Highway West Vacations
The Premium Presentation with Dr. Ron Brecher of astrodoc.ca has been confirmed — so register now! The rest of the Nightfall 2023 program is currently being developed. Check out the Nightfall 2022 Program to get an idea of what to expect.
Nightfall is a different kind of star party. There is no separate admission fee. To attend, simply contact Highway West Vacations (the reservation center for the Palm Canyon Hotel & RV Resort and other resorts) and inform them you wish to reserve a hotel room or RV space for the Nightfall Star Party. Complete your reservation with them and you’re good to go! The RAS adds a nominal charge for each night of your stay, which helps us offset our expenses. Other than that, there is no separate fee to attend the star party. Once Highway West confirms your reservation, you are confirmed to attend Nightfall.
If you want to attend just for the day to look around, no problem—show up and do just that! Stay into the night* to get spectacular views of the planets, nebulae, star clusters and galaxies—all for free! Please keep in mind that this is a hotel and RV resort. You are not permitted to stay over night unless you have made a reservation with the hotel and paid for a room or RV space.
The only fees associated with Nightfall are for lodging (hotel room or RV space) and the premium workshops.
Do not contact the Palm Canyon Hotel & RV Resort for reservations! This is a new reservation process as of 2023. Reservations will be handled exclusively by Highway West Vacations, the company that owns the resort.
To make your Nightfall reservation, call Highway West Vacations. Their number is (805) 691-8086. Their hours of operations are 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM PT, 7 days a week. If, for some reason they cannot answer immediately, leave them a detailed message in their voicemail box. They have promised to return messages within 48 hours to the best of their ability. Again, you must mention you want to attend Nightfall. If you do not, you may be told the resort is full (and it may be actually full if you wait too long!)
Hotel rooms for Nightfall go quickly. We highly recommend that you reserve your accommodations prior to June or July, if not sooner.
Lodging options include: Staying in a hotel room or RV space at the Palm Canyon Hotel & RV Resort, staying at a nearby hotel or RV park in the town of Borrego Springs, camping in the Borrego Springs Desert State Park or attending just for the day. If staying on-site, all lodging and/or RV camping fees are the responsibility of the attendee and are paid directly to Highway West Vacations. If you decide to attend Nightfall but wish to lodge elsewhere, you may still setup your equipment at Nightfall. Its security is your responsibility as the RAS, the Palm Canyon Hotel, and Highway West Vacations take no responsibility for any damage or theft of any personal equipment.
We encourage you to stay for 3 nights (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) to get the full Nightfall experience. But you may stay for longer. Just work out the details of your stay with Highway West Vacations when reserving. Or, as mentioned above, you can just stop by for the day and into the night for no fee.* Many people make Nightfall an annual vacation and stay from Wednesday through Sunday or even until Monday. (Remember, Friday, 11/10 is a holiday for many!) Nightfall typically offers sunny autumn days with mild temperatures—great for exploring the surrounding Anza-Borrego Desert State Park or just hanging out at the hotel’s pools and hot tubs.
Tent camping is permitted in the RV spaces. You must reserve an RV space to setup a tent. The RV spaces are level, hard-packed dirt/sand. As with RV camping, a power outlet and water spigot are available to you. Be sure to bring an outlet adapter if you plan to use electricity at your campsite. It’s also a good idea to bring an outdoor extension cord and a surge-protected power strip. Do not use stakes to secure your tent as the septic tanks are only a few inches below ground level!
If you can’t or don’t want to book a room or RV space at the Palm Canyon Hotel & RV Resort, you are still welcome to stop in for the day, and to stick around into the night to look through some telescopes. We simply ask that you:
Since your room or RV space reservation is your Nightfall “registration,” the Riverside Astronomical Society will not send you any emails, snail mail, or any other communications regarding your reservation at the Resort. Again, please call Highway West Vacations to make your reservation, and be sure your reserved dates coincide with the dates of the Nightfall Star Party.
