The universe can make anyone feel small, but even more so when you’re already small. Kids have a natural fascination with the stars above, and the family memories of gazing and learning and storytelling while looking up can last a lifetime.
Here’s a few ways to explore Jasper’s Dark Sky Preserve with your littles. Remember that since bedtimes might be pushed a smidge later than normal, be ready with extra layers, warm drinks, and lots of snacks.
1. PLANETARIUM SHOW
In addition to being the world’s largest accessible dark sky preserve, Jasper is also one of the smallest towns in North America with its own planetarium. Join the knowledgeable astronomy guides with the Jasper Planetarium for an interactive ‘tour’ in the 40-seat domed theatre (show lasts about 35-40 minutes). Even if the skies outside are cloudy, this experience gives you chance to see local Indigenous constellations and views of recent northern lights from some of Jasper’s most famous landmarks.
2. FIND CONSTELLATIONS WITH STAR MAP
There’s plenty of wonderful stargazing spots in the national park but Pyramid Island is particularly family-friendly, with multiple benches and shelters. Check the weather, download a stargazing app or take along a star chart, pack provisions and head out for a stargazing picnic. If you’ve got one, bring a telescope. Pro tip: use red cellophane over your flashlight. Red light is less obtrusive than traditional white light, and helps to retain your night vision.
3. MAKE ARTS AND CRAFTS
If outside is just too chilly or too late, engage the kids by making night sky-themed art! Younger kids love using chalk pastels on dark construction paper to recreate images taken through telescopes, while astro photography and poetry are creative ways to energize older kids. Get inspiration here.
4. TELESCOPE EXPERIENCE
Get an interactive, guided tour of the largest, most powerful telescope in the Rockies. The Jasper Planetarium offers an ‘instant replay’ from their video scope, which can record the sky in Jasper on clear nights and play it back anytime upon request. If the skies are clear enough, we will offer LIVE viewing through our telescopes. For health and safety reasons, the telescope experience is now ‘touchless’, using video-based telescopes as our primary observing tool so guests never have to put their face up to a telescope eyepiece. Hold a meteorite and Mars rock!
This special new event at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival will involve participants using GPS to locate boxes hidden along the trail. This will be a multi-cache whereby you’ll get a question related to the Dark Sky and coordinates to your first box/cache. You must find the answer to the question located in the hidden box along with a new question and coordinates for the next one. Get fascinating facts about the night sky, get outside, get memory-making with this unique and family-friendly event.
Ever want to build a rocket and learn what makes them go? Join the Edmonton Rocketry Club in Jasper for the Dark Sky Festival. They’ll have various levels of model rockets they can help you build and then let you launch them. Depending on the weather, members of the ERC will also be demonstrating some of their larger rockets throughout the afternoon.
Join local hiking guides on this family-friendly night hike up on Pyramid Bench. You will learn all about Jasper’s nocturnal wildlife while we hike this 4km route to a scenic lookout over the town and dark sky preserve above.