The Jasper Dark Sky Festival is going on NOW

There is still time to plan a get away to the mountains to enjoy a weekend filled with fun, food and more educational experiences than you could possibly imagine at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival presented by Rocky Mountaineer.

A shooting star goes over Spirit Island on Maligne Lake in Jasper, Alberta, Canada. Photo credit Ryan Bray, Parks Canada

A shooting star goes over Spirit Island on Maligne Lake in Jasper, Alberta, Canada. Photo credit Ryan Bray, Parks Canada

Inviting you to power down and look up, this year’s Dark Sky Festival is happening in Jasper from October 14 – 23 and there is still plenty to take in before it is over. My family and I just got back from a weekend in Jasper (and the first weekend of the Dark Sky Festival) and I have plenty to share. You can read on to find out how this past weekend was for us or check out my article from last year at http://thisbirdsday.com/power-down-look-up-jasper-dark-sky-festival/.

Different seasons bring different views. Just south of Jasper.

Different seasons bring different views. Just south of Jasper.

If you are humming and hawing about getting away for one last trip before the winter sets in, then read on and make some plans for this weekend — you’ll be glad you did.

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Speakers

Listening to experts in their scientific fields speak always blows my mind and every session I have attended at the Dark Sky Festival has been inspirational, educational and moving on both a personal and cosmic level.

Bill Nye spoke during the first weekend of the Dark Sky Festival this year.

Bill Nye (the Science Guy) spoke during the first weekend of the Dark Sky Festival this year.

If you head out this weekend, you are in for a treat when George Takei takes the stage. He is going to be at a couple different events on the Friday and Saturday evenings. In addition, SPACEtalks will be featuring some of North America’s brightest astronomy and media professionals. I am completely jealous and will be following along closely on social media this weekend.

So far all of the speaking events I have attended have also had a short Q&A from the audience at the end of the event.

Canadian astronaut, Jeremy Hansen gave an wonderful talk about Canada's place in space last weekend at the festival.

Canadian astronaut, Jeremy Hansen gave an wonderful talk about Canada’s ongoing contributions to space exploration last weekend at the festival.

Fun for the family

I can’t stress enough how much our whole family has gained from attending the Jasper Dark Sky Festival the past two years. From lively family discussions in the car about our place in space to questions from our girls about why the moon looks so bumpy when they get to see it through a telescope.

Looking at the sun through Eclipse Shades, special solar viewing glasses from the Jasper Planetarium (http://jasperplanetarium.com/).

Looking at the sun through Eclipse Shades, special solar viewing glasses from the Jasper Planetarium (http://jasperplanetarium.com/).

Next weekend is an activity-packed weekend for families. The Big Bang Expo at Centennial Field is a must attend event for the kids. The TELUS World of Science will be on location with numerous experiments, crafts and demonstrations that your kids will love. Both of our daughters still have the crafts and rockets they made in 2015. The Big Bang Expo is a free event for everyone and runs on the Saturday afternoon from 11:00am – 3:00pm.

The UofA DiscoverE team was out demonstrating various hands on science experiments. Our youngest is helping a small robot to ride along a drawn map.

The UofA DiscoverE team was out demonstrating various hands on science experiments. Our youngest is helping a small robot to ride along a drawn map.

After seeing her sister with the robot, our oldest decided to create a map of her own and lead the robot on a different adventure.

After seeing her sister with the robot, our oldest decided to create a map of her own and led the robot on a different adventure.

Stargazing

Another favourite family event is the Stargazing in Jasper on the Saturday evening. It is also a free event happening on the lawn of the Visitor Information Centre. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada is on hand with their telescopes set up. You can walk around the grounds and look through their telescopes to see the moon and possibly some planets or other surprises.

The lighting at Lake Annette during the star gazing event is kept to a minimum to allow you to see all of the stars in the night sky. Photo credit Jeff Bartlett.

The lighting at Lake Annette during the star gazing event is kept to a minimum to allow you to see all of the stars in the night sky. Photo credit Jeff Bartlett.

For a truly dark sky experience on the Friday, you can board a shuttle from the town out to Lake Annette to look around in almost complete darkness. This is free to attend and there is no charge for the shuttles that run continuously during the event.

