Best California B&Bs for Stargazing
SACRAMENTO, CA [June 24, 2015]--Dark night skies in the Sierra Nevada, the desert and remote stretches of California coastline provide rare opportunities to view stars and planets in all of their brilliance. Far from dimming quality of city light pollution, several members of the California Association of Boutique and Breakfast Inns (CABBI) offer outstanding stargazing opportunities, including nearby star parties and other astronomy events. Others just provide enchanting views of California’s starry nights.
The first amateur astronomical observatory in California was founded deep in the Sierra Foothills in 1860. Over 150 years later, the small Gold Country town of Volcano remains an ideal spot for stargazing. With a population of just 103, the town is located at an elevation of 2,000 feet and has no street lighting. Guests of the four-room Volcano Union Pub and Inn can watch the night skies from the inn’s upstairs balcony after dinner or take a stroll up to the cemetery overlooking town to find locals charting constellations. During the summer months in Volcano, the stars seem so close it feels as if you reach out and touch them.
In Sequoia National Forest near Twain Harte, the night skies at the McCaffrey House Bed & Breakfast get very, very dark. Just up the road from the inn at the Cold Springs Heliport, the Forest Service hosts a star party every Friday night through the summer beginning June 26. The star parties feature talks with local astronomers. Star gazers bring blankets to the heliport to lie on the ground and watch the night skies. The Perseid meteor showers are a particularly popular time for stargazers in Twain Harte. The showers run through the month of August and will be best viewed when the skies are darkest, August 11-17.
High up in the Sierra at 7,000 feet, the 165-acre, Sorensen’s Resort in Hope Valley is also a great destination for star gazing. Each May, the resort hosts an evening with San Francisco State University Physics and Astronomy Professors Adrienne Cool and Ron Marzke for learning about recent discoveries in astronomy and searching the night skies for constellations. Guests of all ages are invited to peer through telescopes and binoculars to view the moons of Jupiter, rings of Saturn, the Milky Way and beyond. The evening includes cookies and hot cocoa. A $10 per person donation is suggested; the donations are matched by the resort to benefit Alpine County school science programs.
Also high in the Sierra, Donner Lake Inn offers prime stargazing from its outdoor hot tub nestled among the pines. The inn is located at the west end of Donner Lake, far from the lights of town, and provides clear views of the night sky. The inn is also a short drive to the Cosmoarium at Northstar Ski Resort, which hosts Tahoe Star Tours on Thursdays and Saturdays through the summer months. Guests gather around fire pits for science and poetry presentations and then have the opportunity to observe the stars and planets through Celestron telescopes. Hot chocolate, coffee, blankets and s’mores are provided. The cost is $35 for adults and $20 for children.
Unlike most of the Los Angeles basin, the desert communities near Palm Springs have night light ordinances that minimize light pollution for the desert skies. At El Morocco Inn & Spa, guests can enjoy the awe-inspiring night time views while floating in warm mineral pools or while gathered around one of two poolside fire pits roasting s’mores. The pools at El Morocco are open all night long for enjoying the blaze of stars above. Twinkling Moroccan lanterns around the perimeter of the pool area add to the enchantment. For even darker night skies, guests can drive to Joshua Tree National Park, which is just a half hour away.
It gets seriously dark at the Elk Cove Inn & Spa on the Mendocino Coast. With its rural seaside setting and a population of only 250 residents, Elk is a magical spot for stargazing on a clear night. Guests can watch the stars from the inn on a bluff overlooking the Pacific or have a bonfire on the beach with s’mores and watch the show from the sand. The multitude of stars creates silhouettes of the sea stacks just off shore. It’s the best night time entertainment for a town that closes up by 8:30 each evening.
On a clear night in Sonoma’s Valley of the Moon, guests can see forever from the Veranda del Sole at Casa Bella Inn. Slip into the hot tub with sparkling wine and chocolates to watch Venus as she rises in the evening. Gaze upon Orion and Sirius hunting in the pre-dawn sky. Request a moonlit massage in one of the inn’s private cabanas on a warm summer night. The inn’s expansive (and obstruction-free) outdoor lounging area with private cabanas and a soothing hot tub provides a romantic setting for watching the night skies.
The Chanric Inn in Calistoga also provides a magical outdoor space for stargazing. Elegant pillar candles flicker around the edges of the heated pool. The scent of blooming roses fills the air. Relax in a lounge chaise while the sun sets over the Napa County Palisades—a stunning mile-long volcanic wall overlooking Calistoga and the Napa Valley—and then watch as the stars light up the night sky.
For more information on these and other California B&Bs and boutique hotels, visit www.cabbi.com.
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