Summer’s (Almost) Over, Time to Plan Your Next Beach Vacation

I love summer. I love the warm weather, the thunderstorms, swimming in the pool, bonfires, picnics, and generally being outside. But most of all, I love going on vacation.

Now, you can go on vacation any time, but summer is vacation season and I look forward to traveling every year, even if it isn’t to a new place. I drive my family crazy because as soon as one vacation is over I start thinking about and planning the next — even if the only planning I’m doing is inside my head. Haha.

The bottom line is that I am a planner, and I feel that in order to have an awesome, relaxing, and fun vacation you have to be organized and plan ahead. An added bonus is that when you plan ahead, you often are able to get some great deals and save money.

I love all kinds of vacations. I love to go to big cities where you can walk around, see the sights, visit museums, and shop. As a history person, I like to go to places that have historical value too. I also have a childish love for Disney World.

But, for me, two of the best kinds of vacations are 1. going to the beach and 2. going on a cruise.

Because there’s so much information on both kinds of vacation, I’m breaking this up into 2 posts — this one about the beach and the second about cruising.

So, here’s my advice on planning and booking the best beach vacations. Hopefully, I’ll help you save a little money too.

Hitting the Beach

The beach is one of my favorite places on Earth to be. I love the sand, the ocean, the sound of the waves. There is something so relaxing about sitting in a beach chair under an umbrella, closing your eyes, and just soaking it all in.

The beach on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. (Picture from hiltonheadvacation.com)

Ohio doesn’t have a beach, unless you count the shores of Lake Erie. And, although a lot of my fellow Ohioans spend time on Lake Erie’s shore during the summer months, to me, there is nothing like the ocean. This makes the East Coast and the Atlantic Ocean the closest beach to visit.

My favorite beach to go to on the East Coast is Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Located at the southern-most part of South Carolina, Hilton Head is a boot shaped island that boasts 12 miles of clean and beautiful beaches and an overall subdued atmosphere that is the opposite of commercial and bustling beach destinations like Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Other great East Coast beaches are Wilmington/Carolina Beach, North Carolina; Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Outer Banks, North Carolina. There are, of course, countless more. Do a simple Google Search and discover other beaches to travel to. And, don’t forget the wonderful West Coast and Gulf Coast beaches too!

Whether you’ve been to the beach a million times or have never gone before, here are a few things to consider before you start to plan:

Some Things To Consider

  • What’s your budget?
  • Who are you traveling with? How many people are going to be in your party?
  • When are you going to go? How many days vacation are you aiming for?
  • How far do you want to travel?
  • Are you going to fly or drive?
  • What kind of accommodations do you want? Hotel? Condo? Rental house? On the beach? Off the beach?
  • Do you want your vacation to be jam-packed with fun non-stop or do you want a primarily relaxing vacation where you make your own fun?
  • Do you need a lot of attractions and shopping close to where you are vacationing?

Budget, Driving vs. Flying, and Picking a Destination

A beach vacation can often be less expensive than many other types of vacations, depending on where you travel, where you stay, and how you spend your time while on vacation. However, beach vacations can quickly become very pricey.

What’s great about the beach is that the most money you will spend is on the journey from your home to the beach, on your accommodations, and on food/drinks.

Driving is one great way to save money, especially with the price of airfare today. Now of course, this only works if you are within driving distance to the beach you want to visit. For example, from where I live it takes at least 7-8 hours to reach the Atlantic. But to get to a “good beach” I need to drive at least 10 hours. It takes 14 hours to get to Hilton Head and I’ll admit that while it is a long drive, it is worth it in the end. So, you need to determine how long you’re willing to sit in a car, and whether such a distance is worth it if you’re only heading to the beach for a couple days.

Also, remember that flying to the beach isn’t always easy. It’s a pain to take beach chairs and umbrellas on a plane. Some destinations allow you to rent them and some condos/beach houses have them available for guests. But not all do, and renting/buying them can be pricey and inconvenient.

One of the most important things to decide is which beach you’re going to go to. Consider whether you want a busier, more crowded and lively beach destination or one that is quiet and relaxed. Also think about what else there is to do at that destination. Do you want someplace with a lot of nightlife, clubs, bars, major shopping, and other attractions? Or are you okay with a place that is more low-key, essentially a beach destination located in a small town with some shopping (both major and locally-owned), restaurants, and very few other attractions.

