Visiting Mars in California

Can't make it the Red Planet? You can visit Death Valley.

MAKING ASSUMPTIONS... is never a wise thing, and yet we'll go out on a limb -- or a robotic arm -- and say you probably aren't building your summer roadtrip around a vacation to Mars. Again, this could be entirely incorrect, but we're just saying, given that going to Mars doesn't tend to be on the top of the itinerary for most people. But in our dream itinerary? Sure, many a human has longed for a dose of interplanetary travel, and a close-ish, not-to-unlike-Earth-ish orb in our own solar system? It's a fine place to start. (We know, Mars and Earth are totally difs, but there are commonalities, is all we're saying.) So, where do you go for your Martian experience, without heading too far from home? Here are a few spots around the Golden State, which is no closer to the Red Planet than most other terrestrial places, true. But we do have...

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK: There's a reason that the every-so-often Mars Festival lands in this vast and arid stretch of amazingness. Yes, amazingness; if you've been there, you've likely summoned the words "lunar" and "alien" at some point. You may never walk upon the surface of Mars, but you can stroll in Badwater and feel as if you're on some distant spinning object.

JET PROPULSION LABORATORY: You might have heard a rumor that a certain Pasadena space-forward location sent a certain robotic vehicle -- we think "Mars Rover" is a name we've heard -- to the Red Planet a couple of years back. Those rumors? All true. The ability to visit JPL and see science at work? Easy, if you hop on a tour or make for the annual open house.

SETI INSTITUTE: Does the Mountain View cosmos-looking institution offer a Colloquium Series, packed with talks about all things universe? You bet. Are there talks ahead on topics surrounding a particular nearby planet? For sure. Oh, here's one: Boulder Clustering on Martian Polygonal Patterned Ground, on April 8.

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