Best Places to Stargaze in Our National Parks

Thanks to light pollution and smog, 90% of the world’s population can no longer see the Milky Way, making our national parks celestial preserves. Next time you go camping, pack a pair of binoculars and enjoy the greatest show on earth.    

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Groundhog Day --
Every Feb. 2, we rely on a groundhog to predict the weather. If Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, we accept 6 more weeks of cold weather. And if Phil doesn’t, we can hope for an early spring.
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Jeff Swensen  

La Tomatina --
Revellers pelt each other during the world's biggest tomato fight at the Tomatina Festival on the last Wednesday in August, in Bunol, Spain.
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Jasper Juinen  

Ivana Kupala --
Summer solstice is celebrated during the Ivana Kupala festival near Orsha, Belarus. Originally a pagan tradition, the festival includes bathing in a lake or river, plus jumping over burning campfires -- a practice believed to purify oneself of sin.
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© Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters, Reuters Picture Stream/MED  

Maslenitsa --
Russian men take part in push fights during Maslenitsa (Pancake Week), also known as a winter farewell holiday in Russia. Maslenitsa, a traditional Russian holiday that marks the end of winter, dates back to pagan times.
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© Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters  

Holi Festival --
Hindu devotees play with colored powders during Holi celebrations at the Bankey Bihari Temple in Vrindavan, India. Holi, the spring festival of colors, is celebrated by Hindus worldwide with an explosion of color to mark the end of winter.
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Getty  

International Poncho Day--
Designed to promote the work of local artisans who weave traditional wool ponchos, this celebration includes parades with ponchos galore -- even on dogs, sheep and parrots.
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© Reuters Photographer / Reuters  

"Up Helly Aa" --
The traditional festival of fire known as "Up Helly Aa" takes place annually on the last Tuesday of January in Shetland, UK. Participants in full costume haul a Viking longboat through the streets as paraders throw flaming torches into the galley.
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Jeff J Mitchell  

Naked Festival --
Hadaka Matsuri is a festival for ritual purification held in different forms across Japan, where almost fully-naked men compete for lucky sacred sticks.
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Land Dive --
In Vanuatu, virile young men take the plunge in an annual religious ceremony known as the land dive to celebrate the end of the yam harvest.
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International Talk Like a Pirate Day --
Mark your calendars. Every Sept. 19 you can say "ahoy matey" and "arrr!" without getting strange looks.
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18 Photos
Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

There’s something for everyone at Santa Monica Pier, including souvenir shops, carnival games, arcades, restaurants and a trapeze school. Don’t miss the free summer concerts on the pier or a fun ride on the 46-horse carousel or Ferris wheel. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood

Spend an action-packed day with the family at Universal Studios Hollywood. Explore where blockbuster movies are made on a studio tour, and experience unique rides like Transformers: The Ride-3D, Revenge of the Mummy and the world’s largest 3-D experience, King Kong 360. We recommend the 3-block promenade, CityWalk, which includes more than 30 places to eat, 30 shops, 6 nightclubs and a 19-screen IMAX theater. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Disneyland

Disneyland

Thousands of people flock to Disneyland every year. Just 33 miles south of LA, this magical theme park features a seasonal FANTASMIC! Parade, the World of Color light-water show and opportunities for kids to dine with their favorite Disney characters. And you can’t forget the dozens of rides like Space Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. 960 1280

Paul Hiffmeyer / Disneyland  

The Getty Center

The Getty Center

Visit the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Getty Center to see its permanent collection of art that includes European and American history from medieval times to the present. Head outdoors to view contemporary and modern sculptures, or take a stroll through the Center’s Central Garden. This carefully manicured garden has a 134,000-square-foot design that is the centerpiece for the natural ravine and tree-lined walkway. 960 1280

Travis Conklin / LA Tourism  

Marina del Rey

Marina del Rey

Tucked along the Pacific Coast, just south of Venice Beach, Marina del Rey is the perfect SoCal setting for a waterfront stroll or bike ride. The scenic marina is dotted with small yachts and watercraft. Visit Fisherman's Village, designed to resemble a New England seaport, where it's possible to organize sunset and dinner cruises around the harbor. 960 1280

