It’s impossible to go stargazing in a big city. It’s definitely impossible to go stargazing in New York City… Right?? Well, not exactly. No, you won’t be able to see the Milky Way or gaze at the deepest objects in space. But it is possible to see at least a few of the brightest objects in the sky. Whether you just want to see the Moon or perhaps spot Saturn’s rings, we’ve rounded up the best places to try and do so.
Most of these spots are popular for events by the Amateur Astronomical Association of New York. You’ll have a choice: go to one of their planned events or just head to these spots on your own. Either way, you’ll have better chances of stargazing from these 20 places than in Times Square!
With that map in mind, read on to learn about each of these places and why they’re so great for stargazing in New York City and beyond.
You might be surprised to know it is possible to go stargazing on Manhattan Island. There will be tons of light pollution, but if you’re afraid to cross the river or head outside your borough of choice, here are a couple of the best spots.
Most people visit Lincoln Center to see the stars on the stage – but you can go stargazing there too! The Amateur Astronomer’s Association of New York (AAA) holds regular stargazing nights (on Fridays and Saturdays) all summer long on the plaza north of the fountain. Check the AAA website for the specific dates this year.10 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, lincolncenter.org
Carl Schurz Park
Located on the Upper East Side, Carl Schurz Park is a park looking out over the East River – and a surprising stargazing spot. You’ll definitely have limited sky views and a lot of light pollution, but it’s a good enough spot that even the AAA hosts events there from time to time.East 86th Street &, East End Ave, New York, carlschurzparknyc.org
Pupin Physics Laboratories
Also known as Pupin Hall, Pupin Physics Laboratories is the home to the physics and astronomy departments of Columbia University. Pupin Hall is in Morningside Heights, west of Harlem, and easily reached by the 1 train. Columbia hosts public astronomy nights including lectures, sci-fi movie nights, and stargazing sessions throughout the year; check their website for all the upcoming events.704 Pupin Hall, New York, astro.columbia.edu
Riverside Park South
Not far from Lincoln Center, Riverside Park South is a sliver of green space looking west over the Hudson River. The AAA hosts events here regularly, out on the piers; these are great for families because the astronomers will target kid-friendly objects in the night sky and explain them for all ages. There are also solar sun-gazing events here on certain days!Riverside Blvd, New York, nycgovparks.org
The High Line
A relatively new addition to Manhattan’s green spaces, the High Line is a great option for stargazing in the city – even with all the light pollution. On Tuesdays between April and October, join the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York for a nighttime stroll followed by free stargazing sessions. thehighline.org
125th St and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd
One last great option for stargazing in Manhattan is to participate in Sidewalk Astronomy programs offered by the AAA about once a month. They’ll set up telescopes on the corner of 125th and Adam Clayton Powell in Harlem. From there you can view the Moon, planets, and occasionally deep space objects if the skies are clear enough.astro.columbia.edu
Inwood Hill Park
Located at the northernmost tip of Manhattan Island, Inwood Hill Park is home to New York City’s last natural forest – so it’s a good spot to get some fresh air even if you aren’t planning to go stargazing. The AAA does host occasional stargazing sessions at the baseball diamonds, usually in the fall. Check their site for the next upcoming dates.Payson Ave. &, Seaman Ave, New York, nycgovparks.org
If you’re out in Brooklyn for a late night, take advantage of these spots to try and see the night sky.
Brooklyn Bridge Park
What better stargazing view than one with the Manhattan skyline in it? In partnership with the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, the AAA hosts stargazing events about twice a month during the summer. You can join fellow space enthusiasts right down on the waterfront near Pier 1 for these free events.334 Furman St, Brooklyn, brooklynbridgepark.org
Brooklyn Museum Fountain
If you’re headed to the Brooklyn Museum for First Saturdays, be sure to stop by the fountain outside on your way home. You’ll often find the Amateur Astronomers Association set up to help you spot some of the wonders in the night sky. There’s definitely light pollution but it’s a cool spot to stop and stargaze.334 Furman St, Brooklyn, brooklynmuseum.org
Floyd Bennett Field
Located in southeastern Brooklyn as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, Floyd Bennett Field is one of the largest green spaces in the New York City area. It’s also one of the best year-round spots used by AAA for stargazing. With the exception of cold January and July and August (when the bugs are too bad), join them on one Friday night each month – dates are posted on the AAA site.Gateway National Recreation Area, nps.gov/gate
The Evergreens Cemetery
Stargazing from a cemetery might sound spooky, but it’s actually a great idea: all that open space provides some insulation from NYC’s outrageous light pollution. The AAA hosts events here too, which is the best time to visit – they host at least one event here each year where you can come enjoy the peace of the stars in this peaceful final resting place.1629 Bushwick Ave, Brooklyn, theevergreenscemetery.org
The biggest of the boroughs, Queens has a few good stargazing spots if you’re visiting the area.
