The Mars New Year Festival is a quirky weekend festival for people who love all things planet Mars, whether it’s the science of the Red Planet or just a love for Martians, UFOs, and kooky things.
The Mars New Year event takes place in the borough of Mars (just north of Pittsburgh) every other year to coincide with the Mars calendar year of 687 Earth days.
I was lucky enough to land on Mars for the celebration, and I found fun everywhere I looked!
How to Celebrate a Mars New Year in Mars
1. Prove you were on Mars.
The flying saucer is a permanent fixture in Mars so be sure to stop by the town square for some photo fun. Originally built by a resident in the 90s from two large oil tanks, the spaceship weighs a hefty 3000 pounds and proudly serves as the most famous extraterrestrial landmark in Mars.
2. Look for signs of alien life.
Friday night’s costume contest brings out the humans and aliens in droves. Of course, there weren’t really aliens in attendance (or were there?), but there were alien-inspired creatures everywhere.
3. Marvel at the mini-museum headed to the moon.
This was one of the most fascinating exhibits I encountered at the Mars festival and certainly the most unusual. In a hugely collaborative project, Carnegie Mellon University has created what is essentially a miniature museum to send to the moon. Weighing just 8 ounces, the tiny museum is made up of thousands of artworks, lithographs, musical scores, earthly samples, nano-objects, mechanisms, even a ballet written for the moon, and a moon-scented perfume.
It’s a cross between an art museum and a natural history museum made of four microchambers: earth, metasphere, moon and ether, and the poetically entangled visual narratives are designed to share the complexities of our existence with whoever may find it. It’s mindblowing! You can read more about the MoonArk here.
4. Solve the mystery of the Mars Escape Room.
Sign up at the library for an escape room time and see if you can solve the clues to ensure your escape!
5. Identify all the aliens in the Little Martian Scavenger Hunt.
Kids will love searching out all the creatures! If you’re paying attention, you’ll see I spotted one of them in the Escape Room.
6. Eat where the Martians eat (and drink).
Stop by one of the food trucks for your fill of festival fare, enjoy ice cream and baked treats at the Peach Tree and quench your thirst with some hometown brews at Stick City Brewing. You can get a beer at their festival booth or visit the actual brewery about a block from the festivities. Get your caffeine pick-me-up at the Mars Brew House if it’s still morning.
7. Nerd out with NASA.
On Saturday and Sunday, the streets are lined with NASA experts sharing their knowledge about all things extraterrestrial. Learn about the equipment used in space, experience virtual reality and be sure to check out the Rov-E Rover, a tiny version modeled after some of NASA’s most famous rovers, including the Curiosity. The rover can drive, stream video and roll over obstacles.
8. End the night with the drone show.
Much quieter than fireworks but just as much fun, don’t miss the moment when 100 drones light up the sky at dusk!
With such an out-of-this-world variety of strange oddities, exploratory and hands-on STEM and STEAM activities for kids, NASA demonstrations, speakers, and of course, traditional festival-style entertainment, food and drinks, Mars Exploration Celebration Days is a hometown festival of fun.
Which Mars New Year Festival activity would you and your family enjoy most?
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Mark your calendars: The next Mars New Year Festival will be held June 9-10, 2023.