These Hotels Offer Stellar Stargazing—and out-of-This-World Amenities
These are some of the top spots to sleep under the stars.
Did you know that more than 99% of the U.S. population lives in areas with light pollution capable of drowning out even the most prominent constellations and planets? And approximately one in every three people can’t see the Milky Way?
But the West is trying to buck that trend entirely. More cities and states are making major moves to protect their astral bounty, and the hospitality industry is following suit. Telescopes are becoming a common hotel amenity. And you can basically bank on finding all variety of s’mores—from pre-made packs to gourmet kits—at the front desk.
It’s not surprising that astrotourism continues to grow in popularity, considering how many people began to explore the outdoors for the first time amid the shutdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, five times as many people in North America camped for the first time in 2020 compared to the year prior, according to an annual report by the Kampgrounds of America, with many looking to try even more new experiences in Mother Nature.
When it comes to astrotourism, it’s not just about chasing the aurora borealis or experiencing a rare eclipse. It can also simply be about putting yourself “in the way of beauty,” as author Cheryl Strayed wrote in her best-selling memoir Wild, and enjoying the infinite satisfaction that can come from nights spent under dark skies.
If you’re ready to stargaze but not as enthusiastic about the prospect of putting up a tent, we put together a few of our favorite hotels offering out-of-this-world amenities—and prime locations—to experience the beauty of the West’s night skies. Don’t wait much longer to start planning a night (or a full weekend) of stargazing: Autumn is the best time to view the Milky Way in the West!
The hotel’s rooftop Skytop Lounge is like an outdoor living room high above the Sonoran Desert—but with small bites and specialty cocktails. Plus, you can join an aptly named group of guides, the “Star Dudes,” for telescope experiences on select evenings.
Surrounded by Sedona’s iconic red rocks and built on stilts to leave a minimal footprint, 40 steel and bronze-tinted “atriums” at this landscape hotel seamlessly blend with the desert landscape just beyond the glass. Ascend to the deck to see the stars next to your own private fire pit. The highly anticipated property is slated to open in May.
Castle Hot Springs
Enjoy a serene oasis at Castle Hot Springs, a historic resort about an hour north of Phoenix where you’re more likely to see a kaleidoscope of butterflies speed by than a car. A recent multi-year renovation transformed the remote 1896 property—seriously, it’s a dusty, winding drive off the highway—into the contemporary wellness destination it is today. Stay in one of the Sky View Cabins, and your porch comes equipped with a complimentary telescope.
El Capitan Canyon
Stay in one of the cedar cabins found at this Santa Barbara glamping destination, and you can take a nighttime dip in a heated pool before cooking up a bonfire barbecue kit and learning all about the stars from an onsite NASA expert. Opt for a domed yurt, and you can literally fall asleep to the stars thanks to an overhead skylight. Make sure to grab a s’mores kit!
Huttopia Paradise Springs
Set on a historic property for old Hollywood stars, this canvas tent retreat between two mountains in the Angeles National Forest is far from light pollution and intentionally limits light use onsite, so you can gather the family ‘round the bonfire for s’mores under the stars.
Ventana Big Sur
Gourmet s’mores are available every night from the resort’s chef, or you can order a more rustic version and roast those marshmallows over an open fire. It’s the perfect pairing for astronomy sessions that take place three nights a week on the expansive lawn overlooking the ocean.
Vespera Resort on Pismo Beach
College astronomers from California Polytechnic State University’s Astronomical Society visit the hotel’s oceanfront lawn every month to share their knowledge—and bring two telescopes along with them. You can also bring your own, as Vespera provides a portable telescope and stargazing map in each guest room.
Private firepits are only the start of the luxury accommodations at this family-friendly resort. After enjoying some s’mores, you’ll also have a telescope at the ready for viewing the vast Utah skies.
Picture this: You’ve just spent the day hiking Bryce Canyon’s epic desert mesas, and it’s time to relax. You shower before heading over to a group of vintage Cadillacs around an outdoor movie screen. You slide into one of the heated seats, popcorn in hand, as a classic film begins to play. With the sun setting, the stars begin to appear, rivaling the black-and-white Western for your attention.