Only when the sun goes down can you enjoy some of the best outdoor activities of the summer, and in the cooler night air no less. From stargazing parties to desert garden flashlight tours to evening turtle walks, there's a lot that can be done and enjoyed only at night. Here are 10 must-do evening activities to add to your summertime bucket list.
1. Glow diving
Fluorescent diving, or glow diving, puts a whole new spin on scuba diving. With the help of ultraviolet or black lights, the colors of the fish, corals and even manta rays are enhanced. The Manta Ray Night Dive or Snorkel with Big Island Divers in Kona, Hawaii, is sure to amaze with its diverse marine life. Charter excursions go out every evening to see the manta rays dive and play in the ocean water.
2. Go stargazing
For those who like to stay up to marvel at the stars, there are a variety of outdoor stargazing programs offered nationwide. Spring Creek Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has a staff naturalist who hosts an astronomy night twice a week through late-October. Using telescopes and a green laser to point out star formations in the night sky, guests learn the mythology behind the constellations and the origin of the universe.
3. Watch an after-dark light and sound show
Perhaps the coolest history lesson you'll ever see, "San Antonio - The Saga" is a 24-minute light and sound show that tells the story of San Antonio's past against the façade of the San Fernando Cathedral, one of the oldest cathedrals in the United States. Bring a chair, get set up in the Main Plaza and prepare to be awed by this public art display that uses kaleidoscopic images and a choreographed soundtrack to depict nearly 300 years of history. Check showing dates and times on the Main Plaza's website.
4. Kayak in a bioluminescent bay
There are only a handful of places on earth where seawater emits a blue-green glow under a dark sky. And luckily, you don't have to travel far to see it. At the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge on Florida's Space Coast, you can paddle a kayak through the Indian River Lagoon to witness this bioluminescence first-hand. Every time a paddle cuts through the surface, dinoflagellates in the water produce the glow. The best way to experience it is with a group tour like A Day Away Kayak Tours, which offer nightly tours on the darkest evenings between June and early October.
5. Take a stand-up paddleboard night tour
Grab a board wired with LED lights and get on the water for a two-hour stand-up paddleboard tour with Precision Paddleboards in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The lights illuminate up to 40 feet around each paddleboard, lighting a path as you make your way through mangroves and over the shallow flats. Before you take off, guides teach water safety basics, as well as paddleboard technique and etiquette.
6. Sleep high up in the trees
Go on a night climb at Panola Mountain State Park in Stockbridge, Georgia, to get up close and personal with fluorescent lichen and nocturnal animals like the barred owl. Then settle into your "treeboat" (similar to a hammock) high up in the treetop canopy as part of the "ZZZ's in the Trees" program. Take in a sky full of stars before dozing off.
7. Go on an evening turtle walk
On Jekyll Island, off the coast of Georgia, you can enjoy a nightly Turtle Walk with educators at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Guided turtle walks take place evenings in June and July following a presentation on sea turtles and how visitors to the center can help protect the species. Once on the beach, visitors quietly walk in search of loggerhead sea turtles emerging from the water to prepare a nest and lay eggs in the sand.
8. Use a flashlight to uncover the secrets of the desert
Wait out daytime triple-digit temperatures and use a flashlight to help see, feel and hear the best of the desert after dark. The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix offers flashlight tours on Thursday and Saturday evenings through September 5. On this self-paced tour, visitors stop at 13 "discovery" stations and learn about the creatures who call the area home, including desert tortoises, snakes and geckos.
9. Fly through the trees on a full moon zip line tour
You don't have to venture to the Caribbean for a thrilling zip lining excursion. Situated just outside Columbus, Ohio, Hocking Hills Canopy Tours offers a "Moonshine" full moon zip line adventure tour. Two-hour tours take place two nights each month between May and October under a full moon. Participants fly across six zip lines in the minimally lit course, experiencing the best of the forest after dark. Rent a GoPro camera on-site to capture every zip through the trees.
10. Enjoy fireworks from a different perspective
Every Tuesday from mid-June through mid-August, you can kayak into the Broad Creek wildlife area for a Fireworks Paddle on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. This two-hour guided paddle with Outside Hilton Head starts out as a nature tour before kayakers park in the marsh for one of the best views of the weekly fireworks show during HarbourFest at Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina.
About the author: Erin Gifford is a Washington, D.C.-based travel writer and founder of Kidventurous, an award-winning family travel resource. You can follow her on Twitter at @Kidventurous, connect with her on Facebook or get the latest tips and tricks for traveling families at http://www.kidventurous.com.