Marina del Ray Convention & Visitors Bureau  

LA Farmers Market

LA Farmers Market

Opened in July 1934, the LA Farmers Market is a historic landmark and tourist attraction that features more than 100 restaurants, food stalls, grocers and tourist shops. This is the market for foodies in search of ethnic cuisines and specialty food markets. Looking for more places to shop? Well, you don’t have to go too far. Visit the Grove, a retail and entertainment complex located nearby. 960 1280

Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images  

Aquarium of the Pacific

Aquarium of the Pacific

Visit one of the largest aquariums in the US, the Aquarium of the Pacific. Located in Long Beach, CA, this amazing aquarium is home to more than 11,000 ocean animals, representing nearly 500 species found in the Pacific Ocean. Watch marine life in action like West Coast Sea Nettles (pictured). 960 1280

AFP / Getty Images  

Page Museum

Page Museum

See more than 1 million ice age fossils from 650 species -- from a Columbian mammoth tusk to the tooth of a baby mouse -- at the Page Museum. Visitors can also watch paleontologists work on fossils right before their eyes in the Fishbowl Lab. The museum is dedicated to researching the La Brea Tar Pits and displaying the animals that died there. 960 1280

Photolibrary / Getty Images  

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Explore more than 111 years of history at LA’s Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Visitors flock to this popular burial ground to pay homage to hundreds of Hollywood’s greatest stars like Rudolph Valentino, Cecil B. DeMille, Jayne Mansfield, Johnny Ramone and Douglass Fairbanks. 960 1280

Daniel Hartwig  

Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Head to Venice Beach. The beachfront neighborhood, located on the west-side region of LA County, is known for its canals, beaches and Ocean Front Walk, a 2-and-a-half-mile pedestrian-only promenade that features performers, fortune tellers, artists and vendors. 960 1280

John Paul “Boomer” Lacoangelo / LA Tourism  

Runyon Canyon Park

Runyon Canyon Park

Hike, jog or just walk through the 160-acre Runyon Canyon Park, located at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains. In addition to celebrity sightings, this park is also known for having a liberal dog leash policy. It’s not uncommon to see dogs roaming around — with their owners, of course — off their leashes on 90 acres of the park. 960 1280

Chris Goldberg, [Flickr  

Paramount Studios

Paramount Studios

Experience 100 years of Hollywood history and witness more in the making on a tour of the Paramount Pictures studio lot. Get a behind-the-scenes look at the longest operating and only remaining major studio in Hollywood. This studio lot is where several TV shows are filmed, including Glee, Dr. Phil, Community and NCIS: Los Angeles. 960 1280

Stephen Berkman / LA Tourism  

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Thousands of people converge on Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame -- more than 2,500 stars embedded in the sidewalks. These brass stars bare the names of the famous actors, musicians, directors, and producers like Michael Jackson, Cate Blanchett and Gene Roddenberry. 960 1280

: Robert Harding World Imagery / Getty Images  

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Get the best views of LA and the stars at Griffith Observatory. Located 1,134 feet above sea level, the observatory is visible from many parts of the Los Angeles basin and it is one of southern California’s most popular attractions. It features the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon, public telescopes and more! 960 1280

Griffith Observatory / LA Tourism  

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

More than a million people visit the 20-acre Los Angeles County Museum of Art each year. This museum holds more than 120,000 works that span from ancient times to the present. This is a must-see stop for art lovers who appreciate Asian, Latin American, pre-Columbian and Islamic art. 960 1280

Fred Prouser / Reuters  

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Enjoy a concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Lillian Disney made the initial donation of $50 million to build the venue as a tribute to Walt Disney’s devotion to the arts and to the city. Frank Gehry, a Canadian-American architect, designed the building. 960 1280

Travis Conklin / LA Tourism  

Rodeo Drive

Rodeo Drive

Shop till you drop in one of the most glamorous places in the US on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. More than 100 boutiques and hotels span 3 city blocks along this famous street. And while you’re in the area, don’t forget to check out the Walk of Style, which features plaques embedded in the sidewalk with personal quotes and signatures from top designers including Tom Ford, Giorgio Armani and Manolo Blahnik. 960 1280

