For some cities, it’s really obvious that it’s hard to go stargazing there. Towering skyscrapers, loads of light pollution, and notoriously cloudy or rainy weather will affect your chances of stargazing in cities like New York City, Los Angeles, and Seattle, for example. Other cities, like Atlanta, are surprisingly good stargazing destinations. While you can’t look straight up from downtown Atlanta to see a sky full of stars, it is possible to go stargazing in Atlanta and the surrounding area.
Here we’ve pulled together a comprehensive list of the best places for stargazing in Atlanta and northern Georgia. Based on local advice and suggestions, this list offers you options between 20 minutes and 2 hours from downtown Atlanta where you can see the stars with varying success.
The further you’re willing to drive, the better the darkness of the sky! So plan an overnight trip or weekend to go stargazing near Atlanta; you won’t regret it!
In this post, I promote traveling to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Mvskoke (Muscogee) peoples, among many others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
This post was originally published in January 2019, and was updated in December 2021.
Stargazing Spots within Atlanta
While Atlanta might not seem like a great candidate for stargazing options at first, it turns out to be one of the best. While Atlanta certainly suffers from urban sprawl and light pollution like any other major city, it’s quite possible to get out of the city to dark skies with relative ease. Within 1-2 hours of driving, you’ve got plenty of options for stargazing throughout northern Georgia.
With that map in hand, let’s explore some of the places for stargazing in Atlanta and then move further out of the city.
Candler Park is a moderately-sized park in the Candler Park neighborhood, near the Little Five Points neighborhood in Atlanta. By day, it’s a mostly residential area with cozy restaurants and cafes along McLendon Avenue, which runs along the southern border of the park. At night, the green space becomes a small enclave of dark skies where you can walk the trails through the park to see between the trees at the stars above.
585 Candler Park Dr. NE, Atlanta, GA, candlerpark.org
Fernbank Science Center
Fernbank Science Center is located about 20-minutes northeast from downtown Atlanta, not far from Emory University. On the science center grounds, you’ll find the Dr. Ralph L. Buice, Jr. Observatory, home to a 36-inch Cassegrain telescope, the largest in the southeastern U.S. The observatory is open to the public most Thursday and Friday nights, weather permitting.
156 Heaton Park Dr, Atlanta, GA, fsc.fernbank.edu
Georgia Tech Observatory
The Georgia Tech Observatory is located on the Georgia Tech campus. Though a university campus might not seem like the ideal place for stargazing, it’s great for community outreach and academic study. The Georgia Tech Astronomy department uses the telescopes to study phenomena like eclipsing binary stars and objects in the Barnard atlas. The observatory is open to the public monthly on Thursdays (usually mid-month), and those events typically focus on celestial objects like the moon and other planets in the solar system.
Ferst Dr. NW, Atlanta, GA, astronomy.gatech.edu
The Bradley Observatory is located on the Agnes Scott College campus, in Decatur. While Decatur is technically not part of Atlanta, it’s only a 15-minute drive from downtown – so it’s definitely ‘within the city’ from a light pollution and geography standpoint! The observatory houses a 30-inch telescope, and there’s an attached planetarium and lecture hall. You can visit Bradley Observatory as part of their Open House series, which happens monthly on Fridays (varying throughout each month, so check the dates on their website).
141 E. College Ave., Decatur, GA, agnesscott.edu
Stargazing Spots within One Hour of Atlanta
Within one hour – just 60 minutes – of driving, your stargazing options open up tremendously. Hop in the car and head north or east out of Atlanta, and you’ll quickly reach dark skies perfect for an evening of stargazing without spending too much time in the car.
Stone Mountain Park
Stone Mountain Park is a popular tourist attraction in the Atlanta area during the day; it’s only about a 30-minute drive from downtown Atlanta without traffic. The park area is also open until midnight, which makes it a pretty good stargazing spot that’s an easy drive from the city. Anywhere along the shores of Stone Mountain Lake is a good spot to set up for a few hours of stargazing.
