Share |
Print Article
Family Travel Files Ezine Family Vacations Resource
Virginia Cosmic Experiences and Stargazing for Families. Gazing at the mesh of stars can be fun or it can be humbling. The best night sky adventures coincide with crisp clear often chilly nights and companions who know what to look for in the night sky.  It all depends on getting everyone to agree which way is true North. Star party Planet Glow

Here's the scoop. Virginia has numerous excellent locations for sky watching inside and out. Before trekking off with kids and a telescope in the trunk it may be helpful to try sky watching inside. With some of the basics gleaned from a planetarium show star hunting is easier and your kids will feel empowered to hunt for constellations they can name.  Yes, there are apps to make the whole process easier. Most allow you to point your smartphone at the sky, and the app identifies constellations and planets within view. Pocket Universe app is my favorite.
Cosmic Expeditions in Richmond. The Science Museum of Virginia has hundreds of hand-on exhibits offering hours of interesting ways to enjoy science with your kids. Dynamic astronomy features known as Cosmic Expeditions depart daily from The Dome, the Museum's five-story all digital dome theater.  Whether it's a wild ride through the thick atmosphere of Venus, dodging solar flares around the Sun or taking a trip to the Cat's Eye Nebula, guests will interact with the cosmos in a truly spectacular fashion. Journey through the cosmos with an astronomer, explore the night sky and unearth your world in the ultimate immersive experience.  Bonus Points: Enjoy Museum exhibits, head into The Dome for a custom all-live expedition across the galaxies and step outside to stargaze through telescopes with the Richmond Astronomical Society. Join the Museum on the third Friday of each month for “Science After Dark,” an evening event that harnesses the power of the stars.Eastern Shore Sea to Sky Star Party (Science Museum of Virginia/Ethyl IMAX Dome. Toll-free 1-800-659-1727 FREE or (804) 367-6552
NASA Sky Views. Another indoor option to compliment sky watching is Virginia Air and Space Center at Hampton Roads. It is the official visitor center for NASA Langley Research Center and an inspiring location no matter your age. Onsite you will find more than 100 exhibits related to the night sky and space exploration.  Favorites for kids of all ages include the Apollo 12 Command Module and moon rock. (Hampton: Virginia Air and Space Center (757) 727-0900.

From sea to sky. Stargazing is terrific at the water’s edge and Virginia’s Eastern Shore is no exception. The NASA Visitors Center on Wallops Island provides another dimension to sky viewing. It’s a place to think about Stonehenge and how about the Sphinx? What is the connection between Orion and the Mayans? What about the North Star and freedom? Visiting the center connects the science with the activity of sky watching. It is a great excursion for young space scientists and their stargazing companions. The Visitor Center has a multicultural astronomy program that invites viewers to travel back in time to discover the mysteries of the ancient and not so ancient civilizations and their connections to the stars and the planets.  (NASA Visitor Center on the Eastern Shore (757) 824-2050. Details. (757) 824-2298 or

The water’s edge of Virginia is ideal to watch the moon break and spot the first constellations of the evening. Not far from Wallops is Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. It covers more than 9,000 acres and stops at the Maryland border.  During the spring, summer and autumn rangers provide walks and talks for visitors. During the winter months the skies provide much to view along miles of beaches, dunes and pine-lined trails. The night sky is really big and constellations seem to pop into view. Almost Heaven Star in Party West Virginia

Best star parties in Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia. NOVAC located in Virginia, near Washington D.C. is the go to organization for star gazing. Their motto is “To Observe and to Help Others Observe.” In addition to the official observing sites, there are several other places near Washington, DC where NOVAC members like to go to observe. Occasionally, NOVAC hosts or participates in public activities at Franklin Park and Sky Meadows State Park. NOVAC lists star parties held in the region for example:  Almost Heaven Star Party (August 14 – 18, 2015) will be held  at the Mountain Institute in Spruce Knob, West Virginia one of the premier dark sky sites in the eastern region of the US. For details on star parties in the region go to

Checkout Star Date. One of the best resources I have found for night sky gazing is Star Date. The website has posted with planet viewing information, a constellation guide, explanations about phenomena, myths and fallacies, useful sky watching tips, and astronomy news. Details at

Content researched and posted by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files. Updated copyright 2016.

Share |
Best Holiday Lights in Virginia - Create Your Own Family Traditions.
The magic of the holiday season is set to sparkle across Virginia with Christmas light displays offering countless memory making possibilities for families. From miles of lights along the Boardwalk on Virginia Beach to the magic of Alexandria celebrating is in the air.
Best Mid Atlantic US Santa Trains and Holiday Lights - Create Your Own Family Traditions.
Looking for a terrific day trip to launch your holiday celebrations? Secure tickets and ride the rails with your kids. From New Jersey and Pennsylvania to Virginia and Maryland traditional “Santa Trains,” and miles of twinkling lights enhance the spirit of Christmas.
Four of the Best Mid Atlantic Indoor Waterparks.
Vacationing under a glass dome has its advantages. Just imagine a tropical spring break surfing with your kids in New Jersey or Pennsylvania. Or perhaps relaxing on a lazy river in Virginia then creating your own family’s slide boarding competition - pure fun in one place.
Five of the Best Corn Mazes and Agri-Adventures in the Mid Atlantic.
From New Jersey and Pennsylvania to Virginia and West Virginia, harvest festivals with corn mazes, pumpkins and apples cider provide the perfect means to create your own screen free family adventure.

Read More Articles


See More Family Vacation Ideas

Use of Travel Communications, Inc., websites constitutes acceptance of the Terms of Use.
Site designed and hosted by Tempest Technologies, LLC