When to Go, How Long to Stay, Hotel vs. Rental, How Many People Traveling

One great thing about a beach vacation is that in order to travel to one, you often travel south which gives you a longer traveling season. Know that beach vacations will always be the most expensive in the summer because it’s the peak beach season. This doesn’t mean you still can’t get a good deal, but it does mean that if you’re looking to travel on the cheap you should consider going to the beach shortly before or shortly after the peak beach/summer season. (Also, pay attention to the weather as those later summer months run into peak hurricane season.)

Another thing you have to decide is how long you want to stay at the beach. When going to the beach, I have almost always stayed for a full week (Saturday – Saturday). Going for 7 nights might seem like a long time to some, but it can also be great for your wallet. Most beach destinations have plenty of hotels or inns to stay in. But they can be extremely pricey at $150-$300 or more per night. Instead, consider renting a condo or (if you have a lot of people) a house at the beach. Whereas you might spend upwards of $1200 to $1500 for 5 nights in hotel (double occupancy), renting a condo for 7 nights is a great bang for your buck.

Depending on how large a condo you want, 7 nights can cost you as little as $600-$1000. When you factor in that most beach condos have multiple bedrooms, direct beach access, a kitchen, living room, and various other amenities I’m a firm believer that a condo is the way to go.

Plus, the beach is equally as fun in large groups as it is for couples and small groups. Condos and beach houses can sleep a lot of people, so one great way to defray costs on rentals is to divide the expense amongst a bunch of family or friends!

Best Way To Start (and Finish) Your Beach Rental Search

Check out Vacation Rentals By Owner to browse vacation condos and houses all over the world (and not just at the beach). I’ve had great luck in finding vacation accommodations off the VRBO website. Even if you don’t want to use the VRBO site to book your vacation rental or contact an owner, it’s still a great place to see what each destination has to offer.

My VRBO advice (and advice for any vacation rental):

1. The more photos a listing has, the better!

2. No price is set in stone. If an owner is desperate to rent, they will negotiate.

3. If the description is vague, ask for more detail. If you want to walk out the door and have your feet in the sand in less than a minute, make sure the rental is truly on the beach. Ocean Front generally means that the rental has immediate beach access. Ocean View generally means the rental is at least yards away from the beach and may not be “on the beach” at all.

4. Are there any hidden fees? Is cleaning included? What about taxes?

5. Remember that most vacation rentals do not provide the same amenities that hotels do. You may have to bring your own towels and/or sheets. You most certainly will have to bring paper towels, toilet paper, soaps, etc. Pots and pans, silver wear, dishes, etc. are almost certainly provided. Ask what is included to be safe.

6. It’s never too early to start looking at vacation rentals. The good ones always sell out fast and one rental can sell out for the entire summer long before the season begins. Often owners will run specials and/or give discounts for early bookings.

7. Look for last minute specials too, sometimes owners who have one or two weeks remaining or a cancellation will slash prices to rent the unit.

Well, I hope I’ve given you some great advice about planning your next beach vacation. Remember, planning is a great way to ensure a fun and relaxing vacation, where you can then throw the need to plan out the window and just enjoy life.

 

Growing Up at the End of the World: Karen Thompson Walker’s “The Age of Miracles”

Note: This post is a review of Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles and contains plot spoilers.

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Life is hard, there’s no doubt about it. But, most of us are able, at least to some extent, put life’s difficulties behind us and move on. We keep going, because the world stops for no one. We don’t ignore those difficulties, but instead compartmentalize them and leave them behind in a different time. We gain perspective. In retrospect, things don’t seem so bad. They were learning experiences, something everyone goes through — something to accept, not to dwell on and be ashamed of.

Every age has its challenges. As babies, we learn to walk and talk. We fall down, we speak gibberish. As children, we learn to read, go to school, make our first friends. We stumble over words, we get the answer wrong, we don’t quite fit in. As adolescents, we are more aware of the world around us and how it works, we develop real relationships with others, we have a crush, an inseparable best friend. Reality can be serious and not always happy, those relationships are tested, feelings are rejected, we’re not always the most popular person.

The list goes on and on. And life doesn’t stop while the list continues.

Even if the world does stop turning.

Source/Disclaimer: theageofmiraclesbook.com. Image is strictly property of Karen Thompson Walker and Random House.

What would happen to an ordinary 11-year old girl if the world did indeed stop turning? This is the story that Karen Thompson Walker presents in her debut novel, The Age of Miracles.