Star and moon gazing along with nighttime photography classes are also being held during the weekend. You can check out a complete list of free and paid events and sign up at http://jasperdarksky.travel/events/.

Sightseeing

There is no shortage of things to do and see while you are visiting Jasper. A short drive in any direction gets you to beautiful hikes, scenic views and majestic wildlife.

Just south of Jasper on a scenic drive.

Just south of Jasper on a scenic drive.

Within 30 minutes, you can be on top of a mountain at the Jasper SkyTram, at Athabasca Falls, Pyramid Lake or Maligne Canyon to name a few spots.

Elk are often seen around and in Jasper.

Elk are often seen around and in Jasper.

The food

You know something is amazing when you can’t stop talking about it. For three days straight while we visited this last weekend, I made it very clear to everyone in my family that I wouldn’t be leaving Jasper without a sandwich from the Patricia Street Deli. I spoke about it so passionately that my eight year old daughter insisted that she would be having one too, sight unseen, just like mine (a chicken sandwich with cranberry mayo and loaded with carrots, lettuce, sprouts, pickles, beets and aged white cheddar — I was that spirited).

You will crave this once you try it. This sandwich from the Patricia Street Deli is at the top of my very long list (and growing) of food I must have when I visit Jasper.

You will crave this once you try it. This sandwich from the Patricia Street Deli is at the top of my very long list (and growing) of food I must have when I visit Jasper.

And last night just before we went to sleep, my husband turned to me and lovingly said ‘that was a really good sandwich’.

The thing about Jasper though is that it is like this everywhere we have eaten. Culinary delights greet you on every corner.

The Jasper Brewing Company offers great food, a nice kids menu and beer, brewed on site. They have a special brew available right now for the Dark Sky Festival. My favourite beer from there is Blackeye Blueberry Vanilla.

The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge always has great food. If you are able to sign up for any of their banquets, or events that include a nice dinner, jump at it. I’ll be thinking about my most recent dining experience from this past weekend as part of their Symphony Under the Stars event for a long time to come.

After a delicious meal, we walked out to spend an evening with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra under the stars.

After a delicious meal at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, we walked outside to spend an evening with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra under the stars.

Take in the unique experience of eating on top of a mountain. The Jasper SkyTram will take you up to the Summit Restaurant for a delicious meal with breathtaking views. The SkyTram will be open until the end of October and offers some unique dining and viewing options during the Dark Sky Festival.

The Summit Restaurant at the top of the Jasper SkyTram offers delicious food with a stunning view.

The Summit Restaurant at the top of the Jasper SkyTram offers delicious food with a stunning view.

If you want to save some money by not eating out every night, you can get a room with a fridge and visit one of their grocers to pick up some items to eat in your room. Our room at the Mount Robson Inn had a fridge and a microwave.

How to get there

Heading out to the Jasper Dark Sky Festival is as simple as just booking your room and getting out there. While there is a charge for some events that you can sign up for, there is no charge to attend the festival itself. Festival events are listed at http://jasperdarksky.travel/events/ so once you are there, you just show up to any of the free events and have a great time.

Big horn sheep making a graceful exit along the side of a mountain east of Jasper on Highway 16.

Big horn sheep making a graceful exit along the side of a mountain east of Jasper on Highway 16.

We love this festival because it isn’t really crowded. Our kids enjoyed all of the events without rushing through and everything happened at a relaxed pace. The girls had a chance to talk to volunteers and members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and ask questions about anything they wanted to know.

Pyramid Lake at sunset.

Pyramid Lake at sunset.

This next weekend coming up is wrapping up the festival with a long list of things to do and there is still time to book a room and get away one last time before winter sets in.

What are you waiting for?

I would like to thank Tourism Jasper, Rocky Mountianeer,
Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, Mount Robson Inn and the Jasper SkyTram.

Sheri Landry
Sheri publishes, and writes at This Bird’s Day where she shares all of the thoughts in her head without the voices. Sticking mainly with content for Canadians, Sheri shares family stories, product information and anything that fits into her (and her family’s) daily activities.
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1 comment… add one
  • Betty Oct 20, 2016, 11:07 am

    Great article. Would go if we lived closer. Pictures are beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

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