One of the best things about being at the cottage is that it makes all those big problems you left back home feel small. When you’re at the lake, your inbox doesn’t seem so unwieldy, your deadlines don’t feel so imminent, and your minor squabbles become forgivable and forgettable. And while the fresh air and loon calls certainly play a role, we suspect it’s the endless starry sky—something you never see above city lights—that shrinks all of those troubles.
But there’s an art to fully appreciating the stars above the lake. To get it right—and create an unforgettable experience for you and your family the next time you rent a cottage through Vrbo—follow these tips.
Don’t arrive early
Like a headlining band, the stars don’t hit the stage until way past bedtime, so plan to stay out late. If you’ve got kiddos in your troop, it’s tough to jettison their sleep schedule, but if there were ever a time to upend their routine, it would be a clear night at the cottage. For the best show during summer months, you’ll need to wait until past 11 p.m., so bring some midnight snacks in case the kids get cranky.
Find a clearing
You might not want to venture too far away from the cottage at night, but try to find an open area with no obstructions to the skyline. The dark silhouette of pines might look lovely against the night sky, but they’ll block your panoramic view of the stars. If you can stargaze from a beach, you’re all set.
Lights out—all of them
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep—but only if you ditch those LEDs and extinguish your campfire embers. If you’re close to your cottage, even a sliver of light shining through the bathroom window can dull the dazzle of the stars, so make sure you commit to a total blackout.
Bring your binoculars
Sure, dragging a telescope out into the brush will yield the best results, but you’d be surprised how much your bird-watching binoculars can enhance the stargazing experience. Not only are they easy to pass around among the group, but most will be powerful enough to help you spot the moon’s craters.
Give it time
If you’re spooked by the rustling in the bush—or worse, by the din of mosquitos beyond the campfire—then you might be eager to make it a quick viewing. But walking to the edge of your deck and then disappearing back into your brightly lit cottage won’t cut if you want to experience the starry splendour. Why? Because your eyes need to get used to that wonderful darkness. Once every light is off, give your eyes up to 15 minutes to adjust, and, as Gord Downie sang, the constellations will reveal themselves one star at a time.
Know what to look for
Speaking of constellations, sailors used them for centuries to explore the globe, but you don’t need a navigator’s knowledge to spot a few of the key summer clusters—and impress your starstruck companions. Start small with the Big Dipper and Orion, whom you can locate by finding the three prominent stars of his belt. Beyond the constellations, you might be lucky enough to spot cosmic dust set ablaze in our atmosphere (otherwise known as a shooting star). And if you’re stargazing in mid-August, you may be treated to the Perseids, a meteor shower in which scores of shooting stars race across the sky.
Looking to make memories with your family at a cottage this season? Find a rental that’s perfect for you with the help of Vrbo.