Best Places to Stargaze in the US

Best Places to Stargaze in the US

Bed and Breakfast, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, National Parks, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Things to Do, Virginia, Washington Select Registry – January 27, 2016

Did you know on a clear night, you can see stars up to 2.5 million light years away without binoculars or a telescope?

 

Stargazing is one of the most relaxing and humbling things you can do! When you look up at the stars, you're reminded how small you are. It's like standing by the ocean and realizing what a tiny part of the world you occupy.

 

The best thing about stargazing is that you don't have to be an astronomy expert and you don't have to have a fancy telescope.

 

Just find the perfect conditions and look up at the sky! If you're new to stargazing and you'd like to know more, you've come to the right place.

 

Best Conditions for Stargazing

  • Clear skies. Little to no clouds in the sky mean more visibility, making it easier for you to see stars without a telescope.
  • Dry air. Too much humidity will cause a subtle haze in the sky. Pick a night when there is little to no moisture in the air.
  • Around a new moon. Pick a date that's close to a new moon to keep the bright moon from spoiling your visibility at night. You might also be able to stargaze with a thin crescent moon but you should avoid any other phases of the moon because there will be too much moonlight.
  • Away from big cities. Big cities are full of too many buildings, people, and light pollution. The farther you travel away from a big city, the more visibility you'll have to see the stars.
  • Go rural or by the water. Rural locations are the best option to avoid light pollution, as well as places near large bodies of water like oceans or lakes.

 

Now that you know where you need to be and what kind of weather you should stargaze in, it's time to pick a night and try it out! Here are a few tips to turn you into a stargazing pro.

 

6 Easy Stargazing Tips Anyone Can Try

  • Study the weather forecast. Find a night when there are clear skies and dry air. If you're traveling somewhere you'd like to stargaze, keep an eye on the weather and ask your hotel if they have any information on the best times of the year for stargazing.
  • Download a mobile star chart app beforehand. There are many free apps you can download that will tell you the names of the stars! Study the app before you go out so you will know which stars you're looking for.
  • Wear something comfortable. Depending on the weather, the time of year and the place you choose to stargaze, you will need to wear something you can move in without any discomfort. If it's during the winter, make sure you wear something that will keep you warm.
  • Turn off all lights. This includes your phone, as well as any indoor or outdoor lights like a firepit! Any amount of light pollution will ruin your chance of seeing the stars.
  • Be patient. Your eyes will need a few minutes to adjust to the dark before you will be able to see anything.

 

One of the most important stars you should locate first is the North Star or Polaris. Generally, the North Star is the brightest star in the sky! Unlike other stars, it does not rise or set; it stays in the same spot above the northern horizon year round.

 

Now you know what you're looking for but what about the best locations to stargaze?

 

Here are 12 of the best places to stargaze in the US.

 

1. This bedroom with the glass ceiling.

 

Stargazing from the Conservatory room at the Sayre Mansion couldn't be any easier or more relaxing. Look at the stars as you fall asleep each night at this hotel in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

 

The Conservatory room has a glass ceiling that offers stargazers an 180-degree view of the nighttime sky. If you'd like to stargaze before the sun rises each morning, just set your alarm early and open your eyes! No need to change out of your pajamas or bundle up to face the cold.

 

If you don't mind getting out early, plan to visit the French Creek State Park one morning! A wildlife and stargazing oasis, the park is just over an hour away from the Sayre Mansion. Located in the Schuylkill Highlands, the French Creek State Park has 7,730-acres of forests, fields, wetlands, and lakes. It is the largest block of contiguous forest between Washington D.C. and New York City!

 

 

You won't find any light pollution at the French Creek State Park. The park is so dark it earned a spot on The 8 Best Places To Stargaze in Pennsylvania by Only In Your State. Below is a nighttime image taken by David Naples at the French Creek State Park.

 

 

2. Where the mountains meet Maine's shore.

 

Look at the stars from this quiet porch at the Lodge at Moosehead Lake in Greenville, Maine! This is an ideal spot for stargazing because it is perched high up, above the trees. It's also on Moosehead Lake so there will be less light pollution and clearer skies at night!

 

Maine is one of the best states to stargaze because it has many miles of wilderness and it is on the Atlantic Ocean. If you want to stargaze, visit Maine in the winter and you'll be able to see Jupiter, the Pleiades, and Orion's belt!

