Science Getaways: Update

By Phil Plait | February 7, 2012 9:36 am

I love science. OK, duh, but I really do. And when I go on vacation, I can’t help but see science everywhere, and in every case it makes the trip more fun for me. Seeing local geology, biology, how the stars might look different at a different latitude… it adds to the vacations, makes it better.

That’s why my wife and I started a company called Science Getaways. We figured there are lots of other folks out there like us who would really enjoy taking a vacation that has bonus science added in. Our first planned trip is to a gorgeous Colorado dude ranch called C Lazy U. Besides the usual amenities of such a place — horseback riding, great food, spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains — we’re adding SCIENCE! And scientists: we have a geologist, a biologist, and an astronomer — hey, me! — who will be on hand to give talks about the local nature scene, and then we’ll take hikes to put that new-found knowledge to practical use. I’ll be running a stargazing session every evening with my new 8" Celestron telescope, and I’m hoping to do some solar observing during the day as well.

IMPORTANT NOTE: We’ve negotiated a special rate — the price we’re offering is actually less than the usual ranch rate. We’re hoping to have the entire ranch for our group, but if we don’t have enough reservations by March 1 we can’t guarantee it. Space is limited, so please book now if you plan to come.

By the way, we’re also on Facebook and Google+ if you’d like to add us.

I hope to see lots of BABloggees there!

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Science Getaways


Comments (34)

Links to this Post

  1. Astronomer Combines Science with Vacation - Forbes | February 9, 2012
  1. VinNay

    From the vacation description – “There’s no pressure on this vacation.”

    I knew Colorado was at a high elevation, but I din’t think it was that high! Better pack my space suit.

  2. Peter Davey

    “Mens sano in corpore sano” – “A healthy mind in a healthy body.”

  3. Chris

    So for that price will you be tucking us in and reading a bedtime story?

  4. What model of Celestron are you using Phil? Would you recommend it for a novice?

  5. OtherRob

    We’ve negotiated a special rate — the price we’re offering is actually less than the usual ranch rate.

    Well, I’m glad you didn’t negotiate a price that’s higher than the usual ranch rate. 😉

  6. James Maehling

    As much as I would really, truly, love to come, at a rough estimate of about $6,000 for double occupancy for 4 nights, that is way too expensive for me and my fiancee.

    Hopefully things will work out that I can join in on future vacations, because these do sound really fun.

    I wish you luck with this endeavor, Phil.

  7. Chris

    @6 James
    That’s for those scientists in the 1%. The other 99% of us will just have to wait for his blogging updates.

  8. artbot

    Sounds awesome, but far too pricey for me. I guess rich folk gotta have science fun, too!

  9. Mike Saunders

    Wow, each night is the same as my monthly rent! I guess i’ll have to stick with the Peach Mountain Observatory gatherings.

  10. Jay

    I wish I could go. I’d bring my 14 inch dob and my solar scope and have a blast. Oh well. I guess I’ll go to Bryce for the eclipse and then go to Great Basin for their Star Party’s.

  11. Crux Australis

    I want to go to this! So bad…I can taste it…have fun, rich American scientists!

  12. Jesse

    $710 per couple + 25% (!) for taxes, per day. So, going horsebacking riding and taking nature walks is more expensive per night than pretty much any other vacation I can find. Including staying in downtown NYC, Paris, upscale cruises, Caribbean resorts, national geographic getaways etc.

    Was Mitt Romney the financial advisor?

  13. Hedin

    I can only agree its to pricey even if its very interesting, We can go on the end of the world cruise for one nights accomodation, so I guess unless you´re a money hungering climate scientist (yes this is a pun) this ones out of reach for us regular people.

  14. Tony Mach

    Thank the FSM it isn’t Big Oil! :-)

  15. Tom H type

    I would love to come and meet you Phil and talk science. Wow, still can’t get over the 25% tax rate, not to mention $710 a day. Conflicted … daughter goes to college or science getaway? :)

  16. Yikes, too pricey for me, too. My super PAC won’t pay for it, either. Oh well, I’ll look forward to the blog updates.

  17. We understand the sticker shock some people are feeling about this. Honestly, we were surprised by guest ranch rates when we first started looking into this. However, when we looked at the real numbers, we found that this was the most cost effective way to offer such a variety of experiences with the least amount of hassle for guests. Because all the activities are on the ranch, you’re not losing a lot of time waiting in line to get on and off at every port on a cruise, or taking taxis all over a city.

    We visited the ranch, and we know the quality of the accommodations and food is superior to what you’d get on an average cruise or any similarly priced hotel in a destination city. The range and quality of the activities are superior as well, and they’re not an expensive add-on like cruise excursions.

    The cost for two people, including tax and service charge, is about $3500 total for five days/four nights at the ranch. For all this, plus the science events we’re adding, this is a very reasonable rate. We’re excited to offer this kind of experience to fellow science lovers.

  18. James Jones

    That, of course, does not include the airfare and ground transportation most of us would need just to get there. Tack on yet another grand for that. Nice idea, Phil, but you couldn’t have picked a worse time to venture into such a pricy start-up.

  19. Mark Derail

    Please do one in FL, so I can drive down from Montreal, and, go scuba diving.
    Perhaps a “better” NASA tour to boot, a SpaceX launch, etc.

    FWIW, my interest in science has gone up since becoming PADI OW certified. Now all my vacations include at least a boat dive and some shore dives.

