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Astrotourism provides a trip that’s truly written in the stars




Like watching the sunset, seeking out the Big Dipper in the night sky is a vacation ritual. But in the past five years, according to experts, the term astrotourism has evolved to describe more intentional travel to places with dark skies and more visible stars.

“Astrotourism is any kind of tourism that involves the night sky or visiting facilities related to astronomy like observatories, and combining that with a broader sense of ecotourism where interaction with nature is what the visitor experience is about,” said John Barentine, director of public policy at the International Dark-Sky Association, a Tucson, Arizona-based non-profit organization devoted to battling light pollution and certifying dark sky preserves where stars and planets shine brightly.

In its 30-year history, the association has designated more than 60 International Dark Sky Parks in protected areas, such as Grand Canyon National Park. International Dark Sky Reserves, 13 so far, have protected land at their centre, such as a national forest, and municipalities in their buffer regions that have agreed to reduce light emissions. Its four International Dark Sky Sanctuaries tend to be remote; Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific, for example, has applied for sanctuary status.

Similarly motivated by light-pollution abatement, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada designates Canada’s Dark-Sky Preserves, often in national parks.

Given that anyone looking up from a campfire to spot the constellation of Orion could be considered a stargazer, their numbers are hard to quantify, but anecdotal evidence suggests the pastime has a growing fan base.

In March, the public library in Rancho Mirage, Calif., opened an observatory with a 7 metre dome as well as a 610-square metre patio where visitors can attend stargazing events. In June, Viking Ocean Cruises launched its new ship, the Viking Orion, featuring a planetarium and a resident astronomer who offers lectures, guided stargazing and indoor night-sky tours.

The National Park Service has adapted its slogan “Find your park” to “Find your park after dark” to increase awareness of its night sky programs, which include star parties, festivals, interpretive talks and children’s night explorer programs.

Eclipse pilgrims chasing the path of the 2017 solar eclipse caused traffic jams along the path of totality in August 2017, and destinations from Texas to Maine are gearing up for a similar migration when the next North American eclipse takes place on April 8, 2024. Visitors to South America won’t have to wait that long; on July 2, 2019, one will track across Chile and Argentina.

“The eclipse last summer raised so much awareness – people got really jazzed about looking up from that,” said Samuel Singer, the owner of Wyoming Stargazing who guides public and private stargazing in Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park. Founded in 2014, the company has grown from one high-powered telescope to 10 to meet demand.

“In every culture there’s a myth about the stars and stories there,” he added. “People have always looked up for answers.”

Many of the best stargazing areas in North America lie near popular mountain resorts, ski destinations and state and national parks, adding a cosmic wonder to trips there; along with stargazing events and festivals, they are expanding the galaxy of astrotourism.

Parks and attractions

In December, the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve became the first International Dark Sky Reserve in the United States, covering a 3,626 square kilometre swath of central Idaho in the Sawtooth Mountains, from Ketchum in Sun Valley to Stanley. The International Dark-Sky Association calls central Idaho “one of the last large ‘pools’ of natural nighttime darkness left in the United States” on its website.

Ketchum and Stanley are both gateways to the reserve. The Sawtooth Botanical Garden in Ketchum and the Stanley Museum both offer periodic astronomy programs. Idaho Conservation League has held overnight treks in the reserve.

This summer, National Geographic and Au Diable Vert Mountain Station, a Dark Sky Preserve in Glen Sutton, Que., near the U.S. border, opened Observ-Étoiless, the first open-air augmented reality planetarium. The theatre, with 184 heated seats, plans to operate nine months each year, providing visitors AR headsets featuring digital overlays of 17th-century illustrations that align with the stars and planets overhead. Programs cost $45.99 (CAD).

Walkway Over the Hudson, the bridge-turned-linear-park between Poughkeepsie and Lloyd on either side of the Hudson River in New York state, has added Starwalks this summer, deploying scientists and teachers along the span to talk about special themes, offer nighttime photography tips and staff the telescopes (free).


Gatherings of stargazers abound, from star parties in state parks to weeklong star safaris in Australia. The online magazine lists global cosmic gatherings.

