Friday, January 17, 2014

Destination: Sky's the Limit!

image courtesy of Just2shutter/

Exotic locales and national and state parks are among the top U.S. family travel sites; but did you know that many of these vacation spots also have an added bonus?  Many of these more remote areas have spectacular dark night skies, perfect for star gazing!  The majority of these locations have their relative distance from large cities and towns to thank for this amazing perk, but others are situated near towns with light ordinances to reduce light pollution.

From coast to coast, there are numerous fantastic locations from which to stargaze!  Five of our favorite vacation locations the U.S. that sport amazing dark skies (as well as plenty of daytime draws!) are:

1.      Mauna Kea (Hawaii) - featuring the W.M. Keck Observatory at over 9000 ft. above sea level!
3.      Big Bend National Park (Texas) - don't miss the McDonald Observatory!
4.      Cherry Springs State Park (Pennsylvania) - another IDA-certified Dark Sky Park!
5.      Acadia National Park (Maine) - one of the first places the sun touches the east coast!

And you don't need to be an astronomer to appreciate the awe-inspiring spectacle that is a dark, clear night sky brimming with the distant light of stars and planets far, far away. Simply gazing out into the universe can be a great way to relax and share an appreciation for the beauty of the natural world around us with your kids.  If you want to look like supermom (or dad!) by putting some names to those beautiful celestial wonders, there are a number of fantastic apps you can downoad that will identify many night sky objects (my personal favorite is Google Sky Map for Android).

How and wherever you choose to appreciate the night sky with your family, remember to brush up on basic stargazing etiquette.  Also, pack for the adventure; you (and your kids!) will be amazed how much you can see with just a simple pair of binoculars, and if you've got a telescope, by all means, bring it along!  No matter whether you are an amateur astronomer or are stargazing for the first time, it will be an adventure you and your family will never forget!

Safe and happy travels!
-Destination Mom

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