Introduce your family to the spectacular night sky. Here are five places to experience a star-filled landscape:
Under African skies
Check into Little Kulala, a solar-powered, desert eco-retreat within southern Africa’s expansive Kulala Wilderness Reserve. Hop aboard a Land Rover to scope out springbok, ostrich and oryx, or float above the dramatic landscape, the planet’s oldest desert, in a hot air balloon. Visit the world’s tallest dunes amid Namibia’s famed “sand sea.” After a dramatic day, cool off in your private plunge pool. Then, fall asleep on your rooftop Sky Bed and enjoy a late-night show where shooting stars and the Milky Way serve as headliners.
For more: https://wilder ness-safaris.com; https:// namibiatourism.com.na
Death Valley National Park, California
The park’s 3.4 million-acre expanse and the region’s clean, dry air combine to provide an ideal vantage point for observing shooting stars, meteor showers and constellations galore. The conditions have earned the park Gold-Tier Dark Sky status. The area shares a strong commitment to avoid light pollution and keep the night sky visible. Stay at The Ranch or The Inn at Death Valley and join the Las Vegas Astronomical Society for Star Parties on selected evenings. During the winter months, the National Park Service offers Ranger programs that provide an introduction to the cosmos at a famous Death Valley location. Pro tip: visit Death Valley during the new moon phase (when the moon is not visible and the sky is darkest) to see the most stars.
For more: nps.gov/deva; https://www.oasisatdeath valley.com
For a multigenerational adventure, gather at the Sofitel Rome Villa Borghese for an evening picnic and stargazing experience. You’ll learn which constellations and other celestial bodies may have been given their names by Roman astronomers. It’s part of an extended family package that also includes horseback riding down the ancient Appian Way, a tour of the city’s top gelato spots, a gladiator school experience for the kids, as well as a yoga session for the adults. Villa Borghese, a former 19th century Roman palazzo, lies within walking distance of some of the city’s best-known cultural landmarks and parks.
For more: https://all.accor.com/hotel/1312/index.en. shtml
Colorado by night
Colorado is home to eight International Dark Sky Parks and five International Dark Sky Communities, some designated within the last year. Check out Colorado’s self-guided stargazing tour to craft your own curated, celestial tour. Consider Westcliffe and Silver Cliff in the state’s Wet Mountain Valley, noted as the highest elevation of all International Dark Sky Communities in the world. The valley sits between the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the west and the Wet Mountains to the east, providing dramatic views in every direction. Don’t miss the Smokey Jack Observatory, which boasts a retractable roof and 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain and five-inch refractor telescopes with computer-guided pointing and tracking to view the majestic night sky. Ask about the free public star parties held throughout the year. New to Westcliffe’s Main Street this summer is Planet Walk, an interpretive, self-guided walking adventure of a 4 billion-to-one scale model of the entire Solar System.
For more: https://www.colorado.com/coloradostar gazing
Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah
Home to some of the darkest skies in the country, this scenic landscape was the first to receive the International Dark Sky Park certification. Massive natural bridges form star-filled windows through which you can observe the skies as the Pueblo people did some 800 years ago. Among the most spectacular sights is the river of Milky Way brilliance observed rising over Owachomo Bridge.
For more: www.nps.gov/nabr/index.htm
Lynn O’Rourke Hayes (LOHayes.com) is an author, family travel expert and enthusiastic explorer. Gather more travel intel on Twitter @lohayes, Facebook, or via FamilyTravel.com
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