Stargazing Tips


Lots of ideas for making the most of a starry summer evening

Summer is the perfect time to get away from it all, spread a blanket, and enjoy a celestial light show.  Here are some stargazing tips to help you make the most of your evening under the stars.

Pick a Clear Moonless Night — You will see the most stars on a night when the moon is new and the skies are clear. If your viewing plans do happen to get blocked by clouds, you can always claim to have witnessed a “rare eclipse of everything!”

** A great time to star watch in the summer is from the last week of July through the first week in August, when “the Perseids” appears. This is the most reliable summertime meteor shower. The most meteors are visible after midnight during this time.

Get Back to Nature — Try to get as far away from city light pollution as possible. An open area far from buildings is the best spot for stargazing.

Relax in Reclining Chairs or Lie on a Blanket — You want to be comfortable when settling in for an evening under the stars, so be sure to have a set up where your neck won’t get tired while looking up.

Adjust Your Eyes — It takes 30-40 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness. Experienced astronomers often bring a red torch which can be used as a flashlight and not interfere with night vision. You can make your own torch by covering the lense of a flashlight with red painters’ tape.  While you are waiting for your eyes to adjust, have fun playing a satellite-spotting contest. Scan the sky for what appear to be fast-moving stars. See who can spot the most!

Come Prepared — Other than a blanket, there are some items which can make your evening of stargazing more fun, such as:

  • Binoculars — A must for getting a better view of things.
  • A Planisphere — These simple plastic charts can help you easily identify what you are seeing.
  • Star Identifying Phone Apps — Android offers a free app called Sky Map, and iPhone has both Star Walk and Sky Map. To use these, you just hold your phone to the night sky and they will identify celestial objects for you!

Thumbs and first fingers inside the four corners of Star Finder.Have Some Fun Making Your Own Star Finder — Remember the folding fortune tellers everyone made as kids?  Here is a link to a Star Finder Game from NASA.

Play Some Mood Music — Add some atmosphere to your evening with some great stargazing music. The synthesizer music of Vangelismakes a great accompaniment to a night under the stars.


Road Trip Snack Ideas

road trip snacks

Do your vacation plans include a road trip this year? While travel by car can be a great idea for a family getaway, sometimes those miles on the road can lead to empty bellies and backseat grumbling. Here are some road trip snack ideas to help keep everyone smiling away the miles.

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Filler-Uppers  — put together an assortment of your favorite crackers, roasted nuts, pretzels, cheese cubes, and dry meats like pepperoni.  Another fun idea is to mix some of these together and put them into a fun container such as the mason jar above.

Grab Bags — If you are traveling with children, you might assemble a snack treat that comes complete with some small toy treasures that will keep everyone occupied. Trail mix, veggie sticks, sliced fruit, fruit gummies, and granola bars are all good options. Stick a few snack choices into a larger container where you hide some small toys that can be revealed at different intervals along the trip.

Wrap Sandwiches — Wraps are another easy travel option for a hearty car snack. Use a tortilla to wrap up your favorite lunch meat with some cheese and a spread, such as hummus or cream cheese.

Something Sweet — Bringing along a sweet treat can be another great road trip snack idea. Grapes or sliced apples are a healthy choice. Cookies are also fun. You might consider ginger cookies (or candies) if any of your passengers are prone to carsickness since ginger can help calm an upset stomach. If you are looking for a longer lasting treat, pack  some lollipops. A sucker can keep little mouths occupied for a good period of time.

Want some fun game ideas for your travel time? Be sure to take a look at our post on Great Road Trip Activities!  car games and activities

Road Trip Activities

Road trip gamesAre we there yet???

Planning a trip by car this summer?
Check out these ideas for road trip activities to help everyone enjoy the journey.

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Name That Tune — Randomly select a radio station. See who can be the first person to guess the title of the first song that comes on. Award bonus points if they can name the musician or album title. Then switch to a new station and try again!

Look for License Plates — Keep track of how many different state license plates you can spot during your drive.

“I’m Thinking of a …” — In this game, start by choosing a category such as animals or people. One person thinks of a specific member of the category. Everyone else takes turns asking yes or no questions until they can figure out what the mystery item is. If someone makes an incorrect guess, they are out until the next round.

The A to Z Game — See who can be the first to spot words on roadside signs, billboards, trucks, shops and restaurants starting with the letters A through Z.  Move onto the next letter only after finding a word starting with the letter previous (you might make an exception for letter X.)

cad trip activitiesRoad Trip Bingo — Before the ride, create bingo style cards with different things for people to spot along the route, such as a bird on a wire, a cow, a gas station or a motor home.  Then see who can find all the items on their card first.

Make Your Own Story — For this road trip activity, go around the car clockwise with each person adding one word to create a progressive story. For example, the driver might start by saying, “once,” and then the front seat passenger might add, “there.” The next person  could say, “was,”  and so on to make up a silly and unique story.

Pack a Bag of Goodies — Before the trip, pack each person in the car their own tote bag filled with different activities to pull out one by one along the way. Some ideas might include a sticker book, an Etch a Sketch, an ipod, snacks and a water bottle, a deck of cards, a journal, or whatever small toys and games your children are interested in.

Here are some great road trip activities available at

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Summer Activities for Families and Kids

Summer Activities for Families and Kids

12 great summer activities for families and kids

Summertime is all about rest and relaxation, but there are so many great ways for kids to keep busy on these beautiful days besides plugging themselves in to the tv or computer. Here are some ideas for great summer activities for families and kids guaranteed to help make this a summer to remember.

  1. Share a Special Day with Mom or Dad — Give the gift of quality time by offering kids a one-on-one day with a parent. Let them choose the activity for a day full of fun.
  2. Draw an Activity from a Hat — Sit down together as a family and have everyone write down 3-5 ideas for fun things to do close to home. Put them together in a family activity jar and next time you need an idea for something to do, pull from these suggestions.
  3. Have a Lemonade Stand — Invite over some friends, set out a card table and chairs, and sell a batch of homemade lemonade to the neighbors.
  4. Visit the Local Zoo or Museum — Check your paper for special summertime events.
  5. Take a Picnic to the Park — Let your kids plan the menu for an outdoor meal. Bring a frisbee or a deck of cards and enjoy the great outdoors.
  6. Get Crafty — Visit your local craft store for project inspiration, or just break out some sidewalk chalk and create an outdoor masterpiece.
  7. Show an Outdoor Movie — Hang a bedsheet from the side of the house and use a projector to show a classic movie in your yard. Invite some neighbors over for an evening of fun. Click here for more ideas about how to do this.
  8. Visit Your Library — Expand your summer reading list by checking out the library for new books. Many libraries also offer special fun programs throughout the summertime.
  9. Play a Board Game — Raid your game closet for a classic game of checkers, Clue, or Sorry! If you have a little more time, clear off a tabletop and work on a puzzle.
  10. Get Active — Go for a bike ride, or take a walk after dinner. Family walks are a great opportunity for conversations.
  11. Plan a Block Party — Set a date, call the neighbors, and gather the gang for a neighborhood potluck.
  12. Try Something New — The slower paced days of summer are a great time to have an adventure, experience food from another country, try a new sport or hobby, or do something different from your usual routine.