Julia is like any other 11 year old California girl when her life, and the lives of every other person on Earth, changes forever. She has a seemingly normal home life as the only child of a former actress and a physician. Life is predictable, her best friend Hanna spends the night, a new school year has begun, her parents sit at the kitchen table reading the newspaper.

It’s a Saturday morning in October. That newspaper is full of the stories of the day, all the things we’re afraid of. War, disease, terrorism, extreme weather, disaster. Those things we can name, things that have faces, causes, effects. Things that bring fear.

But, as Julia so appropriately observes, “it never is what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophes are always different — unimagined, unprepared for, unknown” (Thompson Walker, 27).

Out of nowhere, the news breaks that the rotation of the Earth has slowed. 56 minutes have been added to the length of one Earth day overnight. There is no explanation. Called “The Slowing,” this phenomenon continues. One day goes from 24 hours to 32, then to 40, 48, 54, 60….

In the first days, life seems to literally stop and then stretch as people try to find things to fill the extra hours of light and darkness in their day. But soon, normal life intrudes. The governments of the world insist on sticking to the 24 hour clock, even if the hours between one sunrise and the next continues to grow. There is hope that answers can be found, that a solution can be reached.

In the meantime, life goes on. The Slowing consumes everyone, but a new normal is reached. Even as day and night become detached from sunshine and darkness, Julia goes to school, attends piano lessons, and plays soccer. Her parents go to work, the babies her father delivers continue to be born. She worries about her lack of a training bra, crushes on neighborhood boy Seth Moreno, is saddened by her best friend Hanna’s abandonment, anticipates seeing Seth at piano lessons, struggles with unpopularity in school, and worries over the increasing cracks in her parents’ marriage.

Like the difficulties of our own childhoods and adolescences, Julia’s are no less important to her than ours were to us. The end of the world does not magically end the growing up process. Life is not stopped cold.

Everyday life endures as the days continue to grow, as new problems arise, as the Earth ceases to turn.

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At first glance, this is not a book I would normally read. While I am a guilty-pleasure fan of some disaster movies like Twister, Day After Tomorrow, and 2012, I don’t really like “sad” stories. Especially those which are character driven. But, something about The Age of Miracles sucked me in, and I’m so glad I read it.

Source/Disclaimer: theageofmiraclesbook.com. Image is strictly property of Karen Thompson Walker and Random House.

Karen Thompson Walker is an excellent writer and her prose is both beautiful and engaging. Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Age of Miracles, even though the book’s plot device (the end of the world) can be unsettling.

Julia’s narration made me reflect on my own childhood/adolescence and on the things that seemingly made it “tough” — things that don’t seem so bad now. It was a nice chance to reminisce.

The book is excellently formulated and Walker does a great job of describing the effects that The Slowing has on the Earth and its occupants. While some of her descriptions aren’t completely original — mainly due to the amount of “end of the world scenarios” various forms of media has presented over the years — none of it seems trite or lame.

I only had one real issue with the book while I was reading, and that was trying to wrap my head around what was actually happening to the Earth. I had to figure that out and make myself at peace with the logic of it before I could move on and read the book.

Let me explain: I had to establish in my head that the spinning of the Earth on its axis had slowed, thereby making the amount of time from one sunrise to the next stretch. This, however, did not effect the time it took the Earth to orbit around the sun. So, really, as the length of one “day” lengthened, the number of “days” it takes the Earth to travel completely around the Sun decreased.

The Age of Miracles is a quick read, coming in at 225 pages. It is fast moving and well-paced and is not meant to be a story of how the world ends. Instead, it is a snapshot of events and emotions during that time.

The Age of Miracles is truly a wonderful, thoughtful, and thought-provoking read. It is not a book about a disaster. It is a story of what happens to our lives and relationships in the midst of the most Earth-shattering disaster. It is a testament that even as life ends, it continues to go on.

Daycations: The Best of Northeast Ohio and Pittsburgh

If you found your way here from Once Is Enough, welcome! We hope you’ll click around and check out our other posts!
 

Earlier this week, I wrote my first ever guest blog post for Sam over at Once is Enough while she went on vacation. I focused on daycationing, outlining several tips to help you have a great time while being a tourist in your own town. Head over to her blog to read more about finding the best local spots to explore and save money — great for the college girl on a budget! While you’re at it, read posts from Sam and the other guest bloggers for the week. 

