Star Parties, Night Classes and Dark Sky Adventures.

Almost every summer vacation activity requires sunscreen but not star parties. Even better for those who are not morning bunnies, star parties conveniently occur after sunset.  Stargazing with an astronomer as a guide has a magical quality in spite of the real science and history involved and the use of red pin lights makes everything seem authentic. The fascinating myths associated with the night sky and the location of constellations by season makes for a great, perhaps slightly geeky party experience to share with your kids.

Arizona star party time with real telescopes.

Arizona star party time where families have fun sharing real science in real time with real telescopes.

So where’s the party? Remarkable programs span the continent from Virginia, Minnesota, and Arizona to California, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah, each experience varying in scope based on geographic location. In the past few years I have had the opportunity to stargaze with my family several times. My list of suggestions is short but well vetted.

McDonald Observatory West Texas star party

A McDonald Observatory West Texas star party is a celestial trip with no sunscreen needed.

  1. Sky watching in West Texas at McDonald Observatory offers unimaginable views of the planets and constellations from several telescopes of varying sizes.
  2. Night sky safaris from Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson will amaze even the most jaded teen. Like MacDonald, Kit Peak is an active astronomical research complex and a place to view what scientists view daily.
  3. The night sky is strong at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. From June through October each year rangers at Carlsbad conduct a series of free night sky programs that pack an extra WOW!
  4. Astronomy Rangers rule at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. Organized star parties are held each night facilitated by Astronomy Rangers who monitor more than 40 telescopes scattered around the park.
  5. The free monthly star party at Griffith Observatory above LA is inspiring. If none of the star party dates fit in your schedule, no worries because free public telescope viewing is available each evening the Observatory is open and weather permits.

As always I welcome feedback. Do you have a favorite Dark Sky spot?

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.

Whitewater Rafting Family Adventures with Devotion to River Motion.

Whitewater family adventures begin with the perfect river, an oar-rigged raft, paddle raft or inflatable whitewater kayaks and offer the chance to paddle like crazy then share the glide with your kids.

ACE Adventure whitewater rafting for families

West Virginia’s ACE Adventure harnesses whitewater energy for families all summer long.

River rafting with kids has its benefits. Not connected to an electronic tether is the most obvious but that aside, the adrenaline infused quality family time, positive river energy and natural thrills cannot be beat to say nothing about years of bragging rights and awesome memories.

I think whitewater rafting is one of the best family adventures possible because as your kids age the whitewater only gets better. Lazy river floats with your six year-old have the potential to evolve to challenging whitewater runs with a 16 year-old. For our family, river time is still the very best time.

North American river destinations span the continent from North Carolina, West Virginia and Tennessee to California, Idaho, and the Rockies. ACE Adventure Resort runs the New River as well as the Gauley providing exceptional river thrills for all ages including river surfing. Eco Family Adventures runs multi-day trips on the Grand Salmon River and Middle Fork of the Salmon in Idaho offering rugged and wild, yet safe family adventures complete with an activity director for children to augment time off the river.

With river trips not unlike anything worth doing the sooner you decide and confirm the more likely you will get exactly what fits for your family and perhaps save money. More river possibilities may be found in the Adventure folder at the Family Travel Files

Nancy Nelson-Duac Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files

WOW! Factor Family Adventure Vacations Naturally Loaded with Fun, Energy & Memory Making Value.

Whitewater rafting @ ACE Adventure Resort near Oak Hill in Southern West VirginiaFor active families summer family vacation time is precious and it is pointless to spend a minute or a dime on predictable and boring activities in vacation places without a natural WOW! Factor.

Here’s the scoop. Vacations with a natural WOW! Factor deliver not-to-be-missed moments and one-of-a-kind thrills often seen on the Discovery Channel. Things like surfing a river rapid; hearing the roar of the incoming tide; watching a geyser explode; creating echoes from a mountaintop. I know of dozens of amazing family vacation ideas guaranteed to amaze, thrill, and yield unique family vacation memories. My list includes places where Mother Nature will impress even the most jaded adults and generate a WOW! from the kids. I am sharing a few examples on a short list below. For more ideas browse our Family Adventures lifestyle folder and see just exactly who delivers adventures with a natural WOW! Factor? Continue reading