Alley Pond Environmental Center
Tucked in the bottom of Little Neck Bay, Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC) is a fantastic spot for city kids to learn about the great outdoors. That includes the night sky: some nights throughout the year, they host stargazing events. Keep an eye on their site to see when the next one might be happening.22806 Northern Blvd, Little Neck, alleypond.com
Hunter’s Point South Park
Hunter’s Point South Park (and nearby Gantry Plaza State Park) look out across the East River toward Midtown Manhattan. While they are definitely affected by light pollution from New York City and Long Island City, they are also good places to try and go stargazing. There aren’t any recurring astronomy events, but if any do get scheduled, you’ll see them on the NYC Parks website for Hunter’s Point South Park.Center Blvd, Long Island City, nycgovparks.org
Head north and you’ll find dark skies! The Bronx, like the other boroughs, suffers from light pollution – but a few green spaces provide enough of an enclave to see the night sky.
The neighborhood of Riverdale – in the southwest part of the Bronx – might not seem like an ideal stargazing spot. However, the Amateur Astronomical Association holds sidewalk astronomy events at several intersections in Riverdale, including West 235th Street and Johnson Avenue and Skyview on the Hudson. Another spot that might work is Riverdale Park, a small sliver of possible stargazing in the area. You might get interrupted by the train passing by on the waterfrontnycgovparks.org
If you’re not near Evergreen Cemetery, consider stargazing in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. This massive space is the final resting place of over 310,000 people – but every so often, a few extra souls stay after dark to take advantage of the area’s better night sky quality than the surrounding area. The AAA hosts guided stargazing walks here; their site has all the details.4199 Webster Ave, The Bronx, thewoodlawncemetery.org
Don’t forget Staten Island! This final borough has a surprisingly large spot where stargazing is a top activity.
Gateway National Recreation Area
Gateway National Recreation Area stretches from Brooklyn across to Staten Island (and even to parts of New Jersey, detailed below). On Staten Island, the places to go include Great Kills Park and South Beach, which are all part of the National Recreation Area. These southeast-facing spots allow you to look out over Lower Bay toward the Atlantic, offering a narrow band of dark sky for stargazing.3270 Hylan Blvd, Staten Island, nps.gov/gate
While it’s not one of the five boroughs, Long Island is far enough away from New York’s bright lights that it has some great stargazing spots. If you’re planning a summer trip to the Hamptons or an escape to Montauk, these places are worth visiting one the sun sets.
A mobile observatory with a 20″ Meade telescope, Montauk Observatory serves the East End of Long Island by hosting stargazing sessions around the area. Their website is updated regularly when they are hosting events and where each one will be.montaukobservatory.com
Southold is a community on the North Fork peninsula of Long Island (the one northwest of Montauk). There you can go stargazing along the coast, or stop by the Custer Institute for public stargazing on Friday and Saturday nights. Custer Institute: Main Bayview Rd, Southold, custerobservatory.org
Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center
Part of Jones Beach State Park, Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center is the epicenter for a variety of nature experiences, including estuary and dune exhibits, as well as intermittent stargazing events in the evenings. Registration is required for these and costs $4 per person.Jones Beach Island, Wantagh, parks.ny.gov
Vanderbilt Museum & Planetarium
On beautiful grounds in Centerport, the Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium is a surprising but delightful stargazing destination on Long Island. While the planetarium and observatory were not originally part of the Museum, they have been added on and renovated to make them world-class places for the public to experience the night sky. Planetarium shows run several times daily on Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons and the Observatory hosts Friday evening public stargazing sessions. There are also occasional special night sky events, like Meditation Under the Stars. 180 Little Neck Rd, Centerport, vanderbiltmuseum.org
New York City and the surrounding area are home to several great planetariums, which can work as an alternative to stargazing. Here’s a quick rundown of each and which part of the city/region they’re in.
- City College of New York Planetarium, Manhattan, ccnyplanetarium.org
- Hayden Planetarium in the American Museum of Natural History, Manhattan, amnh.org
- Wagner College Planetarium, Staten Island, wagner.edu
- JetBlue Sky Theater Planetarium at the Cradle of Aviation Museum, Long Island, cradleofaviation.org
- Vanderbilt Museum Planetarium, Long Island, vanderbiltmuseum.org
- Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium at Liberty Science Center, Jersey City, lsc.org
- Newark Museum Planetarium, Newark, newarkmuseum.org
- Hudson River Museum Planetarium, Younkers, hrm.org
Can You See the Milky Way in New York City?
So we don’t even waste a New York minute: no, you cannot see the Milky Way from New York City. As the biggest city in the U.S., there are too many obstructions and too much light pollution to make this possible. Under the right conditions, you might see the Milky Way from Long Island. The further you’re willing to travel away from the city, the better your chances of seeing the Milky Way will be.
Best Times of Year to Go Stargazing in New York City
Stargazing in New York City is a balance between warm temperatures, low humidity, and limited cloud cover. Considering those three factors, the best months for stargazing in NYC are April to May and October.
Have other questions about stargazing in New York City and the surrounding area? Let us know in the comments!
Featured Photo Credit: mehmet canli via Flickr