One of the greatest memories extended families can create together is a special travel experience. Multi-generational travels makes up about 33-40% of the $270 billion leisure travel industry. With astrotourism on the rise, how can stargazing experiences enhance your next trip with the kids and grandparents?
STARGAZING AT A DESIGNATED DARK SKY NATIONAL PARK
Each year, the International Dark Sky Association adds more Dark Sky Parks to their certification program, including places like the Grand Canyon, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, and Chaco Canyon. Many of these parks offer great camping experiences along with a variety of activities to fill your daytime and nighttime itinerary. Hike, stop in the visitor’s center, or go on a guided tour during the day. At night, join the park’s stargazing activities. Many national parks and monuments have adopted the motto of “half the park is after dark”.
To discover officially designated Dark Sky Park’s, visit https://www.darksky.org/our-work/conservation/idsp/parks/ .
VISIT AN OBSERVATORY
If camping is not in the plans, there are many great vacation destinations that have public observatories or planetariums. Flagstaff and Tucson (Arizona) have great tourism activities during the day and spectacular observatories for the night.
Even large metro cities with loads of light pollution can offer something for stargazers. Combine a visit to Washington, D.C. with a visit to the National Air & Space Museum, or a trip to Los Angeles with a visit to the famed Griffith Observatory. These observatories offer great telescope viewing, but also have spectacular exhibits and fun events for all ages.
ATTEND A DARK SKY FESTIVAL
Although most Dark Sky festivals for 2020 have been cancelled or turned into virtual events, you should keep this idea on your bucket list. These festivals of the night sky are held in Dark Sky Parks and Communities around the world. Each is as unique as the destination where they are located. Some are single-day events, while others span several days
NIGHTTIME PICNIC STARGAZING
If you can’t get away for an extended vacation, consider a nighttime picnic out of town. Load up the kids and the grandparents and drive to a darker location just outside of town. Have a [responsible] campfire to roast marshmallows and enjoy an evening under the stars. Use a stargazing map to identify constellations and planets, or go non-digital and learn how to use a star wheel. If you have a telescope or binoculars, be sure to bring them along.
BACKYARD STAR STORIES
Don’t overlook the great opportunity of stargazing from your own backyard. After dinner, turn off all the outside lights and enjoy the stars together. Borrow a great mythology book from the library and have grandma or grandpa read some of the fun myths about the constellations and stars that can be seen in the sky that night.
SHARE A STARGAZING JOURNAL
With the current pandemic limiting travel, or sometimes due to living far apart, travelling together is complicated. With today’s technology, families can create their own multi-generational stargazing journal. It could be as simple as a shared Google doc that family members can add to on an ongoing basis.
If you’re planning a multi-generational trip, no matter where you go in the world, adding a stargazing element is a great way to enhance the experience. It’s a relaxing way for all generations to connect to nature and build memories with one another.