Some families travel to see big cities with lots of activity and action, while others travel to escape the commotion and get in touch with nature. That is where astrotourism comes in — a type of travel taking you to remote locations where the night sky is unobstructed and unaffected by light pollution so stargazing is not only possible, but anyone can do it. It is a great way for families to experience not only nature, but also new destinations together.
This March, one of the best places to introduce the family to this great travel experience is deep in the California desert at the Death Valley Dark Sky Festival.
Death Valley National Park, approximately 120 miles from Las Vegas and nearly 300 miles from Los Angeles, is the ideal location for this event thanks to its Gold Tier Dark Sky Park rating from the International Dark Sky Association. This rating, shared by only seven other parks, means you can see the Milky Way with the naked, untrained eye, something most of us can’t do from our homes.
The Dark Sky Festival, March 1–3, is a collaboration between the park and a number of organizations like Death Valley Natural History Association and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. During the event visitors can take part in great programming like parks around the park, astrophotography meetups, astronomy programs and family programs.
While astrotourism events like the Dark Sky Festival require remote locations for viewing the night sky, Death Valley National Park is home to Oasis at Death Valley, which features two properties carefully designed to not only be luxurious and family-friendly, but also to ensure every detail has been curated to maintain optimal night sky viewing, such as keeping surrounding land undeveloped and featuring dim external lighting.
By day, families can enjoy the pool or explore the park on horseback, bicycle or even by Jeep, and, by night, families can take in the crisp night air while roasting marshmallows by the firepit. And, of course, there are all the great stargazing spots located throughout the park, which make this a great place to visit even if you can’t make it to the Dark Sky Festival.
Attendees of this year’s Dark Sky Festival can also experience Lake Manly, a saltwater lake located in the park that has not had water in it since 2005. This phenomenon is only made possible when the region receives an excessive amount of rain, and visitors are currently able to enjoy the rare site thanks to the record rainfall California experienced last year.
Whether your family is lucky enough to catch this year’s Dark Sky Festival or schedules a visit for another time, you are sure to find a destination perfect for family bonding and discovering the miracles of nature.
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