UFOs and Starry Skies: A Themed Vacation Itinerary

Very Large Array Antenna

UFOs and Starry Skies: A Themed Vacation Itinerary in Texas and New Mexico

UFOs and Starry Skies is a fascinating itinerary that was part of our 5,000 mile southwest trip. Yet, it’s easily adaptable to add on to a long vacation or for a shorter road trip. Traveling through Texas and New Mexico, you’ll get to see the mysterious Marfa Lights, attend a Star Party at McDonald Observatory, explore the UFO phenomenon in Roswell, climb White Sands, and continue to feel very small next to the Very Large Array.

UFOs and Starry Skies

To accompany this itinerary, stay tuned to The Castle Concierge for more in-depth reviews.

Read on for an itinerary with optional stops to add to your aliens and starry skies exploration.

Pre-Trip To-Do List

Your pre-trip to-do list for your UFOs and Starry Skies vacation gives you an idea of some of the logistics that will need to be addressed before setting out on the open road.

  • Book a hotel in Alpine, Texas, Roswell, New Mexico, and Las Cruces, New Mexico.
  • Reserve the Star Party at McDonald Observatory, 3640 Dark Sky Drive, Fort Davis, TX 79734.
  • Look up sunset time for Fort Davis, TX.
  • Reserve a Roswell UFO Tour with Dennis Balthaser.
  • Reserve hotels, if needed, before and after this itinerary.

Begin the Road Trip

Day 1
Drive to Alpine, Texas.
We made the 5 hour journey from San Antonio, departing around Noon and arrive about 5PM. Plan your trip according to your starting point!

Road from Alpine to San Antonia Texas
On Road to Alpine from San Antonio, Texas.

Note that this town has limited lodging and dining options (Pizza Hut, Subway, McDonald’s, Dairy Queen), so consider making reservations early.

It’s going to be a late night so we recommend resting at your hotel (we stayed at the Hampton) until it’s time to travel to the McDonald Observatory, which is 50 minutes away from Alpine.

Frank N. Bash Visitors Center McDonald Observatory
Arriving before sunset at Frank N. Bash Visitors Center at McDonald Observatory.

Depending on the time of year that you are visiting, you may be able to see the Marfa Lights at dusk, followed by the Star Party. Since we were visiting in May, we went to the Star Party first (9:30-11:30PM), then stopped at the Marfa Lights in the late evening.

For reference: Marfa to McDonald Observatory is 45 minutes. Alpine, Texas to Marfa is 22 minutes.

McDonald Observatory

The scenery along the way to the McDonald Observatory was beautiful. We left before sunset and were there with plenty of time to explore the Visitor’s Center, have a snack, and watch the sunset (8:49PM, during our visit).

Due to the elevation of 6,700 feet above sea level atop Mount Locke and the dark skies, McDonald Observatory is a great location for viewing the starry skies.

McDonald Observatory Star Party
See the stars at McDonald Observatory.

Unfortunately on our night, the skies were cloudy. The Observatory added extra lectures and were able to point out some stars. We were also able to view several planets through the telescopes. Best of all, I saw a shooting star!

Marfa Lights

Marfa, Texas is known for the mysterious lights that appear on clear nights.

The dark drive down the mountain, plus the added anticipation of seeing the mystery lights definitely gave us a spine-chilling ride. We located the Marfa Lights viewing center and parked our car in the pitch darkness. As late as it was, we were not the only ones making the stop. There were some people already there (locals and tourists) as well as people coming and going while we were there.

UFOs and starry skies travel theme

As instructed we gazed into the blackness toward the Chinati Mountains and some locals told us where to focus our attention. At first, we didn’t see much of anything but we heard cows grazing nearby. And then it happened, a light flickering. Another one bouncing. Two or more lights would appear seeming to hover and then dance.

What are the lights? I don’t know. Are they headlights? I can’t say. I do know that the feeling of being out there in the dark between Marfa and Paisano Pass was other-worldly. And, I’m glad we made the stop.

We certainly had a lot to chat about on the ride back to the hotel! In fact, we still talk about that entire evening. Amazing!

Day 2

Roswell

We had pre-booked the Holiday Inn in Roswell, New Mexico. While there are more accommodations here, you’ll still find that your options are limited compared to other touristy stops.

Since we were out late star-gazing and looking at mysterious lights, we slept in. Departing by 10AM, we were in Roswell by 2PM. The four hour drive is quite desolate so plan accordingly.

Road to Roswell New Mexico from Alpine Texas
Prepare for your road trip before heading out on the desolate roads.

After checking into our hotel, we decided to rest and then go out to dinner. We had underestimated how tired we would be from the previous late night. If you arrive with energy, I would recommend touring the UFO Museum (allow one hour).

Day 3

Meeting us in our hotel lobby, Dennis Balthaser picked us up for our pre-arranged private Roswell UFO Tour. We spent from 9-11AM riding around Roswell in his vehicle. There wasn’t a single boring minute. He kept us completely captivated with accounts of the alleged UFO crash. It was extremely interesting to how this event affected the town of Roswell and its people.

Hangar 84 Roswell New Mexico on our UFOs and Starry Skies Road Trip
Hangar 84 in Roswell, New Mexico. Were alien bodies and debris kept here before being flown elsewhere?

After the tour, we had lunch, then spent an hour at the UFO Museum.

White Sands National Monument

Begin your two-hour drive to White Sands National Monument. The other-worldy landscapes glistening with white gypsum sand are stunning.

White Sands National Monument
Glistening white sand!

Continue to Las Cruces where you’ll spend the night before continuing your itinerary. An optional morning stop at White Sands Missile Range Museum makes for a fascinating tour surrounded by gorgeous scenery. Be sure to have photo ID to enter the gates.

White Sands Missile Range Park
White Sands Missile Range Park has an impressive display.

Day 4

Very Large Array

Plan to drive to the Karl G Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) located on the San Agustin Plains. This drive to 7,000 feet above sea level is also rather isolated so be sure to gas up, get food, and stop for breaks when you are near civilization. Fifty miles west of Socorro, New Mexico, this astronomical radio observatory is made up of 27 radio antennas (each 82 feet in diameter).

Very Large Array from Road
Very Large Array from Road. Wow!

A video presentation (Jodie Foster from Contact narrates) and self-guided tour will take about 1.5 hours from the small VLA Visitor Center.

Very Large Array Antenna
Standing next to one of the antenna at the VLA.

For sci-fi fans, the VLA is iconic. Stop here and try to take in some of the mind-boggling science!

Very Large Array Antenna
Very Large Array Antenna focuses on the science of black holes and more!

Post-Itinerary options:

Drive to Meteor Crater near Winslow, Arizona and/or Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Due to a travel delay, we had to skip Meteor Crater and drove right to Flagstaff.

One of our favorite itineraries, the UFOs and Starry Skies theme was a highlight of our summer trip.

Are you ready to set out on a UFO and Starry Skies adventure?

Kimberly LaPaglia

Kimberly shared her passion for Disney when she was selected for the inaugural Walt Disney World Moms Panel and then as the first Disney Cruise Line panelist. As a Disney Mom, she helped countless families plan their own dream-filled journeys. Blending her love for research, travel, and writing, Kim has been an editor for Disney Food Blog for nearly 8 years. At The Castle Concierge, she blogs about travel, parenting, celebrations, and the road to empty nesting.

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