The Ultimate Arizona Road Trip For Space Geeks


“To confine our attention to terrestrial matters would be to limit the human spirit," the late, great Stephen Hawking once said. There’s certainly something endlessly captivating about the infinite mysteries and great unknowns of space — as I’m sure all you space geeks out there would agree. So why not get out there and explore some of America’s space-related attractions in person? Here are three must-see “spacey” destinations to fit in on your Arizona road trip.

Cinder Lake Crater Fields, Flagstaff, AZ

The Cinder Lake Crater Fields are the next best thing to walking on the moon. In 1967, NASA used this site as a testing ground before pulling off the actual moon landing. Dynamite was used to replicate the moon’s exact lunar, cratered landscape. Then, fully-suited astronauts tested out their prototype lunar rovers and geologic equipment from the safety of earth. You can hike about half a mile from the car park on Forest Road 776 to explore this historical volcanic field.

Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, AZ

Just a twenty-five minute drive away from Cinder Lake is the Lowell Observatory. In 1894, astrologer Percival Lowell built the observatory thinking that it would be the perfect spot for observing Mars, which he believed was home to a technologically advanced alien race. However, the observatory became best known for the first ever discovery of Pluto. Here, you can channel your inner astronomer by gazing through historic and cutting-edge telescopes, as well as attend compelling lectures on topics such as black holes and the history of Pluto.

Very Large Array, Western New Mexico

Next up, you have a longer drive ahead — four and a half hours to be exact — so make sure your car’s in good shape before you hit the road. The Very Large Array is an impressive 20-mile-wide collection of 27 huge, white radio antennae focused permanently on the skies above. Since the late 1970s, astronomers have used these dishes to conduct research into black holes, supernovae, alien life, dark energy, and SETI, as well as discover ice on Mercury and microquasars. Walking through the array is a fascinating, magical, and unique experience you won’t forget in a hurry.

This road trip is bound to delight lovers of space and astronomy, as well as anyone simply into cool attractions. You could decide to leave it there or carry on further afield and visit even more space-themed attractions across the country. Either way, you’ll have crossed several must-visit destinations off your bucket list.

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