There is so much to love about summer, and warmer nights for stargazing are up there with swimming, camping, and road trips for me. It’s also Milky Way season when we can look directly toward our galactic core. Most people can’t see the Milky Way from where they live, so a trip to one of these star parties or festivals is a real treat.

 

JUNE

Grand Canyon National Park Star Party: ARIZONA

Enjoy unique events at the South Rim and the North Rim under some of the darkest skies in the country. Get details HERE.

 

Bryce Canyon National Park Astronomy Festival: UTAH

This astronomy festival includes activities for families during the day, followed by telescope viewing and stargazing at night. Get details HERE.

 

Cherry Springs State Park: PENNSYLVANIA

Stargaze, practice your astrophotography skills, listen to astronomy talks, and visit astronomical vendors and suppliers. Get the details HERE.

 

Rocky Mountain Star Stare: COLORADO

Rocky Mountain Star Stare celebrates 30 years of one of the nation’s premier star parties. Enjoy nationally recognized speakers, outdoor activities, children’s events, and camping under Colorado’s pristine night skies. Get details HERE.

 

Lake City Star Fest: COLORADO

Have an unforgettable experience under the stars with stargazing, telescope exploration, educational opportunities, networking, a planetarium show, solar viewing, and more. Get details HERE.

 

Craters of the Moon Star Party: IDAHO

The only national park named for a celestial body, Craters of the Moon National Monument hosts an annual star party with tours of the night sky. Get details HERE.

 

JULY

Glacier NP Logan Pass Star Party: MONTANA

Sit under the stars on top of the world at Logan Pass. Gaze through telescopes, explore the depths of the universe, learn about the naked-eye constellations, and enjoy the star stories of local indigenous cultures. Tickets are required. Get details HERE.

 

Badlands National Park Astronomy Festival: SOUTH DAKOTA

Enjoy evening presentations, planetarium shows, telescope viewing, and daytime solar telescope viewing. Get details HERE.

 

Nebraska Star Party: NEBRASKA

It’s so dark at Merritt Reservoir’s Snake Campground that the Milky Way casts a shadow! Explore the night sky with and without telescopes. Camp under the stars and bring the kids for activities like pop bottle rocketry, crater study, celestial mechanics, and construction projects, including astrolabes, planispheres, and more. Get details HERE.

 

Oregon Star Party: OREGON

Youth and adult activities include stargazing, telescope viewing, door prizes, and astronomy vendors for a 5-day event. Get details HERE.

 

Washington State Star Party: WASHINGTON

An event for adults and students under Washington’s beautiful skies. Kids can participate in the young astronomer program. Get details HERE.

 

Green Bank Star Quest: WEST VIRGINIA

This optical and radio astronomy event is held at the Green Bank Observatory. Enjoy lectures, stargazing from your campsite, and children’s activities, including a rocket launch, spread over a 4-day event. Get details HERE.

 

AUGUST

Shenandoah National Park: VIRGINIA

Discover the park after dark with stargazing, Ranger talks, kids’ activities, and guest presentations. Get details HERE.

 

If you are trekking to one of these events, plan ahead to make the most out of your experience.

  • Get a red flashlight. A regular white flashlight, or the flashlight on your smartphone, are great for blowing up your night vision. Some stars are faint, and even a little light pollution can make it tricky to see the Milky Way. Do all you can to protect your night vision, starting with the flashlight you use. Some locations will only allow red flashlights.
  • Set your phone to night mode. This goes along with using a red flashlight. Turn your phone to the night setting before the event starts so your screen has a reddish hue. This helps if you’re going to look at a stargazing app or take a picture. Save your night vision by dimming the screen and going to night mode.
  • Pack warm clothes and a blanket. Even in the summer, the late evening can get chilly, especially if you’re viewing at a higher altitude. Don’t let the temperature ruin your night under the stars. Bring some layers, and throw a blanket in for good measure.
  • Pack a chair. You never know how the event will be presented. Having a chair ensures that you’ll be comfortable in a variety of formats. The best choice is one that has a handle to carry over your shoulder since you’re likely going to walk some distance from your car.
  • Stay hydrated. Even if you don’t need water during the event, you might find yourself thirsty on the drive home. 
  • Bring a nature journal: Do you keep a nature journal? Bring it along. If not, you might enjoy journaling about your nighttime adventures outside.
  • Practice night sky photography. There are astrophotographers, and then there are the rest of us. If you think you’ll want to take photos with your smartphone, practice before you go. Smartphones have a way to go to catch up to the world of astrophotography. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn a few tips to improve your attempts to take some night sky photos. One thing you don’t want to do, though, is dominate your time at a telescope trying to take a photo. Instead, take it in with your naked eye and savor the view, tucking it into your brain’s memory bank.