What are some date-limited natural events worth traveling to?
November 27, 2020 12:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm not going anywhere for a good while, of course, but I'm dreaming of traveling again at sometime in the next few years. I'm interested in natural phenomena worth seeing that happen on a specific schedule or within a relatively limited time span.

Some examples might include:
- the winter solstice at Newgrange
the two weeks a year that synchronous fireflies appear in the Great Smoky Mountains
-the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti

To a slightly lesser extent, things like "the best month or two to see the Northern Lights" are good.

We're interested in a pretty wide range of things, anywhere in the world, so please fill up my aspirational calendar.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
Eclipse chasing is a thing.
posted by janell at 12:51 PM on November 27, 2020 [14 favorites]

There's going to be another big total solar eclipse across North America in April 2024. If you missed seeing the one a few years ago, this is going to be your last chance in the US until 2045.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:52 PM on November 27, 2020 [13 favorites]

For the brief period that the stream flows through the Great Sand Dunes National Park, it exhibits unusual micro-waves as the water travels over the uniform grains of sand. Like tiny synchronized waves.
posted by nickggully at 12:59 PM on November 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

the Yosemite firefall, if it happens. Bonus, even if it doesn't happen, February is a great time to be in Yosemite if you hate crowds.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:03 PM on November 27, 2020 [5 favorites]

Lots of bird migrations happen at specific times. Sandhill cranes are cool and accessible if you're near California. Israel sees glorious migrations at predictable times.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:05 PM on November 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

The monarch butterfly migration swarms at Natural Bridges in Santa Cruz is an extraordinary thing to see.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:09 PM on November 27, 2020 [3 favorites]

posted by Bloxworth Snout at 1:09 PM on November 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

You mention Newgrange; see also the twice-yearly descent of the serpent-god at Chichen-Itza.
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:10 PM on November 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've never seen it but crowds apparently gather to watch the winter solstice shadow that looks like a snake descending the pyramid at Chichen Itza. [ETA: jinx, heh.]
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:12 PM on November 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Newark Earthworks in Ohio are lined up with the 18.6 year lunar cycle, and are well worth visiting. That kind of history and archeological wonder are rare on Turtle Island.

I quite enjoyed my visit the last time around, and there were great many lectures and indigenous cultural events associated with it. Highly recommended.

Not sure when the next alignment or half-alignment is, though.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:35 PM on November 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

The next transit of Venus will take place on 10–11 December 2117. Eat your veggies and exercise regularly.
posted by j_curiouser at 1:52 PM on November 27, 2020 [6 favorites]

Manhattanhenge is a thing, not sure if it qualifies as natural.
posted by TheAdamist at 3:24 PM on November 27, 2020 [3 favorites]

Peak fall foliage draws a lot of tourists to many places across the northern tier of the US, especially to New England and, I think, northern Michigan.

Another natural draw is Alaskan bears catching salmon in the fall.
posted by SemiSalt at 3:31 PM on November 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

The super bloom of flowers in Death Valley, California.
posted by thenormshow at 3:37 PM on November 27, 2020 [3 favorites]

The Sandhill Crane Migration in Nebraska is the largest - 600,000 of these giant birds gather every year as they have for millenia, from early March to early April.
posted by j810c at 3:49 PM on November 27, 2020 [3 favorites]

The moonbow at Cumberland Falls in Kentucky is a lunar rainbow that occurs when there is a cloudless night full moon that hits the falls.
posted by mostly vowels at 6:19 PM on November 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

Once a year, the park rangers at Carlsbad Caverns host a Bat Breakfast to see the bats return to the caves to sleep.

The event starts at 4:30am and you should get there early. The first 100 or so people get a free guided tour.

I happened upon this event quite by accident on a road trip and it was incredible. Worth waking up a 3am for.
posted by brookeb at 10:37 PM on November 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

cherry blossoms blooming are a beautiful and time-limited thing. depending on your travel wishes you could consider either japan, washington dc or copenhagen.
posted by alchemist at 10:44 PM on November 27, 2020

If you’re visiting Santa Cruz in Oct-Nov for the monarch butterflies mentioned above, you’ll also be here for the juvenile elephant seals’ fall haul out at Año Nuevo.
posted by kiripin at 11:31 PM on November 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Aurora Borealis/ Australis has an 11 year cycle,; we seem to be at or coming out of solar minimum, with fewer displays. I plan to go to Alberta, Canada, when travel is possible, to camp out and watch for Auroras, at least in part because I haven't traveled in Canada and would like to.

I'd like to see the massive tides in the Bay of Fundy, twice a day. mostly, so not the timescale you're looking for, but still a phenomenon.

There's an annual Dark Sky Festival on Mt. Desert island, Maine, also home to Acadia National Park.
posted by theora55 at 6:15 AM on November 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

Well, on tides there's also the Severn bore. It's bigger at certain times of the year, but I think it's basically twice a lunar month for a baseline and equinoxes for something more showy.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 8:24 AM on November 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

oh, these are expensive, but someday: a summer trip to Churchill to see polar bears and migrating beluga whales.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:04 AM on November 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Sockeye salmon spawn every year however the event is cyclic and every four years peak numbers return.
posted by Mitheral at 3:46 PM on November 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Coming in here late, but springtime iceberg viewing in Newfoundland and Labrador.
posted by brackish.line at 2:09 PM on December 20, 2020

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