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Stargazing… an activity that is about as romantic as romantic can get! Cuddling in close with your favorite person as you relax back and gaze up at a star-studded night is a great way to spend a little time with your sweetie-pie wherever you are, but there are some places (and times of year) that are better than others.
For optimal couple stargazing, you first want to be sure you’re in the right place at the right time! As long as you’re far enough out from the lights of a city, chances are you’ll have an okay view of the night sky, but to really get the full effect you’ll need to travel to where the skies are blissfully uninterrupted by the “light pollution” of modern times. Different seasons have different night sky visibility depending on where you are, so we’ll be sure to point you in the right direction there, too!
There are several certified International Dark Sky Parks (IDSP) in the US and you can’t go wrong at any of them, but we are going to highlight our top 8 favorite spots for romantic couples stargazing: some are near and some are far, but they all feature dark, inky skies where you can see stellar night sights regardless of whether they are IDSP certified!
Big Island, Hawaii
A visit to Big Island, Hawaii is a romantic trip in and of itself, but then you add a stargazing tour into the mix of beautiful beaches, laid-back luaus, and sensational sunsets? This, my friends, is Romance with a capital R! Already one of the most romantic beach getaway destinations in the US, Big Island is also home to the Mauna Kea Observatories, the world-class astronomical observatories that have the best viewing conditions on Earth due to local weather and geography that translate to extremely favorable viewing conditions year-round.
What does this mean for the stargazing couple in search of a better look at the cosmos? EVERYTHING! With an average of 325 clear nights each year, your chance of a clear peek at the heavens is pretty darn great. Plus, you don’t have to travel to the 13,796ft above sea level summit to stargaze because stargazing is even better at the Visitor Information Summit (VIS) at 9,200ft above sea level. If you’d rather stay a little closer to sea level, that’s fine too because the Kohala Coast of Big Island offers exemplary topology and location for stargazing, and you can check out guided tours through Star Gaze Hawaii.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
The IDSP certified spot in the US with the least light pollution of any national park in the lower 48, Big Bend National Park is the place to go if you’re looking for a major return on your stargazing! Not only did this Texas national park make it on to this list of 25 Best Road Trips in the USA, but their mild winter is one of the best times of year for crystal clear atmospheric conditions in this area, so add this to your list of warm-weather destinations to escape the winter cold!
To make the most of your romantic stargazing excursion, spend a few days out at this relatively remote national park. Spend some time soaking in the historic hot spring after a long day exploring some of the parks phenomenal hiking trails. You can camp in one of the many campgrounds or stay at Chisos Mountains Lodge (the only lodge in the park), or take your pick of one of the small towns within easy driving distance of the park, but once the sky turns dark, head outside and look up to enjoy the sparkling blanket of stars above you. For more tips and guidance on the best stargazing spots in the park to hunker down and look up in Big Bend National Park, check out this Space Tourism Guide.
Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah
This stunning natural landmark is a must-see any time of day, but at night it provides the perfect window to gaze up through into the heavens. The very first International Dark Sky Park certified by the IDSA, Natural Bridges provides a stargazing experience that is out of this world. Stargazing is great here spring through fall, but the best sights will be found in summer when you’ll find stargazing programs and events to participate in while viewing the estimated 15,000+ stars visible in this dark sky park.
Bring your camping gear because a night spent under this blanket of stars is about as good as it gets when it comes to romance! There are several spots to choose from and campgrounds at Natural Bridges come equipped with a grill, picnic table, and a tent pad, and they are open year-round. Check out this Camping for Couples: Essential Gear Guide & Tips for Two to be sure you have everything you need to make this camping date as out of this world as the stars you will be gazing at are!
Headlands International Dark Sky Park, Michigan
Did you know that Michigan offers some of the most spectacular celestial skyscapes that can be found in the United States? It’s true! In addition to Headlands being a certified International Dark Sky Park, its location offers a chance to glimpse the ever-elusive aurora borealis, or Northern Lights. This amazing nighttime sky phenomenon is typically only predicted to occur with just a couple of days warning, so you’ll need to be following an aurora tracker or just roll the dice that you might be lucky enough to catch a peek during your visit.