Wendy Connet / Robert Harding World Imagery / Getty Images  

Hollywood Bowl

Hollywood Bowl

The Hollywood Bowl officially opened on July 11, 1922. The “bowl” refers to the shape of the concave hillside where the amphitheater is located. Home to the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and the summer home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the amphitheater is known for its band shell, a distinctive set of concentric arches that graced the site from 1929 through 2003. A larger one was added at the beginning of the 2004 season. Music lovers heading here by subway should hop off at the Hollywood & Highland station. 960 1280

Mathew Imaging / WireImage / Getty Images  

RAINBOW: Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, CA

RAINBOW: Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, CA

This popular tourist spot is a former city dump site, but the multicolored glass from bottles and other trash was eventually crushed and smoothed by the waves. Unfortunately, many visitors come to collect pieces of the sea glass, carrying them away by the bagful or bucketful (even though it’s prohibited), so the beach’s namesake commodity is disappearing. 960 1280
ORANGE: Ramla Bay, Gozo, Malta

ORANGE: Ramla Bay, Gozo, Malta

The Maltese name for this Mediterranean island destination, Ramla il-Hamra, may mean “red sands,” but the shoreline actually appears fiery orange. The Virgin Mary statue that looks over the beach was built in 1881 to commemorate a shipwreck.  960 1280
PURPLE: Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, CA

PURPLE: Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, CA

Big Sur is full of majestic views, but Pfeiffer Beach is arguably one of the best. Hidden down a narrow, unmarked road, it nevertheless attracts countless photographers, thanks to its picturesque stone arch and the violet striations in its sand. 960 1280
GRAY: Ocean Cape Area, Gulf of Alaska

GRAY: Ocean Cape Area, Gulf of Alaska

The Gulf of Alaska’s shores have miles of gray sand near Yakutat, an isolated town with just 700 residents. The coast is also covered with driftwood that tends to wash up during violent winter storms. The area is part of Tongass National Forest and adjacent to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. 960 1280
RED: Cavendish Beach, Prince Edward Island, Canada

RED: Cavendish Beach, Prince Edward Island, Canada

The focal point of Prince Edward Island National Park is often considered to be among the best beaches in Canada. Nearby, visitors will find the historic house that inspired the setting of L.M. Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables. 960 1280
BLACK: Black Sand Beach, Vik, Iceland

BLACK: Black Sand Beach, Vik, Iceland

Beachgoers will certainly not want to take a dip in the water at this beach in southern Iceland. Aside from the temperature, Vik is also one of the rainiest towns in the country. But those who brave the weather are rewarded with gorgeous views of black sand, rock formations and maybe even a flock of puffins. 960 1280
GREEN: Kourou, French Guiana

GREEN: Kourou, French Guiana

Kourou might not be much of a travel destination, but that makes its rare-colored beach all the more special and undiscovered. The coastal town in French Guiana, which sits on the northern border of Brazil, is known mostly for its space center. 960 1280
DARK BROWN: Rockaway Beach, Pacifica, CA

DARK BROWN: Rockaway Beach, Pacifica, CA

You might call most beaches “brown,” but they aren’t the dark chocolate brown of Rockaway Beach near San Francisco. Stop here as you drive along the Pacific Coast Highway to gaze at the pounding waves and rocky shoreline. Mori Point, a tall bluff at the north end of the beach, makes the view postcard-perfect. 960 1280
PINK: Rangiroa Atoll, French Polynesia

PINK: Rangiroa Atoll, French Polynesia

A string of hundreds of islets surround a sizable lagoon to form Rangiroa, one of the largest atolls in the world. While remote, it is serviced by regular flights from Tahiti. The deserted, blush-colored beach is called Les Sables Roses, or “the Pink Sands.” 960 1280
WHITE: Hyams Beach, New South Wales, Australia

WHITE: Hyams Beach, New South Wales, Australia

Sure, plenty of beaches are billed as having white sand. But the absolute whitest sand — at least according to Guinness World Records — is at Hyams Beach on Jervis Bay, about 120 miles south of Sydney. The turquoise waters aren’t bad, either, and offer amazing diving, snorkeling and whale-watching opportunities. 960 1280