If you’re still in school, summer is pretty much half over already… unless you’re in graduate school, and you’re very likely still in class till very late at night or early on Saturday mornings. I feel your pain. I’m currently still looking for a job, and while I’m cutting back on unnecessary purchases, I still plan on taking a daycation or two. I’m lucky that I live in an area filled with hidden cultural jewels, right between two large metro areas with experiences totally unique to each of those cities. It’s unlikely that people from outside of the area plan to vacation in Northeast Ohio, there’s much to do for those who are willing to explore, and do a little research ahead of time. Here are four of my favorite day-trips for a quick weekend excursion. Click through on the links to each of the attractions for more information about hours of operation, admission, and directions. 

Youngstown, Ohio

Home of my alma mater and Ed O’Neill from Modern Family, Youngstown is in the middle of a cultural revival, working to rebuild itself from the fall of the U.S. steel industry and shed it’s image as hub of organized crime. It boasts a rich ethnic heritage, and on any given weekend in the summer, you can sample Greek gyros, Italian sausages, or Polish pyrohies at any of their popular festivals held each year. In the six years I spent living in Youngstown earning my degrees, I learned to love the area and discovered many of the gems of the city and surrounding area. 

First, visit the Butler Museum of American Art, the first museum of strictly American art in all types of media, dedicated in 1919. Featured on the National Register of Historic Places, admission to this museum is free. Take time to reflect on paintings by Edward Hopper, Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’Keefe, and Robert Rauschenberg. For lunch, take a very short drive over to Casesse’s MVR, one of the most popular restaurants in the Mahoning Valley. While you wait for a (massive) plate of cavatelli, or any of the other old school Italian dishes, look around at all of the Youngstown sports memorabilia, from the years the YSU Penguins won four national championships under Coach Jim Tressel (just before he went on to coach for Ohio State) and boxing greats, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and Kelly Pavlik. Take your to-go box and head to Mill Creek Park, the second largest metro park in the United States. With over 4,400 acres for you to explore, its easy to spend an entire day here out on the hiking trails, paddling around Lake Glacier, or simply relaxing and enjoying nature. You might even happen upon a wedding in any area of the park, especially in the gorgeous Fellows Riverside Gardens and its visitor’s center. As the sun sets, head back into town for dinner and drinks at the Lemon Grove, part bar and restaurant, part performance venue, and part art gallery. Almost every night of the week, you can catch live music, poetry readings, or events like trivia games or karaoke at this lively downtown establishment. Don’t forget to check the schedules for the Dana School of Music and the Department of Theater and Dance at YSU, bringing top notch vocal, symphonic, and theatrical performances to the valley. 

Bonus Youngstown Sites
Charlie Staples’ Original Bar-B-Cue
Mahoning Valley Scrappers Baseball
The World’s Largest Pair of Drum Sticks, in honor of Warren native Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters 
Oakland Center for the Arts

Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio

Geneva on the Lake has become one of my favorite weekend getaways for two simple reasons: there’s a beach and the wine is plentiful and delicious. The beach is on the shores of Lake Erie, and though I don’t think I would take a dive into it, it is quite beautiful to look at. Start your day at Geneva State Park, and don’t forget to pack your towels, sunscreen, and a good book. Bring a picnic lunch, too, and soak up the sun watching the waves coming in from the lake. After relaxing at the beach for a few hours, head over to Lake Road for food, drinks, and entertainment. For family fun, stop at the Adventure Zone for mini-golf, bumper boats, and go-carts. You can also rent bikes, golf carts, and surrey limos. To sample some of the area’s best vino, grab a map and choose your destinations. I recommend Ferrante Winery, Chalet Debonne Vineyard, and The Lakehouse Inn & Winery.  In the evening, park your car along the strand and grab a bite to eat at one of the many food stands that line the road, or pop over to my personal favorite, The Old Firehouse Winery, for a breathtaking view of the lake and live music nightly. Don’t miss their Ferris wheel and the wine slushies! Find your favorite wine and bring a bottle or two home to enjoy for the rest of the summer.