Open 24/7, 365 days a year with no charge to get in, Headlands is a worthy destination any time of year; keep in mind that winter is veeeeeery cold up there, and its location on the lakeshore means it will be even colder than it is further inland, but August through April is your best night sky viewing at Headlands. There is no camping on-site, but plenty of options for hotels and vacation rentals in the cute small towns nearby, so get your room reserved beforehand so when you’re done gazing at the shimmering stars in the sky, you can leave your romantic stargazing date and head directly to your comfy accommodations to warm up and get even more cozied up together!
Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico
Another certified International Dark Sky Park, Chaco Culture is a part of the New Mexico True Dark Skies Trail, where the protected night skies are the true “star” of the show! Above Chaco Culture’s historical Pueblo ruins lies some of the world’s darkest skies, attracting both professional and amateur astronomers for both scholarly study and appreciation and less formal Astro-tourism. Archeo-astronomers are especially drawn to the area to study how the Indigenous peoples who built these incredible villages between 850 and 1250 A.D. incorporated celestial movements into their planning processes, designing their architecture around the movement of the sun, moon, and stars.
Come to Chaco Culture National Historical Park during daylight hours to explore the ruins of this ancient civilization and get a better understanding of what life may have looked like for the people who built it. As nightfall nears, set up camp for the night (or just for stargazing!) and snuggle in together as the spectacular Southwest sunset fades into darkness. As your eyes adjust from dusk and the sky grows darker and darker, you will see the twinkling celestial show come to life before your eyes. From April to October, Night Sky programs are offered on Friday and Saturday nights, and you can even make use of the phenomenal equipment at the Chaco Observatory visitor center to get an even closer and clearer look at the heavens above!
Acadia National Park, Maine
One of the East Coast’s most spectacular national parks for many reasons (and one of the most romantic places in the US for a couples’ getaway!), Acadia does have surprisingly dark skies despite its close proximity to several densely populated cities because it has taken many steps over the last decade or so to reduce light pollution within the park. This has paid off as several park locations are well-known for their remarkably stellar and starry views, like Cadillac Mountain and Jordan Pond. While many will argue that the best time to visit Acadia is in the fall, you’re likely to find ideal stargazing conditions spring through fall, with peak clarity in July and August.
In fact, you can even follow a ready-made 3-day itinerary for your Acadia couples’ trip (just add stargazing to the evenings!), or just explore and take advantage of the many things to do in Acadia, like amazing hikes and incredible camping locations both in and near the park. If you’re looking for something other than camping in your options for where to stay in Acadia, no worries! In addition to the lovely inns available, you’ll find lots of great Airbnb options, too. After a fun-filled day on Acadia, settle in with your sweetheart for a stargazing session that will leave you both in awe of the spectacular sights you’re able to get here in this dark sky area of Maine.
The Grand Canyon, Arizona
One of America’s favorite national parks, the Grand Canyon is more than just a daytime destination! Of course, we all go to ooh and aah over the stupendous size of this giant hole in the ground (basically, that is what it is, right?) and that really does require daylight but this certified International Dark Sky Park likes to say that “half the park is after dark” due to how wonderfully accommodating the Grand Canyon is for stargazers! Not only does the dry desert climate and high elevation work together to set the stage for clear skies most of the year (peak stargazing is May-September), but camping or staying in one of the many Grand Canyon lodges will set you up for the most spectacular star-sightings because the longer you can stay out, gazing up, the more you will see of the starry skies above.
There are plenty of options for off-site places to stay, too, but staying in the park means you and your love get to spend plenty of time canoodling together under blankets (nights get pretty chilly all-year-round) of down and feathers and stars! A visit to the Grand Canyon even made it on to this Couples Bucket List of Romantic and Fun Things to Do, so be sure to plan ahead to take a little time with this one! During the summer months, you might even find yourself a Star Party to join. Enjoy your days and your starry, starry nights!
Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania
Cherry Springs State Park is not a daytime destination, no. One of the darkest spots on the East Coast (it was the 2nd certified IDSP park IN THE WORLD), it is estimated that upwards of 30,000 stars can be seen from this Pennsylvania state park on a clear night. While it is pretty chilly in the winter in this part of PA, the best stargazing in Cherry Springs State Park happens in fall and winter. You can also plan ahead by consulting the Clear Sky Chart, too, but if you bundle up and bring plenty of snuggly blankets and your favorite cuddle partner, fall and winter will be your best bet for a clear sky—and a romantic snuggle session. Rarely you can even see the amazing aurora borealis (Northern Lights) from this dark sky park, most commonly seen September through March.
There is a nighttime viewing area for those who want to just kick back and look up with a campground nearby if you’d like to sleep under the stars, and an overnight observation field with camping spots for those who take their stargazing very seriously, with absolutely no white lights or campfires allowed and quiet hours until 9am. To secure one of those primo overnight observation field spots, you’ll need to register and pay a small fee ahead of time. If you’d rather sleep offsite, there are options for that too. Whether you stay overnight or leave after a couple of hours of stargazing, you’re not likely to forget the starry sights of Cherry Springs State Park!
Tips for Stargazing as a Couple
Now that you’ve got a list of places to choose from for your romantic stargazing experience, we’re going to give you a list of things you might want to check beforehand or bring along with you to take your sweet stargazing date to the next level!
-Blankets to lay on/snuggle up with
-Bug Spray (Nothing romantic about swatting mosquitos all night!)
-Comfy shoes that you can safely navigate through the darkness in
-Dress in layers to account for the nighttime temperature drop
-Folding chairs, portable hammock, or a camping mattress pad for extra comfort during your stargazing session
-Opt for over-prepared rather under-prepared if your stargazing date is a camping date; there are even more camping goodies for couples to check out.
-Binoculars and/or a telescope to get an even closer and clearer look at the cosmos (plus stargazing apps and hacks for your smartphone!)
-Snacks and beverages (wine, cheese, and chocolates, maybe? Yum!)
-Special playlist of romantic music (if you’re stargazing with others around, you’ll want to keep this very, very low out of respect for their experience, and some Dark Sky parks will have rules regarding noise at night)
-Red cellophane to cover your phones with (white light is prohibited in many Dark Sky parks as it disrupts night vision both for you and everyone around you)
-A link to or print out of an astronomy calendar so you can know what the heck you’re looking for (and what to avoid, like going anytime near a full moon!)
-Check weather and clear sky forecasts up until the day you head out so you can know what to expect; weather and other atmospheric conditions play a huge role in celestial visibility.
-Learn more about celestial events like meteor showers and when can you see them.
-Impress your date by learning how to star-hop the night sky!
-Listen to the experts for their top stargazing tips
Not only is a couples stargazing date a fun, memorable, and romantic way to get closer to your favorite person, but it can be as simple or as involved as you want to make it! You can travel to your nearest IDSP certified spot and do the full-on stargazing tour experience, or you can just check your local weather and astronomy calendar and drive to the edge of your town with a blanket. The more you know about the art of stargazing, the easier it is to maximize your experience anywhere you are, and you don’t need the darkest, inkiest skies to appreciate the sparkling beauty of the clear night sky.
Happy Stargazing to you and yours!
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Amy Hartle is the co-founder and owner of Two Drifters, where she blogs about romantic and couples travel, relationships, honeymoons, and more. With a Master’s in English and a BA in Musical Theatre, Amy loves to write quality content as well as to entertain, and she hopes to do a bit of both here on the blog! Amy is happily married to her husband Nathan, and when not working on their sites, Amy & Nathan can be found cuddling, reading, and enjoying delicious lattes.