Gather your family to wish upon a star. Here are five extraordinary places to view the night sky:
1. Arizona nights. In 2001, Flagstaff was designated the world's first International Dark-Sky City by the International Dark-Sky Association. The association recognized the city's "dedication to the preservation of the night sky," through its use of outdoor lighting and other plans. Expect stellar stargazing as well as the chance to tour the Lowell Observatory.
You'll see the telescope where Pluto was discovered in the 1930s and look through the century-old Clark telescope. Farther south, check into the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale, where you'll find high-powered telescopes in your room and constellation charts on your pillow at turndown. Opt in for complimentary Friday evening stargazing with a local astronomer or a Celestial Picnic with dinner under the stars, a telescope and star chart.
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2. Winter Star Party, West Summerland Key, Fla. Every February, during the new moon week, amateur astronomers gather in the Florida Keys for six days to learn from guest speakers, observe an unobstructed clear night sky and share information with other star enthusiasts. Hosted by the Southern Cross Astronomical Society Inc., the Stellar Star Party also includes Kids Kamp. Next year's event will take place Feb. 20-26.
3. African skies. Check into Little Kulala, a desert eco-retreat within southern Africa's Kulala Wilderness Reserve. Hop aboard a Land Rover to scope out springbok, ostrich and oryx or float above the dramatic landscape in a hot-air balloon. Visit the world's tallest dunes amid Namibia's famed "sand sea." Then fall asleep on your rooftop Sky Bed and enjoy a late-night show where shooting stars and the Milky Way serve as headliners.
4. Red rock country. By night, the dark skies of Utah provide ample opportunity for magnificent stargazing. Join astronomer Alex Ludwig atop a mesa to learn about star clusters, nebulae and galaxies.
He will explain how American Indians teach their children about the constellations, lancing the quiet night with stories that will entrance young and old.
By day, a slew of parks, canyons and rivers provide outdoor-adventure opportunities.
5. Northern Lights from Norway . Because of an increase in solar flares, NASA is predicting Northern Lights activity will be stronger this winter than any time in the last 50 years.
Cruising Norway's coast high above the Arctic Circle could provide family travelers with the opportunity to experience the aurora borealis in a rare and extraordinary way.
In addition to visiting ports that provide a glimpse into winter life in Norway, passengers will also be privy to lectures regarding the Northern Lights as well as local culture and history.