Bonus Geneva-on-the-Lake Sites
Eddie’s Arcade (on Lake Road)

Laurello Vineyards
Old Mill Winery

Cleveland, Ohio

While you could easily visit their amazing visitor’s page, I thought I would highlight some of my favorite things to do while in Cleveland. Since Brian and I love going to zoos, the first place I would go is the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo & Aquarium, featuring The Rainforest and the new African Elephant Crossing. It doesn’t matter how many times or how many different zoos I go to, I’ll always take pictures of the penguins and the bears. They’re just too cute. After a hot morning and afternoon wandering around the zoo, head over to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a uniquely “Cleveland” experience. Nowhere else in the world can you find such an expansive collection of rock n’ roll memorabilia and learn so much about the music and it’s roots. See tour costumes, handwritten lyrics, and other belongings of your favorite musicians and watch films featuring all of the inductees. In the evening, find dinner and drinks in the East 4th Street entertainment district. I prefer the House of Blues for dinner — their cornbread is nothing short of incredible — but there are plenty of great little restaurants in the area, including Flannery’s Pub and the Corner Alley Bar & Grill.

Bonus Cleveland Sites
The Christmas Story House
CLE Clothing, Co. <– Stop here! The shirts are brilliant!
West Side Market
Great Lakes Brewing Company

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Ok, so this one isn’t necessarily in Ohio, but I live within 45 minutes of Pittsburgh, hence why I’ve always been a Steelers fan over the Browns. Recently, the city appeared as part of Gotham City in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, and I won’t pretend that I didn’t get more than a little excited to see Bill Cowher’s face on the sidelines during the Heinz Field scene. I must insist that you take the Fort Pitt tunnel entrance into the city. There’s no other way to arrive, as Pittsburgh truly is the only city with an entrance, and it blows me away every time. Start at the Phipps Conservatory and immerse yourself in the beautiful botanical wonderland, featuring art glass hand-blown by Dave Chihuly. For lunch, make your way over to Oakland and stop in at Primanti Bros. for one of their famous sandwiches.  Take in the architecture of the University of Pittsburgh and other universities in the area as you head to the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. Admission gives you access to Dinosaurs in Their Time, the Hall of Ancient Egypt, Monet’s “Water Lilies,” the stunning Hall of Architecture (can you sense a pattern here?). Cross the river to Station Square for dinner at Bar Louie, and at sunset, take the Duquesne Incline to the observation deck for the most beautiful view of Pittsburgh.

Bonus Pittsburgh Sites
Warhol Museum
Carnegie Science Center, IMAX, Laser Shows, and USS Requin
The Mattress Factory Art Museum
Pittsburgh Public Theater <– Always check for Student ID discounts!

While I could go on for days about the cool things to do in Pittsburgh, I really recommend checking out this link for lots of free ways to explore the city. Let me know if you’d like more ideas about where to go!

Locals, did I miss anything? Have you been to any of these places? Add your must-see attractions in the comments, or give me the daycation of your city!

Making a Symphony Out of Science and Making Learning Fun

It’s been a while. Summer, weddings, and Caribbean vacations will do that though. But, that’s no excuse. So I’m back! Miss me? Haha.

One of the main reasons that I’ve been MIA for the last month is that I’m on the job hunt, and every time I use my computer I feel that I need to be searching for jobs and not blogging. And every time I think about blogging I feel kind of guilty. But, I feel that I applied for an acceptable number of jobs today, and as I’m bored at the moment, I’m taking some time to pen the blog post that I’ve been thinking about for a couple weeks.

If you haven’t realized, I’m a nerd. I mean, I have a Master’s degree in History for Heaven’s sake. If that doesn’t qualify as one of the pillars of all that is nerdy, I don’t know what does.

Well, actually….I think this post will cement just how nerdy I can be.

History, social studies, grammar, and literature were always my strong suits in school. Math and science — not so much. But, that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t interested in those two subjects. For example, I wanted to be an astronaut for most of my childhood, then amended that to wanting to be an aerospace engineer who designed the next space shuttle. I quickly determined, however, that I could never be either of those things because, like I said, math and science simply didn’t agree with me.

Despite my shortcomings in those subjects, I’ve maintained a hobby-level interest in science — especially in the study of outer space and its proper, related subjects of astronomy and physics. I keep up with the new theories, love Stephen Hawking and Brian Greene, read books on black holes and string theory. But, it’s all very complicated and I would be lying if I said that I completely understand it.

Now, I’m sure this all sounds like pure intellectual insanity. It does even to me. But, there’s something about the subject that enthralls me.

It’s about learning what lies in the wider world beyond us, about how it’s almost impossible to fathom that we are seven billion people living on this one tiny planet, circling this small to average size star, in a solar system, in one small part of a large galaxy, that is an even smaller part of a huge universe.