By Dave Naithani (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

RED: Kaihalulu Beach, Maui

RED: Kaihalulu Beach, Maui

This isolated stretch of coastline, also called simply Red Sand Beach, is near Hana, along Kaihalulu Bay. The source of the rough, rust-colored sand is the cinder cone behind it, whose cliffs also make it a very treacherous hike down to the water. 960 1280
GRAY: Shelter Cove, Humboldt County, CA

GRAY: Shelter Cove, Humboldt County, CA

There’s so much beauty to discover at this spot on Northern California’s mostly undeveloped, 80-mile-long Lost Coast. The smoky color of the sand comes from eroding shale cliffs along the shore. But the sand isn’t the only gray attraction here; you may also spot migrating gray whales, as well as seals and sea lions. 960 1280
PINK: Balos, Crete, Greece

PINK: Balos, Crete, Greece

The Greek island of Crete has a number of amazing beaches, but none are prettier than Balos, which sits on an aqua-blue lagoon. Millions of crushed shells create its pink hue. Catch a ferry from the Kissamos port to discover this pristine landscape, which is also home to plenty of wildlife. 960 1280
GREEN: Papakolea Beach, Big Island, HI

GREEN: Papakolea Beach, Big Island, HI

From a distance, it would be easy to think that this remote beach is covered in moss. The green color comes from olivine, a mineral deposited into the sand by the adjacent cinder cone. Papakolea, aka Mahana Beach, is on the southern tip of the largest Hawaiian island. 960 1280
BLACK: Playa Negra, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

BLACK: Playa Negra, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

This spot — whose name (predictably) translates to “Black Beach” — is on the southeastern shore of Costa Rica, near the town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. Families love it for its calm waters and safe swimming. Even beyond the color, the sand has another interesting quality: Thanks to its iron content, it’s magnetic.  960 1280
ORANGE: Porto Covo, Portugal

ORANGE: Porto Covo, Portugal

A small former fishing village about 2 hours south of Lisbon, Porto Covo has not only phenomenal burnt-orange beaches, but also great waves for surfing. When you’re worn out, stick around for the sunset to watch the sky turn orange as well. 960 1280

  

WHITE: Clearwater Beach, FL

WHITE: Clearwater Beach, FL

The water isn’t the only thing that’s immaculate on this barrier island on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Families come from far and wide to play on the soft, powdery sands. And with an average of 361 sunny days a year, there’s plenty of time to enjoy all the beach has to offer, including the daily Sunsets at Pier 60 festival. 960 1280
PINK: Pink Sands Beach, Harbour Island, Bahamas

PINK: Pink Sands Beach, Harbour Island, Bahamas

This stretch of about 3 miles is famous for its turquoise waters and pastel pink sand. The latter color comes from the red shells of microscopic marine animals called foraminifera. Harbour Island also features a number of luxury resorts, as well as outlying reefs that are great for diving and snorkeling. 960 1280
RED: Kokkini Beach, Santorini, Greece

RED: Kokkini Beach, Santorini, Greece

This famous Greek spot on the southern coast of the island is well-known for its striking volcanic cliffs. To get to the appropriately nicknamed Red Beach, you can park nearby and walk about 10 minutes, or you can arrive by boat instead. Either way, you’ll want to stay to watch the gorgeous sunset 960 1280
BLACK: Punalu'u Beach, Big Island, HI

BLACK: Punalu'u Beach, Big Island, HI

You may have to share the black volcanic sands of Punalu’u Beach with the sea turtles that come to bask in the sun (just don’t touch; they’re protected). You may also have some company of the human variety, since it is among the most popular and accessible colored beaches in Hawaii. 960 1280
WHITE: Angaga Island, Maldives

WHITE: Angaga Island, Maldives

Part of the Ari Atoll, Angaga Island houses a resort with romantic overwater bungalows, a spa, a dive center and wide, sugar-white beaches all around. The resort strives not only to preserve the natural beauty of the island, but also to maintain its local Maldivian character. 960 1280

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