10 Dark Sky Destinations to Die For!
10 Dark Sky Destinations to Die For!
There is something truly serene about getting away from other humans and escaping the lights and noises that come with city life. What’s even more special is the chance to gaze undisturbed into the night sky lit up with twinkling stars in all their brilliance and wonder. Whether you are an amateur astronomer, nature lover, or stargazer geek, having the opportunity to gaze into the heavens can be one of those bucket list worthy experiences that you will never forget.
Just imagine a location so dark that deep-sky objects, the planets and milk way can be seen clearly. The best spots to experience these views have been designated as such by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA). These are typically state parks, national parks and national monuments with light pollution and the best opportunities to see astronomical marvels. Keep reading as we guide you through this list of 10 dark sky destinations that will take your breath away!
1 | Kissimmee Prairie Preserve | Recognized in 2016 as Florida’s first Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Commission, Kissimmee Prairie Preserve is part of the Everglades headwaters that protects the largest remaining tract of Florida dry prairie. Also home to a number of rare, threatened and endangered species, birdwatchers and photographers can come here to see grasshoppers, sparrows, crested caracaras, burrowing owls and more. But what makes this spot even more exciting is that you can spot the Milky Way in the night sky without using telescopes or binoculars. Here, stargazers are treated to brilliant views of celestial bodies of stars and planets - in fact, Jupiter, Saturn, rocket launches from space and even the orbiting International Space Station can be seen clearly against the intense night sky. The park closes at sunset, so if you are looking for things to do in Kissimmee and want to enjoy this experience, you will have to register beforehand as a camper to be allowed in the park at night.
WHERE: 33104 NW 192nd Avenue, Okeechobee, FL 34972 | WHO: 863-462-5360
2 | Myakka River State Park | Just a little further away from one of Florida’s best Dude Ranches is the Myakka River State Park, home to the Myakka River. At 57 square miles, the scenic and diverse wetlands is a natural ecosystem of prairies, hammocks, pinelands and shallow lakes which attract a wondrous assortment of wetland creatures. Whether you're in the mood for birding, canoeing, fishing, or wildlife observation, there's something to do for every nature lover. And if you are a stargazer at heart, this spot is also ideal for making sky-friendly discoveries. Here you can see wonderful astronomical wonders in stunning darkness. All you need is your trusty telescope and an open spot to soak up the incredible sights and scenes.
WHERE: 13208 State Rd 72, Sarasota, FL 34241 | WHO: 941-361-6511
3 | Stephen C. Foster State Park | If you're traveling through the southeast you can head to Stephen C. Foster State Park, a Georgia state park - perfect for an evening campout with stargazing. Located within a National Wildlife Refuge with few nearby cities and little on-property lighting, it's ideal for a little stargazing. It's a primary entrance to the legendary Okefenokee Swamp, surrounded by trees laced with Spanish moss on the black swamp waters. Paddlers and photographers encounter unmatched scenery and abundant fauna. Scenic boat tours are available to glimpse the 402,000 acres where you'll see a wide variety of wildlife from alligators to turtles, raccoons to black bears, deer to numerous breeds of birdlike red-cockaded woodpeckers.
WHERE: Goergia Highway 177, Fargo, GA 31631 | WHO: 912-637-5274
4 | Multiple spots in Missouri | With so much unspoiled nature around you that are perfect for dark sky stargazing, you can explore the trails and woods nearby and discover all the wonders of the night sky...or venture to numerous nearby destinations to view the Milky Way unspoiled by city lights.
WHERE: Multiple Locations | WHO: N/A
5 | Pickett CCC Memorial State Park | This 19,2000-acre natural area was the first state park to earn a Silver -tier International Dark Sky Park designation. The Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area offers sweeping views of the night sky overlooking waterfalls, hiking trails and forest. This picture perfect oasis is one of the best spots to make our list!
WHERE: 4605 Pickett Park Highway in Jamestown, TN | WHO: 931-879-5821
6 | Sky Meadows State Park | This mystic gem is well worth any drive to encounter the most breathtaking darkest skies you can imagine. If you're in the mood for an overnight stay, plan ahead and try to participate in one of the monthly astronomy programs offered and experience dark sky viewing nestled between our nation's capital and the birthplace of the nation in the thick of night! You can satisfy your curiosity with a hike through the pristine landscape in the day.
WHERE: 11012 Edmonds Lane, Delaplane, VA 20144 | WHO: 540 -592-3556
7 | Great Basin National Park | We're all familiar with the thrills of Vegas where the odds are always in favor of bright and exciting fun. But Nevada is also home to the Great Basin National Park, a designated Dark Sky Park that offers guided full moon hikes, seasonal astronomy talks led by a park ranger, and telescope viewings. The Park also hosts an annual astronomy festival every autumn.
WHERE: 100 Great Basin National Park, Baker, NV 89311 | WHO: 775-234-7331
8 | The Adirondack Sky Center & Observatory | About 6 hours outside New York City, the Adirondack Sky Center & Observatory gives you the opportunity to explore the night sky in ways you wouldn't expect so close to the City That Never Sleeps. Its location in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains make it the perfect destination for stargazing in the east. The area is known for light pollution, low humidity and high altitude, creating the perfect blend for viewing the night sky. If you are looking for a family-friendly activity, bucket list adventure, or a chance to stargaze with like-minded nerds, check out this spot!
WHERE: 178 Big Wolf Road, Tupper Lake, NY 12986 | WHO: 518-359-3538
9 | Grand Canyon National Park | This provisionally designated International Dark Sky Park is also one of the world’s most famous tourist destinations. What made the iconic landmark score a place on our list is due to efforts to install dark sky-friendly lighting in the previously well-lit Grand Canyon Village. The canyon floor also offers a stunning view of the darkest skies while the more remote Desert View and Lipan Point offer even more breathtaking dark sky scenes.
WHERE: Arizona | WHO: 928-638-7888
10 | East Canyon State Park | By day, the East Canyon State Park offers a long list of outdoorsy opportunities like boating, fishing, camping, hiking – and at night, nocturnal adventures like stargazing! And not only is the park a spectacular source of darkness but night sky programs are also hosted by the park staff. If you’re looking for a fuller or more guided experience with the opportunity to ask questions and expand your knowledge, this is a great chance to get all you want in one visit.
WHERE: 5535 South Highway 66, Morgan, UT 84050 | WHO: 801-829-6866
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Whether you have a passing interest or a passion for stargazing, we hope this list will guide you to a super awesome dark sky experience. Find open spaces, the darkest skies, a trusted telescope and enough imagination and you will be wowed by the stunning galactic miracles.
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* Westgate Resorts is in no way affiliated with the attractions featured in this article. Items or places listed are current as of the publishing date of this article. Please call or visit the respective website for the most up-to-date offerings and details.