1000 Robert E Lee Blvd, Stone Mountain, GA, stonemountainpark.com
Hard Labor Creek State Park
Hard Labor Creek State Park is a one-hour drive due east of Atlanta, and at 52 miles outside the city, it’s a good spot to start to see nice dark skies without having to plan an overnight trip. Within the state park, there are a few good places to go stargazing:
- Hard Labor Creek Observatory is managed by Georgia State University and operates three telescopes from 11- to 24-inches in diameter. The observatory is typically open to the public one night per month during the spring, summer, and autumn months. Check the HLCO website for specifics.
- Lake Brantley is the smaller of the two main lakes in Hard Labor Creek State Park, and camping is a bit more spread out. This reduces light pollution and makes the lakeshore a perfect place to set up for an evening of stargazing.
5 Hard Labor Creek Rd, Rutledge, GA, gastateparks.org
Tellus Science Museum
Tellus Science Museum is one-hour northeast of Atlanta in the town of Cartersville. The massive Smithsonian-affiliated museum has all kinds of interesting exhibits, including a planetarium and observatory. The Bentley Planetarium does daily shows during normal museum hours. The observatory, however, is only open to the public on special SCIence FRIday evenings. The Tellus Science Museum website has full details.
100 Tellus Dr, Cartersville, GA, tellusmuseum.org
Chattahoochee Nature Center
The Chattahoochee Nature Center is a small area in the town of Roswell, about 45 minutes north of Atlanta. The property is only 127 acres, but it’s near the Chattahoochee River to offer it some protection from surrounding light pollution. While the Chattahoochee Nature Center doesn’t host specific stargazing events, you can park in the lot and walk back toward the pond for a better stargazing opportunity.
9135 Willeo Rd, Roswell, GA, chattnaturecenter.org
Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center
Located southeast of Atlanta, Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center is a 6400-acre space for hunting, fishing, boating, and biking by day. At night, that protected, undeveloped land is perfect for stargazing. There are both hotel-style guest rooms and primitive campsites on the property, or you can park at the visitor center and walk a short way toward Boyle Lake Number Two to start to get a good night sky view.
Also located on the property, the Jon Wood Astronomy Field is widely cited as one of the better places for stargazing within an hour of Atlanta. The Jon Wood Astronomy Field is where die-hard stargazers in the area come, and set up telescopes for a good view at the wonders of the night sky. Charlie Elliott Astronomy organizes occasional star parties there, so check their website to see when the next one is happening.
543 Elliott Trail, Mansfield, GA, georgiawildlife.com
Red Top Mountain
Red Top Mountain State Park is an hour northwest of Atlanta, almost fully surrounded by Allatoona Lake. This offers it some great protection from development and light pollution – and makes it a great stargazing spot within 50 miles of the city. While there are campsites and cabins available, you can easily spend a day here, enjoy the sunset, then stargaze for an hour or two before driving back to Atlanta.
50 Lodge Road SE, Acworth, GA, gastateparks.org
Arabia Mountain is only about 20 miles (30 minutes) from downtown Atlanta, but it feels like a world away. This National Heritage Area is home to historic sites and trails you can explore by day – and by night. There are regular nighttime events at Arabia Mountain, like Moonlight Mountain Hikes and Cosmic Archery. They also host Astronomy Hikes and other events that allow you to enjoy the night sky.
3350 Klondike Road, Lithonia, GA, arabiaalliance.org
Stargazing Spots within Two Hours of Atlanta
As is the case for most cities, if you’re willing to drive – you can find dark skies. Within two hours’ drive from Atlanta, there are some fantastic stargazing destinations.
A.H. Stephens State Park
Located 90 minutes from downtown Atlanta, A.H. Stephens State Park is a great option for stargazing families. During the day, you can explore the lake, historic buildings, and even go horseback riding. Stay the night at the campground where you can see a sky full of stars after dark.
