Programs & Events

Dark Sky Park Program Coordinator
Call 231.427.1001

Welcome to the Headlands International Dark Sky Park! The grounds, trails, and viewing areas at Headlands are open 24 hours a day, every day. Visitors are welcome to stay out through the night for dark-sky viewing opportunities, but camping is not permitted. Units like tents and campers are not allowed in the park. The Headlands is not intended as an overnight sleeping destination but instead is designed as a place to stay awake and view the stars. You may bring blankets, sleeping bags, chairs, food, beverages, etc. When packing, keep in mind that temperatures are typically 10 degrees lower than expected due to our proximity to the lake shore.

To protect the darkness of the park, please use red-filtered flashlights during your visit to the Headlands. Learn more here.

Our programs take place rain or shine, and no reservations are required unless otherwise noted.

Please save some time during your visit to stop by our “Out of This World” Gift Shop!

The Observatory is limited to park staff and researchers. Visuals when the Observatory is open are projected onto the big screen monitors on the main level. Professional star-gazers and astronomers are available on site to enhance your viewing experience during scheduled observing nights.

While the grounds, trails, viewing areas and restrooms at Headlands are always open and freely accessible, the Waterfront Event Center is only open to the public during scheduled programming and gift shop hours. The Waterfront Event Center at the Headlands is available for private rental.

To stay up-to-date on news and events at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, register for email blasts by contacting scox@emmetcounty.org and be sure to follow our Facebook page for more news and photos.

Sep
17
Sat
Harvest Moon Dance with the Jill Jack Band! @ Festival Tent near the Headlands entrance
Sep 17 @ 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm

Harvest Moon is the Full Moon closest to Equinox each year, and the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City is planning a dance to celebrate the change of the season.

The Harvest Moon Dance will take place Saturday night, Sept. 17, under the festival tent with live music featuring the Jill Jack Band, of Detroit. Jill and her players will set the mood with their performance beginning at 7:30 p.m., followed by sunset at 7:47 p.m. and Harvest Moon rising at 8:30 p.m. The program is free and no reservations are necessary, but come early to get your spot on the dance floor. The program is scheduled until 10 p.m. The Jill Jack Band is known for entertaining with strong audience connection and their high-energy rock and blues that can segue into original folk ballads, demonstrating why Jill has won numerous Detroit Music Awards, including 2015’s Outstanding American Songwriter Award.

While most evenings visitors to the park must walk a mile in to the dark sky viewing area along the shoreline, on this evening a tent will be placed near the Headlands entrance.

“Jill is an exceptional talent,” said Mary Stewart Adams, Headlands Dark Sky Park Program Director, quoting from a recent Detroit Free Press article which reported that “her voice can soar like opera and smoke like the blues … one of the strongest voices in Detroit, or in the country for that matter.”

“Harvest JillJack-byMichaelHacala04Moon is all about celebrating the bounty of the seasons and the work of cultivating a healthy harmony in our lives and the things we must tend, ” added Adams. “Of all the Moon’s phases, Full Moon is like the release point, when everything we’re gathering up in the cycle is let go, so the natural world can have its turn. When it comes to Harvest Moon, we dance, to celebrate everything that goes into a success and challenge of getting to a harmonious experience of nature and its seasons.”

And what a season it’s been at the Headlands. With construction of the new Waterfront Event Center still restricting parking on site at Headlands, guests all season long have trekked one mile through the woods to the shoreline viewing area where falling stars, the Milky Way, and the elusive Northern Lights have held imaginations with wonder, Adams noted.

“I’m particularly looking forward to this event because it’s a great way to show our gratitude for the goodwill of everyone who came out this season,” said Adams. “We welcomed thousands and thousands of guests to the Headlands; it’s been another amazing summer under the night sky in Emmet County.”

