Florida Friday Vol. 1, Issue 5 | October 9th, 2015

Stargazing Holidays in the Moonlight State

While Ridley Scott's The Martian is taking the box office by storm with its space-suited action, and if the recent real-life Martian stories have your clients seeing stars, then back here on earth, and in particular in Florida, starry night sky holidays are plentiful. The best part is that you don't necessarily need a telescope in Florida to appreciate our incredible galaxy, just good weather, and Florida has that in bucket-loads. If all this astronomical talk has tempted you to widen your horizons, pass the knowledge onto your clients who can hit the open road to fulfil their stargazing needs across the length and breadth of the Sunshine State, or in this case - the Moonlight State.

The Space Coast may undoubtedly be the natural starting point for any stargazing trip around the State. Not only is it home to Kennedy Space Center and shuttle launches but also the Astronaut Memorial Planetarium and Observatory in nearby Cocoa, where on weekend nights a planetarium star show can be followed by a climb to the rooftop observatory. Brevard Astronomical Society volunteers hold free public viewings here too, through one of the largest telescopes in Florida.

The action at Kennedy Space Center is not limited to the cover of darkness. During daylight hours, visitors can sit back, buckle up and experience a high-octane 17500 mph 'flight' on-board the Shuttle Launch Experience, seated alongside a real-life veteran NASA astronaut. With the astronaut by their side, visitors can then enjoy a guided tour of the facilities; a drive past the Vehicle Assembly Building, a photo opportunity at the LC-39 Observation Gantry, a tour of the Apollo/Saturn V Center followed by a buffet Lunch With An Astronaut on the second level overlooking Banana Creek and the nearby launch pads. No visit would be complete without a parting gift - a souvenir autographed photograph with their new astronaut best friend.

Two hundred miles across state in Sarasota, on Florida's Gulf Coast, there are plenty of stargazing opportunities within close proximity. In Venice the Fishing Pier juts out 700 feet above the Gulf. Under the cover of nightfall, at the end of the pier, the noticeable lack of light pollution will open up the night sky allowing for stand out constellations, stars, planets and galaxies. Nearby Nokomis gets particularly dark and is perfect for stargazing whilst waves crash on the south jetty below sightseer's feet. Visitors may have heard about these heavenly bodies at the Bishop Planetarium in Bradenton, just north of Sarasota, where star shows are on offer over weekends.

Head 300 miles north up the Gulf Coast to Florida's Big Bend, home to Steinhatchee, known for their scalloping, and the island community of Cedar Key, which is also known as having some of the darkest skies in Florida. The 'Road to Nowhere' aka Country Road 361 literally leads to nowhere, with no street lights and with the nearest lights miles away a vista of stars for miles in every direction is almost guaranteed. A pontoon boat ride along the Steinhatchee with its limestone outcroppings and towering Cyprus trees looks particularly eerie by moonlight.

60 miles inland near Gainesville you'll find the charming town of High Springs, famous not only for its springs but also for Grady House, a haunted B&B. Stargazing gets no better than at this location where spooktacular views from its balcony and from the landscaped backyard await eager astronomists. High Springs is also home to the Santa Fe Canoe Outpost and the Wellness Spa, both of which plan full moon activities. The Spa offers "Full Moon Baths" and the Outpost runs a full moon paddle on the Santa Fe River.

End the trip in Gainesville where the University of Florida's Astronomy Department offers free public open houses on Friday nights in the observatory, allowing guests to use the school's telescope to observe the celestial bodies in the galaxy we call home.

Share this story now

Facebook

Twitter

YouTube

Google +

Facebook

Twitter

YouTube

Google +