This U.S. National Park Has a Free Stargazing Festival

Photo by Sindre Fs

You probably know that lots of national parks are great stargazing locations. You probably also know that some places are so clear at night that you can see the Milky Way without using a telescope. But did you know that Death Valley National Park is one of those locations, and they have a stargazing festival that’s completely free? Read on to learn all the details.

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley is extremely remote (hence its name – you don’t want your car to run out of gas out there), and is below sea level, making it an excellent place for stargazing. The desert is so dark at night that DarkSky International has given it the honor of being a Gold Tier destination, which is the highest title a place can get. Death Valley is one of the darkest locations in the world at night, so much so, that you can see tons of stars and constellations without using a telescope – including the Miky Way.

The Festival

This year, the Death Valley Dark Sky Festival will take place from March 1st to March 3rd and remains completely free of charge. Scientists and park rangers will be at the event, giving presentations, leading workshops, and answering questions. Some of the topics that will be discussed include NASA’s Lunar Trailblazer mission, life on Mars, and whatever space-related questions get thrown at the astronomers and astrophysicists from Caltech who will be having an open panel. There will be constellation tours, space-themed trivia, and children will be able to build their very own Mars rovers with the help of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The majority of the festival will take place at Furnace Creek, but accommodations will be at The Inn at Death Valley and The Ranch at Death Valley.

Photo by Abby Kihano

Just do keep in mind that Death Valley is named as such for a reason, so bring whatever you’ll need for your trip – including double whatever amount of water you plan on packing.

Take a Trip to Samoa: The Underrated Gem of Polynesia

Not too far away from famed Fiji, Samoa is an under-the-radar island in the South Pacific Ocean and is a hidden gem in Polynesia. Named the “Cradle of Polynesia,” the region offers a bounty of natural wonders and scenic spots in its archipelago of 12 islands.

Best Time to Visit

Located in the central South Pacific Ocean, Samoa is almost halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. With a strategic position near the equator, this island of Polynesia ensures tropical humidity and warm temperatures throughout the year. Screaming vacation in all seasons, Samoa is a great choice for both short domestic travel and long-haul international trips. The dry season from May to October is generally more popular to visit here. But if you’re an intrepid traveler who isn’t bothered by some precipitation, then December to March is the time of most rainstorms in Samoa.

Best Things to Do

Samoa offers a wide array of natural wonders and outdoor activities. The main island of Upolu contains many pristine white-sand beaches. Rich in marine life, the clear waters here are ideal for snorkeling. This inland region of Polynesia is rife with lush rainforests, towering peaks, gushing waterfalls, and plunging swimming holes. The first national park of the South Pacific, O le Pupu-Pue National Park offers travelers a scenic hike to ancient Pe’ape’a Cave, among other activities. With different-sized waves, the shores of Savai’i and Upolu are great for pro and novice surfers alike. Take on a cycling challenge on the mountain biking trail winding through forested hillsides and over lava tube caves. Don’t miss the spectacular natural attractions like the Mu Pagoa Waterfall tumbling into the ocean, Alofaaga Blowholes, etc. To take a cultural tour, join Fiafia nights and celebrate the rich heritage of Polynesia with the locals with traditional food, music, and fire dancing.

Best Places to Dine

Food is a big part of the entire culture of Polynesia. A haven for all seafood lovers, Samoan cuisine is rich in flavor, highlighting freshly caught fish and locally grown ingredients. You can consider taking part in an organized culinary tour to eat your way through Samoa while learning about the heritage of traditional dishes like Palusami, cooked in an Umu, or an earthen oven of heated volcanic rocks. Or else, head to the casual seaside joints like Taumeasina Restaurant, Ocean Club Maninoa, etc., to taste delicious samplings of local staples. Apia, on the other hand, offers highly-regarded international restaurants like Paddles Restaurant, Bistro Tatau, and many more. Stop at Nourish Café, a vibrant fusion joint, for enjoying Instagram-worthy sweet treats and bountiful salads.