 

Nov
18
Fri
‘Friday Night (No) Lights’ for the Leonids @ Shoreline viewing area at Headlands
Nov 18 @ 10:00 pm – 11:45 pm

 

Lantern walking through November woods at Headlands

Lantern walking through November woods at Headlands

We know it’s still football season under the big stadium lights of fall, but it’s also the peak of the lion’s meteor shower and you’re invited to join us under the dark of night at Headlands for a beautiful experience under the starry skies.

Program Director Mary Stewart Adams will meet guests at the Headlands entrance and give a guided tour through the beautiful moonlit woods to the viewing area at the shoreline, to catch the falling stars and hear further tales of the night. This is a one mile walk in the woods, and guests are invited to bring lanterns, to coincide with seasonal traditions of taking lantern walks into dark November nights. Please be prepared with walking shoes and layers of warm clothes. The Leonid Meteor Shower peaks overhead at this time, as earth travels through the wake of starry stuff left in the trail of the Comet Temple-Tuttle.

“The Leonid is a really variable meteor shower,” said Adams, “but it’s also one of the most historically significant, because it gave rise to the science and study of meteor showers when it caused an incredible outburst in the early 1800s. And it’s November, when tradition holds that taking a walk by lantern light is done to celebrate the strength of inner light despite the challenge of growing, outer darkness.”

The Moon will be Full just a few days prior to the peak of the Leonid Meteor Shower, and while that can diminish views of the less bright meteors, there is still the promise of beautiful stargazing. Orion will be solidly over the horizon in the east, chasing the star cluster of the Pleiades across the sky, and the Andromeda Galaxy will be seen spiraling directly overhead. In addition to providing star maps and a guided walking tour by lantern light, we’ll have our telescopes out for peering deeper into the night while we wait for wishing stars to fall through the sky! Participants should dress for low temperatures. “These colder nights make for some great stargazing because there’s less haze in the atmosphere, and the dark seems to be more velvety and richer” said Adams.

The radiant of the Leonid Meteor Shower is in the sickle of the Lion

The radiant of the Leonid Meteor Shower is in the sickle, or head region of the mighty Lion

Nov
17
Fri
Leonid Meteor Shower @ Waterfront Event Center
Nov 17 @ 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm
On its path through our planetary system, Comet Temple-Tuttle leaves its trail of stars in the region of the Lion

On its path through our planetary system, Comet Temple-Tuttle leaves its trail of stars in the region of the Lion

One of history’s most prolific meteor showers, the Leonids, comes to its peak this weekend, November 17-18, 2017, and Headlands will offer an evening program indoors and a night hike outdoors to set the stage. The Leonid Meteor Shower Program will happen on Friday, November 17, from 8 to 10 pm at the Waterfront Event Center and Observatory. The program is free, and participants can park in the main lot near the event center. 
 
The Leonid Meteor Shower is caused by the trail of stuff left in the wake of the Comet Tempel-Tuttle as it speeds through our planetary system. Known as a periodic comet, Tempel-Tuttle was discovered in 1865, the same year that the American Civil War ended, and that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. In 1833 the Leonids produced such a storm of meteors that people across North America thought it was a portent of the end of times. Instead, it marked the beginning of “meteor shower science”, which led astronomers to understand that meteor showers, though named for the constellation in front of which their radiant appears, are actually caused by comets.
 
“Comet Temple-Tuttle has an orbital periodicity of 33 years, and won’t be seen again in our planetary system until 2031, but its meteor shower happens every year, and coincides with the time of year when many cultures celebrate a tradition of carrying lanterns out into the night, to stave of the early darkness of the season and the coming cold temperatures. I love to think of it as the Lion shaking out his starry mane. The Lion is often associated with courage and compassion and leadership,” said Headlands program Director Mary Stewart Adams.
 
The Leonids will not be diminished by moonlight this year, since New Phase coincides nearly with the peak of the shower, which is after midnight. “Our program is really about preparing for the shower with observing the Leonid sky, hearing the stories of this shower, learning the the science,” said Adams.