The province of Alberta is home to six Dark Sky Preserves. One of the world’s largest, the 10,878 square kilometre Jasper Dark Sky Preserve in the Canadian Rockies, offers prime stargazing and Northern Lights watches September to May, including ski season. From Oct. 12 to 21, the Jasper Dark Sky Festival will feature astronauts and brothers Scott Kelly and Mark Kelly as speakers, in addition to sessions on night photography, telescope tours and stargazing.

For those seeking to take better photos of the night sky, the fourth annual Astrophotography Conference at the Adirondack Public Observatory in Tupper Lake, N.Y., Oct. 11 to 14, will focus on dark sky photography workshops. Fee is $150 (U.S.).

As the region explores becoming dark-sky certified, Manning Park Resort in eastern British Columbia’s Manning Provincial Park will hold its first Astronomy Weekend, Oct. 12 to 14, featuring astronomers, sessions for children and more advanced scientific talks. Rooms are available from $99 (CAD); event passes are $25 to $45 (CAD).


Resorts such as the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa in Hawaii, with three high-powered telescopes on its roof capable of spotting 80 constellations, and Primland in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, home to its own observatory, have set a high bar for casual astronomy. But even the less equipped are bringing science to night life.

In Mexico, the Four Seasons Punta Mita has recently begun offering complimentary stargazing on its driving range where a guide uses a laser to point out stars and constellations overhead (rooms from $695 U.S.). Private stargazing tours may take place at the beach and include wine and cheese (from $70 U.S. per person).

Guests of Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa in the Caribbean can reserve an oceanfront beach cabana at night in a stargazing upgrade ($45 U.S. per person) that includes a private firepit with s’more fixings, telescope, night sky map and dinner (rooms from $299 U.S.).

In Sedona, Ariz., L’Auberge de Sedona Resort & Spa has added complimentary “star bathing,” an adaptation of forest bathing, the Japanese concept of meditation in nature (rooms from $399 U.S.). The guided nighttime version has participants appreciate all that is around them, as well as twinkling overhead.


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Travel & Escape

Why your hotel mattress feels like heaven (and how to bring that feeling home)




(NC) Choosing the right mattress is a long-term investment in your health and well-being. To make a good choice for your home, take a cue from luxury hotel-room beds, which are designed to support the sound sleep of tens of thousands of guests, 365 nights a year.

“When we’re shopping for a mattress, we do lab testing, identify the best materials, bring in multiple mattress samples and have our associates test them,” explains David Rizzo, who works for Marriott International. “We ask for ratings on comfort level, firmness, body support and movement disruption. It takes 12 to 18 months just to research and select materials.”

Here, he shares his tips to pick the perfect mattress for your best sleep:

Understand your needs. People have different food and exercise preferences, as well as different sleep cycles. So, it’s no surprise that everyone has unique mattress preferences. Not sure whether a firm or a soft mattress is better? Rizzo says the best gauge is to ask yourself, “Do I wake up with aches and pains?” If the answer is no, you’re golden.

Foam versus spring. All mattresses have a core that is made up foam or innersprings or a combination of the two. Today’s foam-core mattresses contain memory foam — a material engineered by NASA to keep astronauts comfortable in their seats. It’s special because it retains or “remembers” its shape, yielding to pressure from the sleeper’s body, then bouncing back once the pressure is removed.

An innerspring mattress has an encased array of springs with individual coils that are connected by a single helical wire. This wire creates continuous movement across the coil that minimizes disruption if the mattress is disturbed, such as by a restless sleeper. According to Rizzo, the innerspring is “bouncier.”

Temperature preference. Consider how warm or cool you like to sleep, and factor in the construction of the mattress to find one with a temperature that suits you. The air space engineered into an innerspring mattress promotes ventilation, which some people find keeps them pleasantly cool. To accomplish the same purpose with a foam mattress (or the foam layer of an innerspring) it may be infused with metal, usually silver or copper, to help dissipate heat and humidity.

Need to test out the right mattress for your needs? Find the right fit during your next trip by booking your stay at

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Travel & Escape

How to make the most of summer travel




(NC) One of the best parts of our short Canadian summers is the opportunity to enjoy them a little bit extra on long weekends. If you need ideas, check out these creative things to do whether you decide to stay in town or go away.

