summer camp experience throughout some of my favorite galleries at the Met Museum for this private party – which also happened to be my 36th birthday.

Me setting up the night for my friends at Camp Metropolitan

Many people use their birthday as the one night of the year to become a party host. Because I host parties very often, I decided to use my birthday to push the limits.

At Museum Hack, we create amazing, custom experiences for our clients. This was an opportunity to go wild and show what our team can do. I wanted us to try new things and pull out all of the stops. I was determined to make this a night to remember for my friends and family.

Group of my friends doing icebreakers (I love icebreakers) beneath the Diana statue in Gallery 700

Guest List

Before the party, I made a page with short bios of everyone attending so that the icebreakers would be easier – and for people to connect with each other afterward.

Headshots of smart fun great people in New York City who I'm lucky to call my friends
Max, Nathan, Anya, Alex, Mary, Ari, Rich, my sister Emily – lots more, all with Bios and contact info.

Welcome to Camp

Everyone was instructed to meet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 6:00pm SHARP on Friday night, 8 December 2017.

Welcome to Camp Metropolitan, the imaginary summer camp we created for my 36th birthday party at the Met

People got three things at check-in:

  1. A special magnetic name tag
  2. A custom curated list of “bunk-mates,” or specific guests that I wanted my friends to meet and potential topics for them to discuss
  3. Star stickers to give out to other guests who best represented “camp spirit”

Next, my friends were welcomed by our collection of “camp counselors.”

Zak, dressed in Museum Hack red, hi-fives my friend Anya as Michael Alexis looks on in the back. Photos by Dennis Cahlo unless otherwise noted

The counselors were tour guides from Museum Hack. Some dressed up, and many took on new personalities to embrace their roles and promote summer camp spirit at the museum.

Kylie and Scott, two of our camp counselors, welcoming guests to the Met Museum for my birthday
Anna, one of the Camp Metropolitan Team Leads, holding an egg which has special camp colors inside
We gave away the eggs at- where else- the Faberge cases. Kate is telling a story about them here.

2023 update: I’ve been thinking a lot more about adult summer camps! I wrote a list of summer camp activities on my other blog here.

Initiation, Hazing, and Rituals

All camps have rituals and visual cues that make them special. I decided that we needed some, and bandanas could do the trick.

John and Mark proudly showing off their camp colors
Everyone* loved the bandanas, including my sister, Emily, and my friend Tynan, pictured here at the arts and crafts table

*Note: Not everyone actually loved the bandanas. But it made me happy to see my friends wearing them, and it made it easier to tell who was in the party.

Activities at the Met Museum

Each of the Museum Hack tour guides had a very special activity that guests were privately invited to. We tried to model this after the Sleep No More experience, where guests are pulled away for personal encounters inside the museum.

“Come with me, campers.” Kevin led a highly-rated private guest activity in the Visible Storage area
Kylie led a sword-fighting demonstration in the Arms and Armor galleries
Sword fighting activity, featuring my sister, Emily, in the Arms and Armor galleries
For this activity, Kate talked about good and bad art in front of the American Wing
Guests were sometimes led with their eyes closed to new galleries

Merit Badges and Spirit Stickers

After each of the special private tour activities, campers were given a “merit badge” to affix to their name tag.

Two very attractive gentlemen
You can see the “merit badge” stickers we earned on our name tags in this picture of my friend Tynan and I.

Special Exhibits

Later in the night, we briefly visited the David Hockney exhibit, posing for a group photo in my favorite room…

Almost everyone at the Met Museum for my 36th birthday party, notably missing my father who had accidentally wandered off

… before ending the night under the Sistine Chapel for the Michelangelo exhibit.

Group under the Sistine Chapel digital projection, with my sister Emily laying on the floor for a better perspective

The After-Party

When the museum closed at 9:00pm, we boarded private shuttle buses that were waiting outside.

Party on the bus! We had DJs and adult beverages

They took us straight to Peter Tunney‘s art gallery, a huge space with fun art!

Continuing in the summer camp theme, we had tacos, guacamole, pizza, and lots of drinks. This and other after-party photos by Sam Joseph

Lots more friends met us at the after-party.

The Museum Hack team brought their “A” game to the after-party in Peter Tunney’s gallery

The Drumline

At 10:30, I made a short speech…

Me standing on a chair

In my speech, I told everyone:

“I moved to New York City for the great people. I love my friends here. My parents think I’m crazy, because we always lived far away from big towns. But this city allows me to do so much, including crazy things, like tonight. And I remembered that my father really likes marching bands…”

and then a surprise guest marched in: the Brooklyn United Marching Band drum line.

The drum line from the Brooklyn United Marching Band makes a surprise appearance at my birthday after-party

Hiring a drumline was the single best decision of the after-party. That, and tacos.

Video of Drumline Entrance

The drumline entrance was a big surprise.

Front line drummers for Brooklyn United. They were AWESOME. Photo by Dennis

For many people, this was a big highlight of the night.

My friend Mirza enjoying the special performance at the after-party, with Kelly snapping a pic in the background.

It made me so happy to be dancing front-row to a drumline at my own birthday party, surrounded by my family and friends in a great space.

Me dancing like a lunatic to the drummers because I was so happy

More Pictures

Look how many spirit stickers Avi got! That’s a ton. He won a prize for this effort. Great art by Peter Tunney in the background.
Kelly, one of our camp counselors, talked about art and science at the Met Museum.
Tasia from Museum Hack presents me with a birthday burrito
I really like this group photo from the after-party

When Camp Ends

The idea of spending a night of summer camp in my favorite museum, with my favorite people, hosted by the best fucking renegade museum tour guides in the world – this is the best birthday gift I could get.

Thank you to everyone who helped make it a reality.

How Would You Describe My Party?

Afterwards, I asked my friends how they would describe the party. They said things like:

  • “Gonzo renegade museum tour, followed by one surprise treat after another.”
  • “A Wes Anderson Movie.”
  • “Awesome gathering of cool and interesting people in an unlikely but obviously incredible venue.”
  • “A magical, educational, informal rogue night at the Met Museum.”

This was the most ambitious party I’ve ever thrown, and I learned a lot.

What’s something interesting that caught your eye here? Let me know in the comments. Or what’s your favorite birthday party?

Previously: VIDEO: My 35th Birthday at the Brooklyn Museum, and my 30th Birthday at the Met Museum.

Thank you to Bailey for so much coordination in the weeks leading up, we couldn’t have done it without her help. Thank you to Zak R and Anna for rehearsing and organizing, all of the Museum Hack NYC guides and other staff involved, Peter Tunney for use of the gallery and Ethan for scheduling + logistics, Avi and Dustin for DJ’ing, our excellent photographers Dennis and Sam, Brooklyn United Marching Band for my favorite drum line, Nina Simon for making something in California called MuseumCamp even though this was TOTALLY different, Mike Smith for misc help, Tasia for the Arts and Crafts table, bartenders for proactively helping us all stay hydrated, and everyone who attended the birthday party rehearsal the week before.. And my parents and sister for traveling from Georgia and Colorado to NYC to celebrate with me.

Me with the Brooklyn United Marching Band


  • Nicole Restani: This is rad. Happy belated!!!
  • Nagina Sethi Abdullah: Wow!! This looks like a huge success! No one will ever forget this! Love the camp theme and the after-party space!

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