Located at the “Crossroads of America,” Indianapolis is the kind of city you could pass through on a great American road trip… but it’s also an amazing place to stay and visit – or live! I actually called Indianapolis home for three years, and love the Circle City each time I make a return visit.
While Indianapolis is known for a lots of things, like race cars, good universities, and great craft beer, you might wonder if Indy is any good for seeing the night sky or stargazing.
Like many cities, it’s hard to go stargazing in Indianapolis. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Below, we’ve detailed some of the best stargazing spots in Indianapolis and the surrounding region.
This post was originally published in August 2019, and was published in March 2022.
Featured photo credit: Josh Hallett via Flickr
The Best Spots for Stargazing in Indianapolis
Below, you’ll find a map of stargazing spots in Indianapolis and the surrounding region. Read on to learn more about each of these spots and what makes them good for stargazing.
Located on the Butler University campus, Holcomb Observatory is also home to a planetarium which offers public shows certain weekends each year. Typically, an open house will include a planetarium show followed by a telescope viewing. Be sure to check the website to see which weekend(s) the observatory will be open each month – and for certain upcoming closures.
4600 Sunset Ave, Indianapolis, butler.edu
Eagle Creek Park
On the northwestern outskirts of Indianapolis, Eagle Creek Park is one of the city’s largest parks. This makes it a great green space by day – and offers some protection from light pollution by night.
Eagle Creek Park is generally open from dawn til dusk depending on the month of the year. However, there are sometimes intermittent stargazing events held in the park; the easiest way to find these details is to Google to see if there’s one upcoming.
7840 W 56th St, Indianapolis, indy.gov
Stargazing Spots Within 1 Hour of Indianapolis
Goethe Link Observatory
39 minutes southwest of Indy, Goethe Link Observatory is operated by Indiana University Astronomy Department in the town of Martinsville. The observatory is home to a 0.91-m reflector and a 10-inch astrograph; the reflector dates back to 1939.
The Indiana Astronomical Society hosts events here occasionally. Be sure to check their events calendar to see if one is upcoming.
8403 Observatory Rd, Martinsville, astro.indiana.edu
McCloud Nature Park
McCloud Nature Park is another, more popular spot used by the Indiana Astronomical Society for events (during the summer months, they can be as often as weekly!). 49 minutes west of downtown Indy by car, McCloud Nature Park is a great family option, as they often offer other programming during the day that appeals to all ages.
8518 Hughes Rd, North Salem, hendrickscountyparks.org
Stargazing Spots Within 2.5 Hours of Indianapolis
Kirkwood Observatory is located on the Indiana University campus in Bloomington. While that might not seem like an ideal place to see the night sky due to light pollution, but it’s a great spot if you’re in the area or planning a weekend south of Indy.
It’s a 75-minute drive by car; they hold open houses regularly if you check the website to see when they’ll be open.
119 S Indiana Ave, Bloomington, astro.indiana.edu
West Lafayette Observatory
75 minutes in the other direction, West Lafayette Observatory is operated by the Wabash Valley Astronomical Society. Roughly once per month, the society hosts open house events where the public can come and see the night sky. On these nights you can come peer through telescopes to see the planets, star clusters, nebulae, and even other galaxies.
600 Cumberland Ave, West Lafayette, wvastro.org
Turkey Run State Park
If you want to plan an easy weekend stargazing trip, consider Turkey Run State Park. It’s an 80-minute drive from downtown Indy to Turkey Run; a bit far for a single night but ideal for escaping the city’s light pollution.
There are regular planetarium programs you can attend, then spend the evening afterward admiring the night sky if the weather is good.
8121 Park Rd, Marshall, in.gov/dnr/parklake
Conway Observatory at Calumet Astronomy Center
2 hours north of Indianapolis, Conway Observatory is high in northwest Indiana – but not so close to Chicago that you won’t be able to see the sky. Operated by the Calumet Astronomy Center, you can attend an event roughly once per month. These events focus on one or more of the best things you can see in the sky on that night, weather permitting.
19110 Chase St, Lowell, casonline.org
Indiana Dunes National Park
At the time of writing, Indiana Dunes was among the nation’s newest national parks. A 15,000-acre swath of naturally occurring sand dunes at the bottom of Lake Michigan, this is one of Indiana’s greatest natural treasures and an ideal spot for stargazing.
It’s a 2.5-hour drive from Indianapolis to the Dunes so this is a perfect weekend trip; you can stay at Dunewood Campground in the park. One of the best spots in the park is Kemil Beach, where organized events are occasionally held too.
1215 N State Rd 49, Chesterton, nps.gov/indu
Valparaiso University Observatory
One last option that’s a bit of a drive is Valparaiso University Observatory, 2.5 hours north of Indianapolis. The Physics & Astronomy department operates this observatory. They hold open houses for the public. These are usually 1-2 times per month during each semester.
Space Experiences & Planetariums in Indianapolis
If you can’t make it to one of these stargazing spots, there are other options. Here are a few of the planetariums you could plan to visit.
- The Schaefer Planetarium & Space Object Theater at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is your best bet in Indy. This planetarium is great for families. There’s also a fantastic Beyond Spaceship Earth exhibit all about the International Space Station.
- The Children’s Museum is also home to the Indiana Astronaut Wall of Fame which will teach you about all the Hoosier astronauts.
- Holcomb Planetarium at Butler University is also home to one of the largest public observatories in the world, with a 38-inch Cassegrain reflector.
- Charles W. Brown Planetarium at Ball State University is 75 minutes northeast of Indy.
- Robert H. Rivers Planetarium at Challenger Learning Center is 2.5 hours north between Gary and Chicago. Great for folks in that area too!
Best Time of Year to Go Stargazing in Indianapolis
If you’re curious about the best time of year for stargazing in Indianapolis, it’s important to keep in mind air temperature, humidity, and cloud cover.
Considering those factors, the best months for stargazing in Indianapolis are mid-September to October. That means Indianapolis is a great destination to try and see the Draconids and Orionids meteor showers!
Can You See the Milky Way in Indianapolis?
Like most major cities, it’s impossible to see the Milky Way in the Indianapolis downtown area. There’s too much light pollution; this obscures the delicate features our eyes can see in our galaxy.
Instead, head 1-2 hours out of Indianapolis and you should be able to find a dark enough spot to see the Milky Way during the months when it is visible.
Have other questions about stargazing in Indianapolis? Let me know in the comments.