    Since you’re in Colorado, you should give Steve Spangler a call – he’s a family-event oriented kind of guy…

  20. Colleen

    Hi Phil..I just wanted to say I think this is a great idea! I am always wanting to learn something while on vacation. The price is unfortunately out of range for me right now, though I think it is reasonable for what you are offering. Hopefully someday I can join one of your groups. Thanks for always making science fun.

  21. Mike Saunders

    I mean, its a good idea, but you can go to an IEEE tech conference for less…
    And have your work pay for it!

  22. shunt1

    Oh good grief!

    Phil, you got me all excited and I wanted to make reservations, until I saw the price.

    How about I invite people to a star party at my 1.6 acre home in Fort Collins with dark skies and not a single street light around? Heck, I am about the only one on the street that does not have horses, so even those could be arranged with the help of my neighbors.

    My back yard:

    Fort Collins has fantastic restaurants and motels available at very reasonable rates. If food and lodging costs you more than $100 per day, then you are doing something wrong.

    Mountains are only three miles away from my home and the view is fantastic. With my 10″ Meade and 8″ Celestron computerized telescopes, everyone could have an enjoyable evening viewing our clear Colorado skies.

    Heck, if we pool enough money together, we may even be able to bribe Phil to attend!

  23. shunt1

    By the way, my 8″ Celestron is the classic early 1970’s orange version that I used when I was in High school. It even has the original foot locker that came with the telescope!

    Nice idea Phil, but way too expensive for most people. Perhaps I can offer an alternative if we coordinate together.

  24. shunt1


    For those who are interested in viewing Graybill’s bristle cone trees used in Michael Mann’s tree ring analysis of Earth’s temperature history, we have a very special offer.

    After an exciting evening of viewing the stars and planets, you can depart the next day for an actual scientific field trip. After only a three hour drive and a mild hike, you will have the chance to photograph the actual trees which were sampled.

    Most of the trees have metal identification plates and you can even view the holes where the samples were obtained.

    But best of all, you will be able to evaluate the trees for yourself and prove how stupid those denialists are!

  25. SkyGazer

    Movies and television shows always show scientists as being stuffy older folks shrouded in white lab coats, but real scientists look much more like the rest of us than they would have you think. That’s why This Is What A Scientist is so great -it shows real scientists living their everyday lives, looking like regular people. What a great way to counter the stereotypes.

    So This Is What A Scientist Looks Like:

  26. kat wagner

    How much to stay in the campground? We have both our kids in college, pay our own medical insurance and get laid off between seasons. We could never afford this the way you’ve set it up.

  27. Rachel

    Oddly the cost isn’t much more than I spend at DragonCon each year. However, there I am guaranteed a wide choice of activities. In this case, I’m not so sure. Will there be any lower impact activities for those of us that are more sedentary than we should be? The price is high, but not completely unreasonable for this type of trip. I just need more information before I can book (and the March 1 deadline is rapidly approaching).

    Also the ranch holds 70 guests. You mention 3 scientists. So the ratios for nature walks, lecture, etc. will be 3:70? Or perhaps 1:70? How will mobility impaired guests fare?

  28. Now that is pretty darn cool. Congratulations! My better half and I may have some custom for you in the future.

  29. Jamesonian

    Remember, people. This is a business proposition for Phil. You can’t expect him to go to the trouble of coordinating this event without making some profit, do you? The man is entitled to charge as much money for this as the market will bear. Sadly, it doesn’t look like there are many bears in this market. Who’d have thought that the retirees who populate cruise lines would not be enticed by horseback riding, long hikes, and cookouts?!?

  30. Mrs. BA

    @ Rachel #28 – The ranch itself sits in a nice flat valley with a river running through it and some of our hikes will be focused on that more easily accessible area. We’re planning to split the group up and do a couple of hikes a day so the guest to scientist ratio isn’t too high. Also, the hikes will be fairly short (about an hour) with lots of stopping to look at things along the way, so you don’t need to be an experienced hiker to do this.

    There are also more low-impact activities, like fishing, swimming, hot tubbing, horseshoes, shuffleboard, bocci, and an indoor game room with billiards, table tennis and such. I strongly recommend you go to the ranch’s website at and poke around to find out all that’s available.

    We did not design this vacation to be like a con – there are plenty of those already. We wanted to bridge the gap between listening to people talk about science and actually experiencing it in a natural setting. We think this will be a vacation that most people can enjoy tremendously, regardless of age or ability. We are going to do everything in our power to accommodate those with physical limitations to make sure everyone gets their money’s worth.

    Honestly, if you know you don’t like being outdoors, this is probably not the vacation for you. However, if you’ve never had a vacation that forces you out of doors and are in fair physical condition, we think you’ll be surprised by how invigorating the breathtaking views and clean, crisp air will be.

  31. shunt1

    Great idea but too expensive. However, I wish you the best of luck and hope that you can modify your original concept to match today’s financial reality.

    You did give Sue and I a great idea however!

  32. Bergstraße

    I think the ideal compromise for future “getaways” would be to keep the science part (therefore the part that Phil and family can profit from), but make the lodging more simple: Tents or campers plus basic meals. People won’t be coming to all the way to see you, Phil, because they want a luxury vacation. They like you because you make science (even more) interesting. The science part should be in the foreground, and the price should be low enough that not just well-off people can attend. (I’d much rather eat hot dogs and beans on an “outdoorsy” trip anyway.)

    Here’s hoping you can find a happy medium in the future. Love your blog and wish it had been around when I was a kid back in ’70s and ’80s. (And I mean the above criticism in a constructive way. I really hope you can combine business and science and inspire people along the way.)


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