This website will be updated with information regarding workshops and presentations as it becomes available, so be sure to check the Workshops page often, especially as the Star Party dates get closer.
The Palm Canyon Hotel & RV Resort has many amenities and one of them is the amount of space! There is plenty of room for you to set up your telescope equipment in your RV space (if you reserved one) or in one of the common areas. Once set up, please be diligent about securing your equipment from weather and theft. Although we’ve never had a problem with theft at Nightfall, a small, easily-swiped piece of equipment left in plain view may be tempting to an unsavory passerby. It’s best to cover your scope during the day and to move smaller items into your tent, RV, car, or hotel room when they’re not in use. Get to know your neighbors and ask if they’re willing to keep on eye on your things when you have to step away. Securing or stowing your equipment and a good “neighborhood watch” policy are the best defenses against theft.
Do not set up telescope equipment in the parking areas that are not specifically designated for telescopes. They should only be set up in the observing area (south of the main hotel building), the imaging zone (on the east end of the property), or in your reserved RV space.
The Palm Canyon Hotel has a restaurant and bar on-site! Other dining arrangements include bringing your own food and/or visiting one of the many Borrego Springs dining establishments.
Nightfall is held in autumn each year (typically around late October or early November) on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday and ending on Sunday. Some attendees make their reservations for as early as Monday or Tuesday and start arriving on those days. More attendees arrive throughout the week, especially on Thursday when the rooms and RV spaces begin to fill up. On Friday we have a late-afternoon welcome reception in the picnic area. On both Friday and Saturday, we host a variety of free presentations and activities. These have included a hosted sky tour, an ice cream social, observing and observing workshops, a swap meet, a scorpion hunt (viewing only, of course), and other activities to keep everyone involved and entertained!
The Riverside Astronomical Society hosts a premium workshop on astro-imaging during the day on Saturday. There are also several free workshops and presentations throughout Friday and Saturday. Check the workshops page frequently for updated information on presenters and topics.
Other than that, feel free to relax at the pools, hike a trail in the state park, drive around to see Ricardo Breceda’s amazing metal sculptures, or just sleep in after a long night of imaging or observing.
On Saturday morning, from 8-10AM, there is a swap meet where you can sell your used astronomy gear and make a couple bucks! Maybe it’s time to sell that eyepiece you never use, those books and charts you swore you were going to get around to some day, and that red flashlight that was number 36 in your collection. The Swap Meet is held in the picnic/BBQ area on the west end of the property. The swap meet may be cancelled due to weather and/or interest. Please check the program schedule when checking in.
In this day and age, we still can’t predict the weather with much accuracy for more than a few days at a time! Generally speaking, the weather at Nightfall is quite favorable with daytime highs anywhere from the 70s to 90s and clear skies. Wind does occasionally kick up but usually only during the day. The weather does vary from year to year though, of course. We like to think that Nightfall is a great opportunity to have fun with family, friends, and fellow astronomers regardless of the weather. And if the weather turns out to be good, even better!
If your question about Nightfall wasn’t answered here, please contact us via email or leave a question on the Latest News page (questions/commenting will be opened up about 3 months prior to the next Nightfall).
* We recommend reserving 3 nights for Nightfall. The Palm Canyon Hotel & RV Resort requires a 2-night minimum (Friday and Saturday nights, specifically) when attending Nightfall. A five-night stay, or more, is possible if you arrive on Wednesday and check out on Monday. Check with the resort about their dark-sky preparedness (using red lights throughout the resort) if you wish to check in before the Nightfall dates and/or check out after the Nightfall dates. Visitors are welcome during the day and at night during the star party. Please note that the rooms, pools, and all other resort facilities and amenities are intended for paying guests. You must reserve a hotel room or RV space to stay over night. On-site parking requires hotel-issued parking permits. RV camping in the general parking lot is not permitted. Violators will be cited.