Road Trip

These are the best places to stargaze in Texas

Stargazers check out the night sky at McDonald Observatory in Texas.

Photo by Getty Images

San Antonians have long traveled to West Texas to traverse the wilds of Big Bend, embrace the low-key vibes of Terlingua, and cool off in the springs of Balmorhea. We have also understood the magic of standing under the night sky at the McDonald Observatory, crawling through the dark night to take in one of the most beautiful celestial views on earth.

Now, it appears, the rest of the world is uncovering this not-so-hidden gem. A recent research report from U.K.-based travel website Kuoni named the McDonald Observatory, part of the University of Texas at Austin, the second best place to stargaze in the U.S.

To determine the country's top 50 places to see stars, Kuoni analyzed "60 official Dark Sky areas and over 117 locations nationwide which offer the public access to high powered telescopes." The site then sifted through hundreds of TripAdvisor reviews to find the winners.

Located on Fort Davis (not David, as the original press release said — multiple times — before a correction email was sent out), about 25 miles north of tourist destinations like Marfa and Alpine, the McDonald Observatory snagged the No. 2 spot behind Oregon University Observatory in Sunriver, Oregon.

"The reviewers of Texas' McDonald observatory are blown away by the incredible amount of celestial phenomena they see at the location," Kuoni notes in its release.

Every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday, visitors head to the West Texas site for both Twilight and Star parties. During the Twilight parties, attendees sit in an amphitheater and are guided through the cosmos by an observatory staffer. Star events, which take place after dark, give visitors the opportunity to use high-powered telescopes in the McDonald's Rebecca Gale Telescope Park. So why stargazing? Kuoni says it's an activity that encapsulates much of what modern travelers look for in a vacation. "With travelers having more desire than ever to learn about the natural world, and a general trend in travelers looking to try local one-of-a-kind experiences, stargazing is set to become a super popular activity," notes a release.

Joining the Oregon University Observatory and McDonald Observatory in the top five are National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, New Mexico; National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.; and Kitt Peak National Observatory Nightly Observing Program in Tuscon, Arizona. The only other Texas spot on the list was the Fort Worth Noble Planetarium at No. 26.

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This story originally appeared on AutomotiveMap's sister site, CultureMap.

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The winner of the Charles Schwab Challenge earns this resto-modded Dodge Power Wagon.

Photo courtesy of the Charles Schwab Challenge

Newly crowned 2021 PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson will be among a group of international golfers vying for the lowest score at the Charles Schawab Challenge PGA Tour event in Fort Worth, Texas this weekend.

The winner of the tournament will receive a 1946 Dodge Power Wagon that has undergone a complete resto-mod revision by Legacy Classic Trucks. This is the second vehicle the tournament has awarded to a winner with a 1973 Dodge Challenger awarded to Kevin Na in 2019. Na didn't keep the car for long. He turned it over to his car-obsessed caddy Kenny Harms.

The '46 Power Wagon is a nod to the roots of the tourney. This year marks the 75th anniversary of The Colonial, the original name for the event.

1946 Dodge Power Wagon Charles Schwab Legacy Classic Trucks The interior of the truck wears The Colonial's tartan.Photo courtesy of the Charles Schwab Challenge

Under its hood is a 6.2-liter Chevrolet LS3 engine that delivers 430 horsepower. The engine is paired with a four-speed automatic transmission and a custom Atlas transfer case. The rig rides on 40-inch Toyota tires and custom Trail Ready wheels.

Modern conveniences have been added like air conditioning, disc brakes, a long travel suspension, and a 12,000-pound Warn winch.

Because Charles Schwab is the sponsor of the tournament, Legacy Classic Trucks added some special 'Schwab' elements to the model including a Dove blue paint job and a custom 'SCHWAB' tailgate and brightwork. The interior of the truck is upholstered with a tartan fabric in the design of The Colonial's traditional plaid. A custom nameplate on the dashboard acknowledges Ben Hogan's 1946 win that started the legacy of the tournament.

Similar resto-modded trucks by Legacy Classic Trucks go for around $350,000.

1946 Dodge Power Wagon Charles Schwab Legacy Classic Trucks The rear of the truck features a custom tailgate.Photo courtesy of the Charles Schwab Challenge

Uniquely, the truck has inspired a song by up-and-coming country singer Travis Denning called "Grew Up with a Truck". The song debuted last week on Bobby Bones' podcast, "Bobbycast".

Other golfers joining Mickelson at the tournament include Lee Westwood, Jordan Speith, Si Woo Kim, and Sergio Garcia.

The first round of play kicks off on Thursday, May 27 with the second and third round on ensuing days leading up to the Final Round on Sunday, May 30. Tickets for the event are still available.

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The new program is now available in select areas nationwide.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.

AARP and Toyota are joining with Dallas area organizations for a new transportation initiative. The AARP Ride@50+ Program allows residents to book rides on multiple modes of transportation and pay for them all in one place. This includes essential rides including COVID-19 vaccination appointments.

"Every day people miss crucial medical appointments because of a lack of access or awareness in using local transportation options," said Kyle Rakow, vice president and national director of AARP Driver Safety. "By arming older adults with knowledge and an accessible platform, we hope to make it easier for those in Dallas to get around, especially if it helps them stay safe and healthy."

Those who wish to receive a COVID-19 vaccinations through Parkland Hospital and Dallas County are eligible for free rides to their appointment. The rides are made possible because of a grant from Toyota.

The AARP Ride@50+ was created as a single point of access to "review, compare, book and pay for local transportation alternatives through a mobile application, online booking platform, or by phone". Essential trips that can be booked via the program include trips to the grocery store, pharmacy, or other medical appointments.

According to program materials, the cost of each ride depends on the length and transportation option chosen. The cost is made clear ahead of booking. Payment is made using any major credit card. Prior to booking a ride, passengers and transportation providers must agree to follow all applicable future and current COVID-19 safety recommendations, including CDC and state guidelines.

The program is available to people of all ages but focuses its efforts on ndividuals 50 and older and other vulnerable individuals. AARP membership is not required.

The program is currently serving residents in Richland and Lexington County, South Carolina; Dallas County, Texas; and Washtenaw County, Michigan.

"The AARP Ride@50+ Program offers a simple, affordable, and efficient solution to finding local transportation for people of all ages," said Sean Suggs, group vice president, Toyota Social Innovation. "This program makes it easier to access critical services and help people get to where they want to go, and that is what mobility for all is about."

For more information, visit www.aarp.org/ridedallas or call 1-800-466-1461

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