Our planet, our universe is an amazing place. It is awe-inspiring.

The best thing about it though, is that you don’t even need to be a nerd like me to grasp its awesomeness, or appreciate its beauty.

And you don’t need to be a nerd to learn about the universe, its parts, or the forces that hold it together.

I recently discovered something fascinating on YouTube: a series of videos called the Symphony of Science. The Symphony of Science is not just on YouTube. In reality, it is a musical project created and produced by musician John D. Boswell who aims to “deliver scientific knowledge and philosophy in musical form.

In his videos, Boswell takes clips of well known scientists from various television documentaries and programs and strings them together to present  short yet engaging “lessons” on various scientific subjects. But, these aren’t just dry video compilations of interviews. No. Boswell then sets the videos to music and auto tunes all of the clips, creating a musical lesson that leaves you replaying the videos over and over again.

I wish science class had been like this in school.

Up to this point there are 15 music videos, which are available on YouTube or on Boswell’s website. Most are related to outer space, physics or astronomy and heavily feature scientists like Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku, and Brian Cox. Others are concerned with the animal kingdom and life on Earth and feature other scientists like David Attenborough and Jane Goodall.

Here’s a sample of some of the videos:

1. “A Glorious Dawn” – the first video in the series and probably the best of them all.

 

2. “The Quantum World” – Morgan Freeman helps explain the forces of the universe.

 

3. “The Unbroken Thread” – the beauty of life on Earth and our interconnectedness.

 

4. “We Are Star Dust” – the universe exists in us.

 

So, what do you think? Do you need to be a nerd to appreciate science? To appreciate the universe around us?

Watch the videos. Learning can be fun.

Besides, it’s okay to be a nerd sometimes.

That way you can say:

DISCLAIMER: All Symphony of Science compilations are owned by John D. Boswell. All clips used within those compilations are the property of the programs from which he collected clips.

Reach for the Stars…Er, the Planets

When I was in grade school, I wanted to be an astronaut. This was followed by a brief desire to be be an aerospace engineer who designed the next space shuttle, which was quickly replaced by a desire to be President of the United States. Needless to say, none of those dreams lasted. I don’t like heights, I’m terrible at math, and being president of College Democrats in college left me so burnt out that I could have screamed.

But, regardless of the fact that my dreams of outer space have waned, I still love the stars.

I mentioned earlier this week that we’ve had some amazing weather in Ohio — it’s been in the low 70s for several days and I’ve been living in my flip flops. Because of this, I haven’t been running from my car to the house because of the cold at night, and I’ve actually had the time to turn my eyes to the sky and take in the stars.

Believe me, I’m no expert on the night sky — I usually rely on my Dad to point constellations and planets out to me. But, over the last couple nights, I’ve noticed something. There are two extremely bright stars located very close to one another in the Western sky. With the rudimentary knowledge that I have, I figured at least one was probably a planet, but which one I didn’t know.

Source: National Geographic online.

After a little Googling, I found my answer:

It’s not one, but two planets!

This week, Jupiter and Venus reached their peak for the year in proximity to each other in the night sky. In the photograph above, taken in France several days ago, Jupiter (on the right) and Venus (on the left) were virtually directly across from one another in the sky.

As of tonight, March 16th, the planets have begun to drift away from one another, but they are still very close together and very bright — particularly Venus which is often the brightest object in the sky.

This is roughly what they looked like tonight:

This photograph, taken by Greg Abbott and appearing on The Guardian website, shows Jupiter on the left and Venus on the right. This is roughly what the two planets looked like in the sky tonight, March 16th.

 

Jupiter and Venus are visible for about 4 hours following sunset. If you are having trouble locating them, look for the brightest object in the sky — Venus. It’s hard to miss. Venus is so bright that it looks like the headlight of a car shining at you from space.

According to Earthsky.org, March 2012 is one of the best months ever to view the five planets (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, and Mercury) which are visible to the naked eye.

Next Sunday, March 25th, the Moon will enter into Venus and Jupiter’s dance:

Picture located at Earthsky.org

Take some time this week, look up at the night sky. Consider the immense universe we live in and the beauty it contains.

Plus,  it’ll be awhile until this sight comes around so brilliantly again. Although Venus and Jupiter come close to one another in our sky roughly ever 13 months, next year when they appear in May 2013, they’ll only remain visible for 1 hour before setting below the horizon.