Nighttime can be the best time to visit some destinations. From a Hawaiian volcano to a radio tower, here are five of our favorite places (and one bonus) worth staying up for.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Hawaii Island)
Lava is impressive enough during the day, but once the sun sets, it’s downright awe-inspiring as the fiery liquid bubbles and churns against a dark backdrop. For a good nighttime view of flowing lava, head to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where two of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa, are still adding to the island of Hawaii. The simplest — and safest — way to view the park’s craters after sundown is to head to the Jaggar Museum with binoculars or a telephoto lens. Although some people opt to hike the park’s trails to get closer to the lava, we don’t recommend it without a guide since the uneven trails can be treacherous in the dark. Several companies, Hawaii Tour Adventures, offer guided tours ($187) that include nighttime viewing.
Mosquito Bay (Vieques, Puerto Rico)
It may not seem like anything special during the day, but at night, this small bioluminescent bay on the island of Vieques becomes one of Puerto Rico’s most popular tourist attractions. Hundreds of visitors board electric pontoon boats and travel into the glowing waters where single-celled dinoflagellates — bioluminescent sea creatures — emit a flash of bluish light when agitated at night. Nightly excursions often begin with a 10-mile catamaran ride from the main island, followed by dinner and a 15-minute bus ride to the bio bay. Once on the pontoon boat, you’ll learn about the bay’s ecology and might even get a lesson in astronomy before stopping in a high concentration of bioluminescent creatures. Tip: Viewing is best during a new moon phase. Most tour companies have online calendars to alert you to viewing conditions.
Dutch Institute of Sound and Vision (Amsterdam, Holland)
Unless you’re a big fan of Dutch TV and radio, the Dutch Institute of Sound and Vision probably won’t make your Amsterdam itinerary — at least not during daylight hours. Come at night when the building’s panels blaze with overlaid images from Dutch television. Only barely discernible from certain angles, these images reflect the onslaught of media and advertising we are exposed to on a daily basis. Of course, if you are into Dutch TV and radio, the institute, which is home to the national broadcasting archives, is worth a stop during the day. The onsite museum ($16 Euro) explores the nation’s broadcasting history through interactive exhibits, some designed specifically for children.
National Mall and Memorial Parks (Washington, D.C.)
If you haven’t seen the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, or Thomas Jefferson Memorial at night, you’re missing out. The National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington D.C. are open 24 hours a day with rangers on duty from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and interpretive programs every hour on the hour from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. daily at many of the sites. In fact, the National Park Service says the early evening and morning hours are the best times to visit. Parks and memorials at the National Mall include the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and DC War Memorial (WWI).
Oriental Pearl Radio and TV Tower (Shanghai, China)
A Shanghai landmark, the Oriental Pearl Radio and TV Tower strikes a futuristic pose in Pudong Park. Three large shafts connect the two largest spheres where you’ll find the Shanghai Municipal History Museum, a futuristic space city, and an observation deck. The highest sphere, located just below the TV antenna spire, includes a rotating restaurant and a 360-degree glass panel observatory on the world below (tickets from $25.75 US). Dinner reservations come with an incredible view of the Shanghai skyline, but the real reason to come at night is to see the tower itself, brightly lit by LED sequences.
Bonus: As its name suggests, the Lotus Building in Jiangsu, China, looks like a lotus plant flowering in the middle of a man-made lake. At night, light reflecting on the mosaic tiles make it one of the most beautiful and unique buildings we’ve ever seen.