 

Travel a little bit more north and you may see the Northern Lights in Maine!

 

 

Under two hours away from the Lodge at Moosehead Lake is the Emera Astronomy Center at the University of Maine. In the 1950s, NASA opened the Jordan Planetarium with the university. Anyone can visit the planetarium! On Friday and Saturday nights, the Jordan Planetarium offers free telescope viewings and family star shows for the public.

 

 

3. At the World's 1st Certified Starlight Hotel.

 

You won't find any light pollution at the Trout Point Lodge of Nova Scotia in East Kemptville, Nova Scotia. While it may technically not be in the US, the Trout Point Lodge is the world's first certified Starlight Hotel so we couldn't leave it off our list.

 

When you visit, you'll understand why the hotel earned this award back in 2014. Below is the light pollution map for the Trout Point Lodge. The brighter colors indicate high amounts of light pollution compared to the gray and black areas, which have no light pollution. Trout Point Lodge's location is indicated in the center by the cross-shaped cursor.

 

 

The lack of light pollution at the Trout Point Lodge is because of his secluded location. It is situated in the heart of the Tobeatic Wilderness in southwestern Nova Scotia, Canada. It's less than an hour from the Yarmouth International Ferry Terminal and about 3 hours from the cosmopolitan area of Halifax. Trout Point is the perfect hideaway for nature lovers and stargazers!

 

 

4. Nearly 3,000 feet up in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

 

At an elevation of 2,800 feet, standing on the porch of the Sugar Tree Inn Bed and Breakfast is like sticking your head in the clouds of Shenandoah Valley in Vesuvius, Virginia. When the skies are clear, it's one of the best places to stargaze in the Blue Ridge Mountains!

 

The Sugar Tree Inn is also located less than a mile from the Blue Ridge Parkway, another popular spot for stargazers. Stargazers flock to the Blue Ridge Parkway because there's hardly any light pollution, as you can see in the picture to the left.

 

In fact, the night skies are so clear you can see the Milky Way galaxy with your naked eye! On any given night, visitors can see about 2,500 stars at the Blue Ridge Parkway.

 

One of the most spectacular stargazing events at the Blue Ridge Parkway is the Orionids Meteor Shower. This meteor shower starts in early October and goes until the first week of November. According to the Blue Ridge Parkway Guide, "the peak week centers on October 21, so expect the most abundant showers during those times." Stargaze on a peak day and you'll see up to 20 meteors in an hour!

 

The best time to see the Orionids Meteor Shower is just before sunrise, so plan to be up around 5:00 or 5:30 am. You should also consider checking the lunar calendar to pick a time close to a New Moon, so the moonlight doesn't interfere with your visibility.

 

 

5. This tub on the Oregon coast.

 

It's hard to imagine something more relaxing than taking a bath under the stars, with the sound of waves crashing on the shore. That's exactly what you'd experience when you stargaze at the Channel House in Depoe Bay, Oregon.

 

The Oregon coast is an ideal spot to stargaze because it has less pollution and light interference than more inland cities like Portland, OR. Stargazers tend to overlook it because Oregon is known to be windy and cloudy. When the wind dies down and the clouds disappear, the Oregon coast offers clear night skies, perfect for stargazing!

 

If you're more interested in relaxing, this is a great spot for beginner stargazers!

 

 

6. Under the Clear Skies in Galena, Illinois.

 

Would you like to sleep under the stars at the Inn at Irish Hollow? While the inn doesn't actually have beds for guests to sleep in outside, it is one of the most popular places to stargaze in Galena, Illinois.

 

The Inn at Irish Hollow sits on 500 acres of quiet countryside. As you can see in the light pollution map below, its rural location means dark, clear skies for stargazing all year long!

 

 

Galena.Org reports the best nights to look at the moon and stars are prior to the first quarter of the moon cycle. This time is ideal for stargazing because the Milky Way is visible and the moon isn't too bright. If you'd like to look at the stars with a group of people, the city holds stargazing sessions each month in April through October, from sunset to about 11 pm.

 

 

7. By the ocean in Port Angeles, WA.

 

Another relaxing spot to stargaze is at the Colette's Bed and Breakfast in Port Angeles, Washington. Just turn off the lights, let the firepit die, and you'll be able to see a sky full of stars! This particular location is a great for stargazing because it's oceanfront, so there will be less light pollution.

