Columbus at Night - Mark Spearman via Flickr

The 19 Best Places for Stargazing in Columbus

In Stargazing Guide by Space Tourism GuideLeave a Comment

Located right near the center of Ohio, Columbus is one of those great midwest cities that never fails to surprise you. From world-class museums to great food and drink, there’s plenty to do during the day in Columbus.

Once the sun sets, you can also keep yourself busy. You could bask in the bright nightlife of Short North, or head out for something a bit more natural: stargazing. Whether you call Columbus home are just visiting, here are the best places for stargazing in Columbus.

The Best Spots for Stargazing in Columbus

Stargazing in Columbus - Erik Drost via Flickr
Photo credit: Erik Drost via Flickr

You might be surprised how many stargazing spots there are in Columbus and in the surrounding area. Check out the map below, then read on to learn more about what makes each one great for seeing the night sky.

If you want to go stargazing in Columbus itself, there’s one great night to do it: the annual Citywide Star Party. On this night, amateur astronomers will set up telescopes across the city to allow members of the public to see the sky. Some of the places from the 2019 Citywide Star Party included:

  • COSI – Right in the heart of the city, COSI is a great place to learn about the night sky, then see with your own eyes from the banks of the Scotio River.
  • McCord Park – In addition to stargazing, young future astronomers can learn about STEAM at the Worthington Community Center.
  • Jeffrey Park – North of downtown, Jeffrey Park hosted the Citywide Star Party with games, food trucks, and telescopes.
  • Whitehall Community Park – Out east of downtown, this park near the airport is host to all-ages activities and astronomy.
  • Scioto Audubon Metro Park – If you love climbing, you can enjoy a late night climb followed by stargazing.
  • Blacklick Woods Metro Park – In addition to stargazing at this urban park, the Citywide Star Party is a chance to learn about nocturnal animals in the area.
  • Sharon Woods Metro Park – If your perfect idea of a night under the stars includes a campfire and s’mores, there’s no better place than this park north of town.
  • Franklin Park Conservatory – Take a nighttime stroll through the Community Garden and admire the stars overhead during the Citywide Star Party.

The activities mentioned above are all part of the Citywide Star Party, but each of these spots can also be good for stargazing at other parts of the year. Mark your calendars for next year’s event, which will likely happen in early May 2020.

Stargazing Spots within One Hour of Columbus

Stargazing in Columbus - Hocking Hills

There are also some Citywide Star Party locations that are a little further out of the city. These include:

  • Glacier Ridge Metro Park – 25 minutes northwest of town, this big green space hosts astronomy experts during the Citywide Star Party.
  • Rocky Fork Metro Park – If you’ve got a pup, love craft beers, or both, this is the Citywide Star Party location for you, just 25 minutes northeast of downtown.
  • Scioto Grove Metro Park – Can you shoot a bow and arrow at night? Try your hand at Scotio Grove Metro Park, only 15 minutes from downtown, during the Citywide Star Party.
  • Prairie Oaks Metro Park – If you love canoeing, you can head out on a night paddle during the Citywide Star Party and learn about the stars overhead from this park, which is just 20 minutes west of downtown.

Again, these specific activities are only offered during the Citywide Star Party – but that’s a perfect reason to mark your calendar for the 2020 event!

Here are some other great stargazing spots within an hour’s drive of downtown Columbus.

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

A massive, 7,000+ acre green space west of Columbus, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park is a great area for stargazing just 25 minutes drive from downtown. The park closes just after sundown throughout the year, but you can stay to watch the stars pop out.

1775 Darby Creek Dr, Galloway, metroparks.net

Perkins Observatory

Stargazing in Columbus - Hocking Hills

Head 30 minutes north toward the town of Delaware to visit Perkins Observatory, founded in 1923. This observatory is operated by Ohio Wesleyan University and hosts public events on set Friday and Saturday nights. You’ll need to book tickets in advance for these and can do so on the Perkins Observatory website.

3199 Columbus Pike #43015, Delaware, perkins.owu.edu

Lazy River at Granville

In the small town of Granville, 35 minutes east of Columbus, there’s a surprisingly good stargazing spot: Lazy River. This family-friendly resort hosts occasional stargazing events which they post on their events calendar.

2340 Dry Creek Rd NE, Granville, lazyriveratgranville.com

John Glenn Astronomy Park

Stargazing in Columbus - Hocking Hills

Located in the heart of the Hocking Hills, John Glenn Astronomy Park is arguably the best stargazing spot within an hour of Columbus. This beautiful plaza offers an astronomical education in its design, and is open 24/7. On most Friday and Saturday nights you can swing by for a guided tour of the sky using one of the many telescopes in their small but ambitious observatory.

20531 OH-664 Scenic, Logan, jgap.info

Stargazing Spots within Two Hours of Columbus

Stargazing in Columbus - Erik Drost via Flickr
Photo credit: Erik Drost via Flickr

If you want to make a weekend of it, head further out of town. These stargazing spots are far enough away to escape all of the city lights, and perfect for a getaway.

Wayne National Forest

Depending on which part of Wayne National Forest you want to drive, getting to a good stargazing spot can take between 90 minutes and 2 hours. However, this spot in the Appalachian foothills has almost 245,000 acres, 300 miles of trails, and several campsites.

fs.usda.gov

Burr Oaks

Stargazing in Columbus - Aaron Shirk via Flickr
Photo credit: Aaron Shirk via Flickr

Burr Oaks is an area within Wayne National Forest. As part of Burr Oak State Park you can go boating on the lake by day and camp in the area to admire the starry skies above at night.

parks.ohiodnr.gov

Strouds Run

A 75-minute drive from Columbus, Strouds Run State Park is another great destination for stargazing. You can go boating or fishing during daylight hours; there’s year-round camping available so you can cozy up around a campfire to watch the stars twinkle overhead.

parks.ohiodnr.gov

Planetariums in Columbus

Can’t make it out of town – or the skies aren’t clear? Never fear! Columbus has three great planetariums you could visit instead.

  • The COSI Planetarium is a must-visit, along with the whole museum! (website)
  • The Arne Slettebak Planetarium at Ohio State University is a short drive worth it for the interesting shows they have. (website)
  • SciDome at The Works at the Ohio Center for History, Art & Technology is further out of town, but good if you’re headed east. (website)

Best Time of Year to Go Stargazing in Columbus

Stargazing in Columbus - Hocking Hills

The best months for stargazing in Columbus are September and October. During this time of year, you’re most likely to encounter clear skies, warm weather, and lower precipitation. Oh, you can also go leaf-peeping in some of the area’s beautiful forests while you wait for sunset.

Can You See the Milky Way in Columbus?

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to see the Milky Way in Columbus due to the light pollution in the city. This is just the reality of urban stargazing!

Instead, head out to a location like the John Glenn Astronomy Park (one hour) or Wayne National Forest (90 minutes minimum) where you’ll have a better quality of dark night skies overhead to try and spot our galaxy.

Do you have other questions about stargazing in Columbus? Let us know in the comments.

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Featured photo credit: Mark Spearman via Flickr

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Space Tourism Guide

Space Tourism Guide was founded with a mission to help every traveler find wonder among the stars. We produce expert guides to stargazing, seeing eclipses, the aurora, and rocket launches, travel tips for dark sky destinations, and advice on space tourism.

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