The Grand Connection is AOT’s profile series designed to connect Arizona’s tourism industry through the experiences and insights of those who drive it. We’ll include leaders, but these profiles aren’t limited to only those in the executive office. We’re striving to bring you perspectives from all across our amazingly diverse industry. Everyone has something to share and an experience from which we all can learn.




Few experiences are as uniting for all people as gazing up at the night sky and feeling amazement and curiosity. That’s how it happened for Dr. Danielle Adams, when, at the age of 7, she received her first telescope and pointed it skyward. What would follow is a career dedicated to astronomy, and more specifically, how stars and other celestial objects influence different cultures.

Today, as chief marketing and revenue officer for Flagstaff’s Lowell Observatory, Danielle gets to combine her passion for astronomy and expertise in marketing to share the awe of scientific and astronomical discovery with visitors.

As we celebrate International Dark Sky Week 2022, Danielle highlights why preserving dark skies is critical to Flagstaff, what to expect from the now-open for general admission Giovale Open Deck Observatory and why Arizona is set to become an astrotourism powerhouse in our latest Grand Connection profile.


What is Lowell Observatory’s mission, and what drew you to this captivating field?

Percival Lowell established Lowell Observatory in 1894 to study astronomy and planetary science, and to share those discoveries with the public. My own journey in astronomy began 88 years later, when at the age of seven I received my first telescope. Now, I am having the absolute time of my life promoting such a storied institution as Lowell Observatory and making it a magnet for astrotourism in Arizona, a place where guests can experience the awe and wonder of astronomical discovery.


You recently unveiled the Giovale Open Deck Observatory to the public. What should people expect when visiting this observation plaza?

The Giovale Open Deck Observatory (GODO) opened in late 2019, but due to the pandemic, 2022 will be its first general admission summer. The GODO is unique in the world and features six advanced telescopes, one of which is a red steampunk refractor that gives amazing views of the planets. Another is a giant 32” reflector that makes it easy to see structure in distant gas clouds and galaxies. It’s a star party every night!


Flagstaff is proudly the world's first International Dark Sky Place, designated in 2001. Since then, Arizona has added more than 15 other such locations. Why is maintaining dark sky places important?

Today, 80% of the world’s population cannot see the Milky Way, but you can see it easily from downtown Flagstaff, a city of 75,000 that serves as a model for other communities to emulate. The city created the world’s first lighting ordinance in 1958, and dark-sky preservation efforts continue today through the Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition. A dark sky filled with thousands of stars fills you with awe and reconnects you to the stargazers who have gone before us.


How are you working to promote Lowell Observatory to residents and visitors?

I’m deeply grateful for two recent AOT Visit Arizona Initiative grants. One of them helped us put on the 3rd annual I Heart Pluto Festival, a city-wide event that is drawing national interest as we approach the 2030 centennial of Pluto’s discovery at Lowell Observatory. Together with Discover Flagstaff and Meteor Crater, we’re using a second VAI grant to promote Arizona’s stellar astrotourism opportunities to out-of-state tourists who are planning their next vacations.


How do residents and visitors learn more or get involved with Lowell Observatory?

People can connect with us on social media and our website (, but also through live-streamed interactive events on YouTube and our new Star Stuff podcast.

I am so grateful to the generous volunteers, members – who can visit as much as they like – and donors who support both our astronomical research and public outreach projects, including the GODO and the Astronomy Discovery Center, which is now under construction and opens in Spring of 2024.


Which opportunities should Arizona’s tourism industry pursue during the next 5 years?

Arizona is home to both a long-established program of professional astronomy and planetary science research and a burgeoning astrotourism industry. Visitors from all over the world come to Arizona to experience our dark skies, to learn about past and present astronomical discoveries, and to behold some of the world’s most remarkable telescopes. As we recover from a worldwide pandemic, these activities show us how small we are and connect us to the universe in profound ways.


Which Arizona tourism experience would you like to do this year?

I’m looking forward to slowing down, literally. As a Flagstaff resident, I spend a lot of time on Historic Route 66, but I’d like to head out west to drive Arizona’s longest stretch of the Mother Road. You’ll find me there with the top down!