Do a dinner crawl. Pub crawls are fun for couples, friends and also families with older kids. For an exciting twist that stretches your dollars and lets you taste food from several spots before you get too full, try a dinner crawl. Eat apps at one restaurant, mains at another and dessert at another.

Go on a mini getaway. You don’t need to go very far to enjoy a vacation – exploring a Canadian city over a summer weekend is great way to treat yourself to a holiday. Whether it’s checking out the museums in Toronto or the parks in Vancouver, there’s something for everyone. For upgraded benefits, special experiences and the best rates guaranteed, join Marriott Bonvoy and book direct on

Host a potluck. Perfect whether you’re staying at home or going to your cottage, gather friends and family together for some food and fun. A potluck is an easy and affordable way to host a big get-together and lets everyone try something new and swap recipes. Make the festivities extra special with a fireworks potluck, too – ask everyone to bring some fireworks or sparklers and put on a light show. Just be sure to follow local regulations for consumer fireworks.

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Travel & Escape

Lottoland: Here’s why Canadians love it!




Lotteries have been in existence for many centuries now and it’s an open secret that most people enjoy playing a good lottery.

Asides from gauging your own luck, the thrill of playing, the anticipation of the results and the big wins every now and then is something most people look forward to. Since 1982, the lottery has been in Canada, but now there is a way to play both the Lotto and other international lotteries from Canada, all from the comfort of your home.

With Lottoland, all you need to do is register and get access to numerous international lotteries right from their website. The easy-to-use interface has all the information you need, and great amount of care has been taken to ensure that the online experience is similar—and even better—than if players were to visit each location personally.

The Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries are hitting record highs with their prize money, in what the organizers claim to be the largest jackpot in the history of the world. However, the U.S. has gambling laws that are state controlled and buying your ticket through an online broker can be considered gambling.

“No one except the lottery or their licensed retailers can sell a lottery ticket. No one. Not even us. No one. No, not even that website. Or that one,” Powerball’s website says.

Therefore, to stand a chance to win the $1.5 billion-dollar lottery jackpot it means you have to purchase your lottery tickets directly from a licensed retailer such as Lottoland.

Since 2013, Lottoland has been operating in Canada, rapidly growing in popularity amongst Canadians. Due to its easy of use and instant access to lotteries that were previously considered inaccessible—as Canadians had to travel all the way to the U.S. to purchase tickets in the past—Lottoland has attracted lots of visitors.

Currently, there about 8-million players on Lottoland, a figure that points to the reliability of the website.

One of the core values of Lottoland is transparency and that’s why a quick search on the website would show you a list of all of their winners. Recently, a Lottoland customer was awarded a world-record fee of $137 million CND.

Also, due to the incredibly slim chances of winning the grand prize not everyone would take home mega-dollar winnings, but there are substantial winnings every day.

Securing your information online is usually one important factor when registering on any platform and as the site explains, “Lottoland works very hard to verify your information.”

The site has a multi-verification process that will ensure that you confirm your identity and age before giving you a pay-out. However, in the rare case that a player has immediate luck and wins a lottery before completing the verification process, Lottoland will hold on to the winnings until they complete your verification.

While this might seem like a tedious process, it is very important as these safety features would ensure that your information wasn’t stolen and ultimately your winning routed to another account.

Lottoland is licensed with the National Supervisory Bodies For Lotteries in several countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Ireland and Australia—where it is called a wagering license. Typically, most gaming companies don’t establish insurance companies as it entails that their activities have to be transparent and the must be highly reputable in the industry.

Nonetheless, Lottoland has no issues meeting up to these standards as they have established themselves as the only gaming sector company who has its own insurance company—an added advantage for new and existing users.

Lotteries aren’t the only games Canadians enjoy playing and Lottoland recognizes this by providing players with other types of gaming. As an industry leader, video designers of online games often make them their first choice when it comes to publishing their works.

Online games such as slots, blackjack, video poker, baccarat, keno, scratchoffs, roulette and many others are always on offer at the Lottoland Casino. There’s also the option of playing with a live dealer and a total of over 100 games.

Lottoland has received numerous rave reviews from its growing list of satisfied customer and their responsive customer service agents are always available to answer any questions users may have, along with solving challenges they may have encountered.

More and more Canadians are trooping to Lottoland in droves due to the unique experience of going to a casino without having to leave the comfort of their homes.

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