The city of Cincinnati in Ohio is a city known for its nature trails, sports teams, and city skyline. Some of its attractions include the Cincinnati Zoo, Fountain Square, and the Theodore M. Berry International Friendship Park. But did you know that one of the most popular tourist activities in the Queen City is stargazing?
Cincinnati is actually one of the urban spaces in the country where you will find an unspoiled view of the night sky within a short drive from the city. Whether you live in Cincinnati or just visiting for a few days, you should totally go out at night to observe the stars. Here are the best spots for stargazing within and around Cincinnati.
The Best Spots for Stargazing near Cincinnati
From the city proper, the view of the night sky might be a little hazy because of the lights from the buildings. However, we’ve sourced a few spots from locals that might work for stargazing on an especially clear night. We’ve also got a map of all of the locations in this post.
At almost 224 acres, Ault Park is the fourth largest park in the city and, therefore, allows you a lot of room to find the perfect spot to stargaze. Even though it’s not the biggest park, it has one advantage: it’s on a hill! This hilltop park is located on the east side of Cincinnati, within the Mount Lookout neighborhood, which gives it a better view of the sky than some of the parks down lower in the light pollution.5090 Observatory Ave, Cincinnati, cincinnatiparks.com
Cincinnati Observatory Center
Built in the 19th century, the Cincinnati Observatory Center is the oldest professional observatory in the country and is probably the best spot in the city to see the stars. It actually has two buildings, each with a refracting telescope of 11- and 16-inch aperture respectively. Note, however, that it is only open from 12 PM to 4 PM, Monday to Friday. You can visit the Cincinnati Observatory Center at night by appointment.
3489 Observatory Pl, Cincinnati, cincinnatiobservatory.com
Stargazing Spots within One Hour of Cincinnati
If you’re willing to drive up to one hour (but usually less) from Cincinnati for stargazing, you’re in luck. There are a few great spots where you can see the night sky and admire Ohio’s wild green spaces at the same time.
Miami Whitewater Forest
Located about 22 miles northwest of Cincinnati, Miami Whitewater Forest is a 4,345-acre park in Ohio. Miami Whitewater is known for its trails, including the 7.8-mile paved Shaker Trace Trail. That means that during the day it’s a popular spot for walking, running, and cycling. It also has a campground where you can spend the night to look at the stars, but you’ll need to reserve in advance especially during the warm summer months.9001 Mt Hope Rd, Harrison, greatparks.org
Huffman Park is located in Fairfield, Ohio, about 18 miles north of Cincinnati. It has biking and walking trails, gardens, and picnic tables for day visitors. Though it doesn’t have a dedicated space for camping, it is open until 9 pm for those who want to go stargazing. That’s later than most parks, which make it a good candidate for stargazing without the crowds since most people don’t know it’s open as late.2100 John Gray Rd, Fairfield, fairfield-city.org
Hueston Woods State Park
Hueston Woods State Park is a 3,000-acre outdoor recreation space located about 40 miles from Cincinnati heading north. Popular activities here include hiking and camping, as well as fishing and canoeing in Acton Lake. Aside from these activities and stargazing, Hueston Woods is also known for fossil hunting.Note: In the spring months, the campground has occasionally flooded in the spring months. Call ahead if you’re planning an overnight trip to stargaze here.
College Corner, OH, parks.ohiodnr.gov
Stonelick State Park
About 35 miles east of Cincinnati, you will find Stonelick State Park in Clermont County, Ohio. It’s a 1,058-acre park with trails, woodlands, and campgrounds that are located next to Stonelick Lake. Besides stargazing, visitors love to go canoeing, hiking, and camping here. In the summer, be sure to reserve your campsite in advance!
2895 Lake Dr, Pleasant Plain, parks.ohiodnr.gov
Stargazing Spots within 2.5 Hours of Cincinnati
If you’re up for a longer drive – or better yet, a weekend stargazing trip – this is the section for you. These spots are ideal for stargazing because they’re far from city lights. However, they’re a bit too far to drive out-and-back in a single night. Plan ahead and book a place to stay or campsite where you can.
Perkins Observatory is located inside the Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware. It was founded in 1923 by Hiram Perkins, a professor of math and astronomy at the university. He sadly died shortly after the groundbreaking and was not able to witness the completion of the project.
In 1931, the third largest telescope in the world, which was also named after Perkins, was added into the observatory. However, you wouldn’t find the Perkins Telescope here anymore. (It was moved to the Lowell Observatory in Arizona in 1961.) The Perkins Observatory now has a 32-inch aperture telescope that’s still impressive.
Perkins Observatory hosts regular public stargazing events on most Friday nights. However, you’ll need tickets to attend, and most nights sell out in advance. You can book online to ensure you get a spot for any given Friday you want to attend.
3199 Columbus Pike #43015, Delaware, OH, perkins.owu.edu
John Glenn Astronomy Park
The John Glenn Astronomy Park in the Hocking Hills is open 24 hours a day so you can come here any time during the night to see the stars.
The park was named after an astronaut who, after completing his mission in space, experienced machine failure with the automatic control system of his capsule, which forced him to fly back to earth manually. This was the first time that a capsule had to be flown like this but, thankfully, John Glenn was able to land it successfully.
Today, the park is committed to spark interest in science and astronomy and to share the wonders of space with its visitors. They host regular astronomy events on Friday and Saturday nights but you need to make a (free) reservation in advance.
20531 OH-664 Scenic, Logan, jgap.info
Wayne National Forest
The only national forest in Ohio, Wayne National Forest is located in the Unglaciated Allegheny Plateau. This plateau spans across the southeastern part of Ohio, the western part of Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
There are campgrounds in the Wayne National Forest where you can stay overnight to observe the stars. Other popular activities here include hiking, mountain biking, and horse riding. There are also paths that are accessible by ATVs and motorcycles. It will be easy to plan a whole weekend of outdoor activities – including stargazing – at Wayne National Forest.
Best Times of Year to Go Stargazing in Cincinnati
The best time to go stargazing in Cincinnati is from March through December. Most people choose the summer months to see the stars because they are also the idyllic time to go camping and stay outdoors. However, try to avoid going stargazing when humidity is high (June through mid-September) because a haze in the sky might obscure your view of the stars, or when there is a full moon because the light from it would cast a shadow against the stars and planets around it.
Can You See the Milky Way in Cincinnati?
Unfortunately, it’ll be pretty hard to see the Milky Way from within Cincinnati. This is an unfortunate reality in most cities, where light pollution has obscured our view of the night sky and all its beauty.
However, if you go far enough from the city lights of urban Cincinnati, you might be able to see the Milky Way at night. Many of the spots in the one-hour section – as well as all of the locations we recommended which are within two hours – will be great Milky Way viewing destinations. In addition, the best time to see the Milky Way in Cincinnati is in July when the planet’s position is the most ideal.
Do you have other questions about stargazing in Cincinnati? Ask in the comments.
Featured photo credit: Josué Goge via Flickr