Bright Lights, Big Galaxy

By JOSHUA TOMPKINS - Westways Magazine

In the kitschy mountain village of Julian, three hours southeast of L.A. and an hour northeast of San Diego, the Observer's Inn offers a guided tour of the stars and a place to sleep after the show.

Five nights a week, proprietors Michael and Caroline Leigh roll back the roof of their custom-build observatory and aim four large research-grade telescopes into some of the best skies in California. Michael Leigh says that during the summer, when the night looks upon the center of the galaxy, "the Milky Way is so bright here, it casts a shadow." The tour lasts about an hour, after which guests can retire to one of two small but thoughtfully appointed rooms for the night.

By day, explore the boutiques and cafés of downtown Julian or drive up to the Palomar Observatory, where you can't actually look through the massive 200-inch Hale Telescope, but you can at least look at it.