Offered most nights at 8 pm, this interactive star gazing session includes an educational talk and exploration of the night sky by use of impressively high powered telescopes. Kids are included (and encouraged to ask questions) by expert Tony, and everyone in our group, from age 7 to 37, were entertained. We learned about super novas and constellations and viewed Saturn and Mars from the telescopes. The Tahoe night sky was amazing…the stars literally pop here. Bring a sweater for everyone, as it gets chilly in the mountains once the sun goes down.
Tip: The 10:30 shuttle does take some time to weave its way back down the mountain and drop off all passengers: we didn't get back to our Northstar vacation rental until almost 11:30 pm. If you have young children who don't want to be out that late, it's also possible to leave the program at 10:15 pm, walk back up the hill to the Highlands Gondola, and take it back down before it shuts down at 10:30. (To make use of this option, however, you need your own transportation in the Village.)
Throughout the summer, star guide and poet, Tony Berendsen leads those who sign up for his star tours from the splendor of the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe down a rugged trail past what is ordinarily Northstar's ski school and crowded sun decks during snowier times and introduces them to constellations and stars that we tend to forget about in every day city life.
Upon reaching the deck of the Northstar Lodge, participants are encouraged to take the opportunity to peek through high powered telescopes to check out the happenings in the sky. Saturn appeared in one view finder. A shot of the moon that looked so close it was breathtaking came up in another. It had been a while since I had seen so many twinkling lights in the sky, that at first I thought Northstar must have found a way to add a few more, the same way they often manufacture their own snow. Of course that wasn't the case, the rich and starry night sky in the Sierra is so dazzling because it is unfettered by the city lights.
Bears roaming the area almost stole the show away from the heavens. Two bear cubs ambled by in the darkness. Despite all of our curiosity about them, they seemed to view our group with complete and utter disinterest.
We soon settled into comfy Andorak with drinks in hand and a campfire crackling to enjoy Tony's talk about the cosmos. Soon I saw the group leaning forward, soaking in every word starting with Tony's own personally penned poem right through every detail he shared about super novas and constellations, tracing the blanket of stars stretched over our heads and broadcast on the screen behind him. Afterwards more kids crowded him to ask follow up questions than those who gathered around the campfire to make s'mores!
A flock of intrepid star guides, as Tony, who is also the president of the Northern Nevada Science Coalition, deemed everyone in the group (and gave them the buttons to prove it), surrounded him wanting more details and further glimpses of space.
"Do you have any photos of the geysers on Saturn?" one girl asked.
"What about water sources on Mars?" inquired a little boy.
"Do you think we'll ever colonize space ?" another kid asked.
Thumbing through his iPad, he coolly responded to each and every request.
My 8-year-old son couldn't get enough of the sights through the telescopes and the guys in charge of them were great! Patient and kind, they gently moved the big scopes around so that the kids could get varied views of different parts of the sky. "Come look at what I'm focused on now!" one of them excitedly said to my son. He then helped steady him on a step stool and positioned him so he wasn't touching the telescope. "WOWWW!" my little boy exclaimed as he caught sight of Saturn from a different angle.
At the end of the two hour activity, a bus came by to collect all of the star gazers and return them to their lodging. Despite being very tired my kids had a hard time tearing themselves away. "That was amazing!" my 12-year-old daughter exclaimed before realizing she had revealed her true feelings and abandoned the tween/teen requirement to not label anything in such a fantastically positive light! This alone was great proof to me that we had a very good teacher on this adventure!
Disclosure: Thank you Tahoe Star Tours for hosting my family!
Although my family received complimentary passes to this activity, my reviews are always my own opinions and are not influenced by staff or its affiliates.