City Stargazing Guide

The 12 Best Spots for Stargazing in Milwaukee

I’ll be completely honest: when I started this site, I had big plans to create stargazing guides for every big city in the U.S., as well as many of the smaller ones. My hope was that getting more people out to see the night sky would help inspire us to better protect the darkness and our planet.

Through my research, I soon learned that there are some parts of the country where – again, complete frankness – the stargazing just kind of sucks. This is certainly the case for the cities in the upper Great Lakes region: from Chicago to Milwaukee to Green Bay, light pollution makes it hard for residents and visitors alike to appreciate one of the many natural wonders in their part of the world (the night sky!).

Stargazing in Milwaukee Hero

This is perhaps even more reason to write posts like this, detailing where you can go stargazing in Milwaukee. People need guidance, and I’m here to help. Whether you’re planning a special trip to enjoy the Perseids or just curious about spotting the latest newly-discovered comet in the sky, use my map and list of stargazing spots in Milwaukee to plan an incredible night under the stars.

In this post, I promote traveling to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Bodwéwadmi (Potawatomi), Hoocąk (Ho-Chunk), Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo), Myaamia, Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Oma͞eqnomenew-ahkew (Menominee), and Peoria 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.

The Best Spots for Stargazing in Milwaukee  

Stargazing in Milwaukee map
Click to interact with the map.

Like in most big cities, finding good places to go stargazing in Milwaukee is no less than a challenge for astronomy nerds. But, if for any reason you can’t afford to drive far from the city lights here are three places to see the cosmos in Milwaukee. 

Lakefront State Park

Stargazing in Milwaukee - Lake Michigan at night

Lakefront State Park on the shores of Lake Michigan is beloved by locals who enjoy outdoor recreation. As the name suggests, the park offers beautiful views of Lake Michigan and downtown Milwaukee. You’ll find the best spots for stargazing near the Milwaukee Pierhead Lighthouse – it’s right on the park’s edge. However, feel free to explore the park’s trails to find a spot that suits your needs. 

Soref Planetarium 

If you’re looking for a more educational adventure, planetariums are always a good alternative. Milwaukee has the Soref Planetarium and it has the most amazing astronomy programs. You can attend its Wisconsin Stargazing program, a 22-minute guided experience where an astronomy educator shows you all of the current sights on a clear dome “sky”. 

Urban Ecology Center 

The Urban Ecology Center is one of the most popular places to go stargazing in Milwaukee. This non-profit organization is all about nature and preserving its beauty. There are three branches in Milwaukee: one in Riverside Park, another in Washington Park, and another one in Menomonee Valley. They often organize astronomy programs and events across the three properties. They also have an astronomy club, the Urban Stargazers, which meets on the 2nd Thursday of every month to gaze at the stars in the Riverside Park branch.

Stargazing Spots Within One Hour of Milwaukee

Stargazing in Milwaukee- Friends marveling at the night sky

Driving an hour in any direction from the heart of Milwaukee will make a huge difference in your stargazing session. Below you’ll find five spots within one hour of Milwaukee where you can surf the night sky.

Harrington Beach State Park 

Set 35 miles north of Milwaukee, Harrington Beach State Park is one of the top places to go stargazing in Milwaukee as it has the closest darkest sky to explore the cosmos. But, the real gem of the park is the Jim and Gwen Plunkett Observatory, which, throughout the summer and early fall, holds astronomy evenings that are open to the public.

The park is also a spectacular place for a casual hike. There are tons of great options, including prairie hikes, woodland hikes, and a beach hike.

Whitnall Park

Whitnall Park is a stunning park to visit during the day or at night. This park is huge and was designed by the same man who built New York’s Central Park. It contains botanical gardens, groves of different native trees, nature trails, a waterfall, and a nature center. The park doesn’t have camping facilities, but it’s open until 10 pm. 

Kettle Moraine State Forest

Nestled in the southern portion of the state, Kettle Moraine State Forest is one of the best Milwaukee stargazing spots. The 56,000-acre forest is nestled in the state’s southern portion and has managed to avoid light pollution from nearby urban areas. You’ll have the opportunity to see Wisconsin skies at their best. The astronomers from the Northern Cross Science Foundation hold stargazing events to bring closer the wonders of the night sky to the public throughout the year. Check out their website for more information.