456 Alexander St, Crawfordville, GA, gastateparks.org
Deerlick Astronomy Village
It doesn’t get much better from a stargazing perspective than when a place is called an “astronomy village,” right? At just over 100 miles (about 97 minutes’ drive) from downtown Atlanta, Deerlick Astronomy Village (DAV) is widely cited as the best place for true space enthusiasts to go stargazing in the area. The DAV is about 30 minutes further east from A.H. Stephens State Park, so you could even make a weekend trip of visiting the two.
The DAV leases land to amateur astronomers to set up private observatories on each plot; right now all of the plots are occupied, which is a good sign for the quality of the night sky overhead! The DAV hosts public viewing nights monthly, usually the first Saturday of each month.
Crawfordville, GA, deerlickgroup.com
Fort Mountain State Park
Fort Mountain State Park is a 1 hour, 45-minute drive north from Atlanta, on the southwestern edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest. The forested park is located on Fort Mountain, and far enough away from any urban lights to be a great stargazing spot. Stay overnight in one of the 15 cottages or 70 camping spots (reserve in advance, especially during warm weather summer weekends!). By day, explore the 855-foot-long wall atop the mountain whose origins are still a mystery.
181 Fort Mountain Park Road, Chatsworth, GA, gastateparks.org
One hour and 40 minutes northeast of Atlanta, Hogpen Gap is also located in the southern part of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Hogpen Gap is located along Georgia Highway 348 where it crosses the Appalachian Trail. There’s a nearby campsite and a few pull-outs along the highway in the pass where you can stop and enjoy the stars.
Amicalola Falls State Park
As you may have guessed, many of the areas in Chattahoochee National Forest within two hours of Atlanta are good for stargazing. Amicalola Falls State Park is no exception! You can book a stay at the Amicalola Falls Lodge and try your hand at some of the daytime activities (including archery, zip lining, and guided hikes) while you wait for the sun to go down. Then look up for a great view of a dark night sky you definitely can’t find in the city – but you’ll still have the comfort of a cabin or room at the lodge when you’re ready to call it a night.
418 Amicalola Falls Rd., Dawsonville, GA, amicalolafallslodge.com
Also located in the Chattahoochee National Forest, Cooper Creek is a small community along Highway 60. There are some amenities here, including a campground and small motel, so it’s a great base for stargazing in the area. Cooper Creek is popular for fishing, so if you’re visiting and need a daytime activity, that’s one to consider.
How Good is the Stargazing in Atlanta?
As you might expect, the stargazing prospects in Atlanta are not great – especially downtown. Urban development and light pollution make it tough to see the stars unless you’re willing to head at least a little out of the core of the city.
If you’re willing to travel to the outskirts of Atlanta, you have some great choices for stargazing – including observatories where you can be guided through your stargazing session and learn even more about the night sky!
Best Times of Year to Go Stargazing in Atlanta
When it comes to the time of year with optimal conditions for stargazing in Atlanta, it’s a balancing act. Your best chances for stargazing will be during the months with little average precipitation – but not during the months with high humidity that can interfere with atmospheric clarity.
The best months for stargazing with a low chance of rain and low humidity are April and October – and the months on either side. Similarly, March through May is the best time of year to visit Atlanta for any reason, because mild weather and low humidity make it an enjoyable time to explore the city.
Can You See the Milky Way in Atlanta?
Within the city limits of Atlanta, no, you cannot see the Milky Way. There’s just too much light pollution. However, at some of the destinations we highlighted in the 1-2 hour distance from Atlanta, you can get to dark enough skies that it’s possible to see the Milky Way on a clear night.
Other Space Activities in Atlanta
If you love space but don’t have time for stargazing (or the skies aren’t clear), be sure to plan a trip to Fernbank Science Center, which we mentioned above. In addition to the observatory, you can enjoy a show at the Jim Cherry Memorial Planetarium. The Apollo 6 command module is also on display at the Fernbank Science Center on loan from the Smithsonian. This unmanned capsule went to space on April 4, 1968, the last one to do so before manned flights.
The Tellus Science Museum also has a planetarium in addition to their observatory, if you’re traveling north from Atlanta. Both of these science museums cover other space subjects too, and are great for family travelers.
Do you have other questions about stargazing in Atlanta? Ask in the comments.