Palm Springs, California : Spotting stars in the streets and counting galaxies in the sky.

Yes, this is the land of midcentury nostalgia, with its low-slung Modernist architecture and the recent return of the 26-foot-tall ''Forever Marilyn'' statue [she's nearly 8 meters tall].

But these days, there's another headliner : the surrounding desert, and the dark skies above.

Astrotourism is on the rise, with a constellation of ways to explore the cosmos, including the Rancho Mirage Library and Observatory which offers tours and monthly ''Swoon at the Moon'' events.

Unfurl a blanket on the desert floor and gaze up at the starry sky at Joshua Tree National Park. This designated International Dark Sky Park has one of the darkest skies in California, with stargazing treks and the annual Night Sky Festival.

The desert nature and history that flourish around Palm Springs are also shaping the city's landscape, including the new Palm Springs Downtown Park, designed to reflect Indian Canyons, ancestral home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians; the Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza and Museum; the new desert-inspired hotels like Azure Sky. [Annelise Sorensen]


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