Lapham Peak State Park  

Stargazing in Milwaukee - tree against a starry sky

Lapham Peak is located within Kettle Moraine State Forest. The park is popular with locals who want to enjoy a hike and enjoy the pretty scenery. For stargazers, it is open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. year-round and it has great camping sites if you want to stay overnight. But, the main place where you’ll want to spend the night is the tower lookout. You’ll get unobstructed views of the starry sky above the wonderful forest.

Doctors Park  

Those looking for utmost solitude will find their paradise in Doctors Park. This park is right on the Lake Michigan shoreline and features a wonderful beach where you can set your telescope. Thanks to its seclusion, Doctors Park boasts velvety black night skies. There are plenty of trails and picnic areas as well to spend the day before the starry show begins. 

Stargazing Spots Within Two Hours of Milwaukee 

If you’re thinking of organizing a stargazing road trip or simply are willing to drive a bit longer to find those deep dark skies, the list below is for you. Here are two spots within two hours of Milwaukee for the die-hard star chaser.

Devil’s Lake State Park

Stargazing in Milwaukee - Starry sky above the forest

Located 40 miles northwest of Madison, Devil’s Lake is the largest and most beloved state park in the state. Most people come here to enjoy water sports while enjoying iconic lake views.

However, the dark skies also attract a fair share of stargazers. Devil’s Lake encompasses 360 acres and is surrounded by a 500-foot quartzite bluff. The lack of light pollution and remoteness make it one of the best Milwaukee stargazing places.

It is also a great place to spend the night, featuring 423 sites of family campgrounds with electricity and other camping essentials. 

Ernest Hüpeden’s Painted Forest

Ernest Hüpeden’s Painted Forest is an unassuming white house in the community of Valtom. The property is known for having its interior completely covered by the Wisconsin landscapes painted by Ernest Hüpeden. This said, the house is totally worth visiting during the day. But, back to our main concern, the surrounding grounds of the property are an excellent place to surf the night sky. Bring your telescope and enjoy!

How Good is the Stargazing in Milwaukee?

Stargazing in Milwaukee - Twilight

As you likely already know if you’re searching for stargazing spots in Milwaukee and the surrounding area, this part of the upper Midwest is plagued by some serious light pollution – despite being so close to Lake Michigan, which is a nice dark area if you can get out in the middle of it…

Since I don’t assume you have access to a boat and the skills to take it out at night for stargazing, it’s better to keep our focus on land. So, then, how good is the stargazing in Milwaukee? Honestly, it’s okay. As you can see, there are some spots for stargazing near the city center, and more to choose from within a reasonable distance – but you’re going to struggle with both light pollution and weather when you try to go stargazing in Milwaukee.

As long as you keep in mind my tips for urban stargazing and an eye on the weather, you can have a great night – it just takes planning and flexibility to make it happen.

Best Times to Go Stargazing in Milwaukee

As the weather is an important consideration, it’s also worth noting which months might be better for stargazing on average. Taking note of the average cloud cover, average humidity, and when the temperatures are tolerable for a nice long stargazing session, I recommend planning a stargazing trip to/in Milwaukee between mid-May and mid-June and again in the month of September.

This is, of course, only relevant if you don’t live in Milwaukee; if you’re a local, those are still the best months but you can head out any night the skies are clear and you have the right outerwear to stay comfortable.

Can You See the Milky Way in Milwaukee?

If you wonder whether you can see the Milky Way in Milwaukee, the answer is no; there’s too much light pollution. But, good news: you can see the Milky Way if you get out of the city. Stargazers have caught the Milky Way in all its glory in Devil’s Lake State Park, among other spots in the greater region surrounding Milwaukee.

Have any other questions about where to go stargazing in Milwaukee, or have other places to recommend? Let me know in the comments!

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Valerie is the founder and editor of Space Tourism Guide. She grew up in Alaska, has lived across the U.S., and traveled around the world to enjoy the night sky from many different perspectives. Join her on this journey to explore space right here on earth.

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