Ever since the time of the caveman, humans have had a fascination with staring up at the stars. When we do lift our heads to the heavens, we’re continuing an act that probably goes back thousands of years. Whether you’re looking for Pluto, the Big Dipper, or a whole slew of other planets, looking up into the night sky is a past time that’s full of wonder and appreciation.
No matter if you’re a seasoned astronomer or just developing an interest, there’s no better time to embark on a celestial weekend getaway or take your little ones on an educational trip across the galaxy!
We’ve scoped out six of the best cities for budding astronomers. Get your cameras and Instagram feeds ready, because you’re in for a star-studded vacation.
Every aspiring astronaut has to start somewhere – and your journey can begin at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh. From a two-story replica of the International Space Station to fascinating facts about globular clusters, nebulas, and planets, this is the place to be for a jam-packed introduction to what lies beyond our little planet. See space for yourself with the Buhl Planetarium’s 16-inch Meade LX200 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. You’ll be able to check out the surface of the moon and a handful of planets as expert stargazers share key details about our universe. You’ll even enjoy a stellar fifth-floor view of downtown Pittsburgh!
Other famous spots to stare up at the heavens include the Allegheny Observatory at Riverview Park, which is frequented both by visitors and university astronomical researchers, and the Wagman Observatory, which houses the world-class Manka Memorial telescope and is the site of Star Parties hosted by the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh.
Fort Davis, Texas
Grab your cowboy boots, cutoff shorts, and telescopes – yes, you read that right! One of Fort Davis’s biggest attractions is the McDonald Observatory atop Mt. Locke. Not only does this celebrated astronomical research center boast the 362-inch Hobby-Eberly Telescope — one of the largest ever constructed — but the surrounding area gets really dark at night, making it a prime spot to stargaze. Going with your significant other? Share a telescope at one of the observatory’s Star Parties on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Continue your sparkling affair at the serene Davis Mountains State Park, where travelers of every age can lie back and observe the brilliant night sky.
New York City, New York
In the City That Never Sleeps, it’s no surprise that New Yorkers are fascinated by the night sky and what lies millions of light years away from our watery world. Head over to the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium Space Show: Dark Universe for a stunning introduction to our universe and cosmic expansion. Take all of that newfound knowledge to the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York, which regularly meets to geek out over the heavens in parks across the five boroughs.NYC
Los Angeles, California
Dubbed “Southern California’s gateway to the cosmos,” the Griffith Observatory atop Mount Hollywood offers stunning views of the cosmos, not to mention the entire city of Los Angeles. With free telescopes available for public use each evening and expert on-site guides, this observatory is a hotspot for unofficial crash courses in stargazing. Right next to Hollywood Boulevard stands Runyon Canyon Park, a sprawling, 130-acre piece of land that offers Instagram-worthy city views and the opportunity for a little hike. Sure, there’s plenty to see in the stars, but there are also some stunning views here in the City of Angels. Sometimes it pays to be grounded!
Astronomy buffs and beginners alike will be star-struck by Florida’s Space Coast in Cocoa. Start your day touring one of Florida’s most beloved attractions, the Kennedy Space Center, which offers visitors a 140,000-acre celebration of the cosmos. Experience a realistic simulation of a space shuttle launch, gaze up at 3D space footage, or take a stroll across a garden teeming with capsules and rockets. After you’ve witnessed what it takes to become a real astronaut, fly over to the Planetarium and Observatory at Eastern Florida State College. Featuring a star theater, public observatory, art gallery, and interactive exhibits, it’s a solid way to end an afternoon with the stars.
Alaska seems out of the way – unless you live in Alaska, of course. But this trek is more than worth making! Ever wonder why the sky is blue or Mars is red? Dream of gazing up at the Northern Lights glistening across the Article Circle? Your expedition begins at the Anchorage Museum’s Thomas Planetarium, The Last Frontier’s premier planetarium, where you’ll have the chance to experience this and much more. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, catch a bus or train to Denali National Park and Preserve for unforgettable views of the aurora.
Do you have any other cities you’d add to the list? Have you been to any of these top attractions? Let us know in the comments below!