Astrotourism, Anyone?

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches

Shortly before I left for Newfoundland in October, my 90-year old mother, an avidly curious New York Times reader, mailed me a clipping (as she has been doing for decades). She noted, "This is a trip I could take!" Given that she doesn’t travel that much anymore, I was intrigued. What the heck is astrotourism? I learned that the term astrotourism has evolved to describe intentional travel to places with dark skies and more visible stars. Sounds great! 
ActiveTravels sends many members each year to Hawaii, Mexico, and Grand Cayman; nicely, these locations have developed avenues for visitors to explore the night sky. The Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa has three high-powered telescopes on its roof capable of spotting 80 constellations, and there’s also an observatory atop Mauna Kea (a dormant volcano on the Big Island), 13,796 feet above sea level. In Mexico, the Four Seasons Punta Mita has begun offering guided stargazing on its driving range and beach. At the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort, oceanfront beach cabanas with private fire pits, dinners, and s’more fixings, come with telescopes and night sky maps.
Back to my mother. The closest "Dark Sky" site to where she lives in New York would be on Long Island, in Southold at the Custer Institute. Open to the public every Saturday evening from dusk until midnight, volunteers assist with the powerful telescopes. For more information on sites around the country, please visit the International Dark Sky Association website.