Nocturnal Field Trips: 7 World Wonders Best Explored at Night

night light art

When planning out world travel, one typically dwells on destinations more than times, but some of the best sights can only been seen at a particular point in the day or, in the case of these marvels, at night.


WebUrbanist is pleased to announce a new partnership with Google Field Trip, bringing some of our best and brightest travel articles to their mobile platform, allowing you to find hidden wonders of the world wherever (and whenever) you may be. In this article, we have teamed up to highlight seven amazing places to visit by night, each offering special surprises to the nocturnally inclined.

World’s Largest Urban Bat Colony in Austin, Texas

bridge bat experience austin

At dusk, people flock to watch the emergence of 1.5 million bats from beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge, designed and built in 1980 in a way that inadvertantly turned out to provide an ideal roost for a particular breed of flying nocturnal predators.

bridge bat sign

Often under-appreciated or even feared, these night flyers consume between 10,000 and 20,000 pounds of food each evening, helping them earn their keep. Today, there is even a dedicated Statesman Bat Observation Center from which visitors are encouraged to experience the spectacle.

World’s Largest Ice & Snow Festival in Harbin, China

snow festival by day

snow festival at night

By far the biggest such event in the world, the Harbin International Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival consists of huge works of art and architecture that truly come into their own once the sun sets and glowing lights behind and within bricks of ice come to life.

harbin snow festival building

snow ice festival staircase

Using swing saws to cut ice directly from an adjacent river, artists then turn the frozen building blocks into human, animal and mythical figures as well as huge staircases and structures. Among other honors and awards, a snow sculpture featured at the festival holds the world’s record for size at 750 feet by 28 feet (13,000 cubic meters of snow). Other similarly-impressive global ice festivals can be found in Japan, Canada and Norway as well.

Synchronous Firefly Swarms near Knoxville, Tennessee

night lightning bug sync

lightning bug flying art

Fireflies can be a wonderful sight regardless of the species, but one rare type in particular (Photinus Carolinus), is even more special than its cousins: the so-called Synchronous Firefly swarms light up in unison, pulsing every few seconds at the exact same time.

synchronous firefly swarms

At Great Smoky Mountains National Park, viewers can buy tickets in advance and be taken by shuttle to special viewing areas from which to observe these lightning bugs. Within the park, 18 other species of firefly can also be found, but only one whose constituents almost all flash simultaneously.

Ghost Ship Water Hologram in Amsterdam, Holland

amsterdam light festival ship

A maritime marvel in more ways than one, this 3D optical illusion involves two intersecting planar projections beamed onto perpendicular planes of vertical water.

amsterdam maritime ghost boat

amsterdam light vessel

Created for the Amsterdam Light Festival by VisualSkin, the resulting real-life rendering looks like a 17th-century seafaring vessel seemingly held in stasis and composed of water and light. The effect, naturally, works best at night, turning a fountain by day into a marvelously surprising evening display.