 

Colette's Bed and Breakfast is also located two hours away from the Olympic National Park, one of the best places to stargaze in Washington state. The park is made up of nearly one million acres so you have a choice of many different places to watch the nighttime sky.

 

 

Another stargazing spot in Washington that's less than an hour away from the bed and breakfast is Lake Crescent. Lake Crescent is located in the northern foothills of the Olympic Mountains and it's just 18 miles from Port Angeles, Washington. The reflection of the stars on the water makes it an exceptionally beautiful place to stargaze!

 

8. At the Lake House on Lake Granbury.

 

Sit back, relax, and gaze up at the starry night star over a peaceful lake in Texas! The Lake House is a 1,800 square foot guest house at the Inn on Lake Granbury in Granbury, Texas. It has two king bedrooms, two private bedrooms with large showers, a full kitchen, its own living room, dining room, and several fireplaces.

 

If you're planning to stargaze with another couple, the Lake House is the perfect size to accommodate everyone. In addition to this inside area with floor to ceiling windows, the guest house also has an outdoor patio perfect for stargazing!

 

 

9. This table under the starry Colorado sky.

 

You'll find this rustic table at the Golden Leaf Inn in Estes Park, Colorado. This bed and breakfast is situated on five miles of mountain land. It's the perfect place for the outdoor adventurer to see the stars!

 

A short 10-minute drive away is the Rocky Mountain National Park. Here, you'll find 415 square miles of scenic mountains, as well as 300 miles of hiking trails. The Rocky Mountain National Park is a great place for stargazing in Colorado because of its altitude. Over 100 of its mountain peaks sit above 11,000 feet in altitude!

 

If you're stargazing with children, plan a trip to the Estes Park Memorial Observatory. The Memorial Observatory has a Mead 12 inch LX200 Schmidt-Cassergrain telescope for stargazing visitors! You can look at the stars through this telescope in a private observation session or during a pre-scheduled public viewing.

 

 

The Estes Park Memorial Observatory is a community resource dedicated to fostering the scientific education of children. Together with the local schools, the Estes Valley Astronomical Society, and the Rocky Mountain National Park, the Estes Park Memorial Observatory puts on fun astronomy events throughout the year for people of all ages!

 

 

10. Above Lake Lure in North Carolina.

 

Located on a secluded peninsula is the Lodge on Lake Lure, the only waterfront inn on the lake. This porch offers stargazers a relaxing and quiet place to look up at the North Carolina stars!

 

Just over an hour away from the Lodge on Lake Lure is Spruce Pine, North Carolina. Spruce Pine is home to the Blue Ridge Observatory and Star Park. The project is the first International Dark-sky Association (IDA) certified Star Park in the southeastern United States! The main goal of the Blue Ridge Observatory and Star Park is lighting conservation so you'll barely find any light pollution here.

 

 

This is an especially scenic spot for stargazers! When you look up at the stars, you'll also see the silhouettes of the Pisgah mountains and forests against the dark sky.

 

 

11. By a Private Lake in Chestertown, NY.

 

You'll get more visibility when you stand by a body of water, like this dock at the Friends Lake Inn in Chestertown, New York. Friends Lake is a private lake just across from the inn. Only guests of the inn or the surrounding vacations homes have access to Friends Lake and this dock.

 

If you're feeling adventurous, rent one of the inn's complimentary kayaks or canoes to stargaze on the lake! Another place to stargaze would be on the hiking trails. There are over 30 kilometers of well-marked trails near the Friends Lake Inn. Luckily, they start at the inn so you wouldn't have to go far if you want to stargaze there!

 

 

12. On top of a quiet country hillside in Tennessee.

 

Perched on top of a hill, this porch at the Berry Springs Lodge Bed and Breakfast in Sevierville, is a great place to stargaze in Tennessee. The lodge sits on 33 acres so you'll find plenty of peace, quiet, and dark, clear skies. Most of the lodge's rooms have private balconies, so you won't be disturbed by other guests either.

 

 

Twenty minutes from the Berry Springs Lodge Bed and Breakfast is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. According to the National Park Service, the Smoky Mountains are fairly dark because the nearest largest cities are 40 to 100 miles away. If you're planning a stargazing trip to Tennessee, read about the weather year round in the Smokies before you pick your dates.

 

 

So, where would you like to stargaze first? Tell us below in the comments.