Columbus, Ohio, a city buzzing with rich history, dynamic culture, and vibrant arts scene, unveils a different charm as daylight fades. When the city’s lights dim, the night sky over Columbus transforms into a majestic panorama of sparkling stars and celestial wonders, presenting an enchanting spectacle for stargazers.
While city lights often make urban stargazing a challenge, Columbus offers a surprising range of opportunities for cosmic exploration. The Perkins Observatory, a local treasure, not only hosts public programs and lectures, but its giant telescope offers an up-close view of celestial bodies. Within the city, Scioto Audubon Metro Park and Franklin Park Conservatory, with their relatively open skies, serve as urban oases for star lovers.
Venturing a bit outside the city, you’ll find darker skies offering more celestial splendor. Locations like John Glenn Astronomy Park in Hocking Hills or Wayne National Forest invite you to gaze upon distant galaxies, meteor showers, and the ethereal band of the Milky Way.
Embark on a stargazing journey in and around Columbus, where the city’s modern vibrancy beautifully intersects with the timeless drama of the cosmos. In this corner of Ohio, it’s not just about terrestrial attractions – the night sky above offers its own brand of stellar entertainment.
In this post, I promote traveling to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Myaamia, Shawandasse Tula (Shawanwaki/Shawnee), Kaskaskia, and Hopewell Culture peoples, among 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 June 2019, and was updated in February 2022.
The Best Spots for Stargazing in Columbus
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. As far as I can tell, the event hasn’t happened since then, but you should definitely Google to see if it’s happening in May of each year!
Stargazing Spots within One Hour of Columbus
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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 me know in the comments.