Programs & Events
Dark Sky Park Program Coordinator
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 email@example.com and be sure to follow our Facebook page for more news and photos.
Dare the dark at the Headlands Challenge on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016!
The spookiest time of year can be the most beautiful, too! Emmet County will host the eighth annual Headlands Challenge event at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City, on Saturday, Oct. 29, from 8 to 10 pm, during which time guests are dared to walk the 1-mile, dimly lighted path from the Headlands entrance to the Guest House, or take the unlit woods route – shorter, but darker, and not for the faint of heart. Both end at the Guest House, where you can find your fortune and hear seasonal storytelling under the stars. Light (and limited) refreshments will also be part of this free, family-friendly event that was the first dark sky event ever held on the Headlands property.
It all started one stormy October when we joined night sky enthusiasts around the world to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Galileo first using a telescope to look at the night sky. Rather than just rely on telescopes, here at Headlands we used the spooky mood of the season and storytelling to celebrate the night, and won commendation for our efforts from the International Astronomers Union Office of Astronomy Development.
The fun continues every year at this time, and has developed to include trick-or-treating at Heritage Village, just across the road from the Headlands entrance, from 6 to 8 p.m. and the haunted McGulpin Point Lighthouse, open until 11 p.m. All events are free and open to the public, with no RSVP required. Trolley service between Heritage Village and the lighthouse will be provided at no charge, beginning at 6 p.m. at Heritage Village, where parking will be available. The trolley will not service the Headlands, as the Challenge is strictly a walking event.
“Our free monthly Dark Sky Park programs are intended to get area residents and visitors out into the dark to observe the amazing night sky we have protected over Emmet County and Northern Michigan,” said Mary Stewart Adams, Dark Sky Park Program Director at the Headlands. “The Headlands Challenge is an especially fun event because it really celebrates the natural mood of the season, which is the cross quarter time of moving from greater daylight to greater darkness.” Sunset on Oct. 29 is at 6:30 p.m., and this night will be especially dark because the Moon is hidden from view, wending its way toward new phase after the event. This means the evening will be deep and dark, Adams noted. Wagons/strollers are suggested for those walking with young children along the 1-mile road.
See you there, if you dare!
In addition to the Headlands Challenge, Emmet County is also hosting special trick-or-treating hours at McGulpin Point Lighthouse, which is located a short distance from the Headlands. McGulpin Point will be decorated in a Wizard of Oz theme with special hours of 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Oct. 29; and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Oct. 30-31.
For further information on Headlands Challenge, contact Mary Stewart Adams, Headlands Program Director at 231-348-1713, or Beth Anne Eckerle, Emmet County Director of Communications and Web Development, at (231) 348-1704 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The three park properties are located about 2 miles west of downtown Mackinaw City.
The Headlands: 15675 Headlands Road, Mackinaw City, MI www.MIdarkskypark.org
McGulpin Point: 500 Headlands Road, Mackinaw City, MI www.mcgulpinpoint.org
Heritage Village: 1425 W. Central Ave., Mackinaw City, MI (use Headlands Road entrance) www.mackinawhistory.org
Every year during the April New Moon, people around the world join in a celebration of dark skies, and at Headlands there will two opportunities for experiencing the stars with story, song, telescopes, and exceptional views. Because of the Moon phase, this year’s Dark Sky Week also coincides with the peak of the Lyrid Meteor Shower, a wonderful stream of falling stars from the Comet C/1861G radiant near the border between the constellations Lyra, the harp, and Hercules, the mighty hero. Of all recorded meteor showers, this one has the longest recorded history, even though its peak is of narrow duration. Catch the peak of the shower at the opening program for International Dark Sky Week on Friday, April 21st from 8 to 10 pm (sunset is at 8:33 pm), or join us for crescent Moon setting into the lake at the close of Dark Sky Week on Friday, April 28th, also from 8 to 10 pm (sunset is at 8:42 pm, followed tonight by crescent moonset at 11:29 pm). Click here to access a nifty graphic illustrating the Lyrid Meteor Shower. Note: Headlands staff will be on site to greet you and direct you to parking for program access. If you have questions, please call 231-348-1713, and see you there!
It’s a weekend full of fireworks across the land, and up in the sky the giant planets are also putting on a show: The Roman gods Saturn and Jupiter were known to the Ancient Greeks as Cronus and Zeus, a father and son with a dynamic fate that lends itself to celebrating a summer weekend of nature’s very own fireworks. Tonight, visitors to Headlands can peek through one of our portable telescopes in the event center viewing area, and take a tour of our Observatory Tower. The Saturn giant and his Olympian son Jupiter come together in conjunction only every 20 years (the next will be in December, 2020), creating a triangle form that precesses through the sky throughout history. Tonight we’ll prepare for the coming conjunction by learning about the connections between Saturn and Jupiter in mythology, their influence on the world of astronomy, and more! Program will be held both indoors and out. Please note that many Emmet County communities host fireworks displays on this holiday weekend, none of which are visible from Headlands. Also, fireworks are not allowed at Headlands, due to the sensitive habitat. Our main parking lot is open and accessible to the public (please park with your headlights facing away from the shore), and with 68 parking spaces, it can fill quickly. Once the main lot is full, guests park at the Headlands entrance and walk the one-mile paved route to the viewing area. Please be prepared with red filter flashlights and things you can easily carry. For more information, please call 231-348-1713.
Each year, Emmet County’s International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands partners up with its local communities in a friendly area-wide competition to see who can get darkest in the 10 to 11 pm hour the night of the Perseid Meteor Shower, Friday, August 11 in 2017. The Mackinac Bridge Authority turns off its cable lights; St. Ignace disappears into the mists like Brigadoon; Mackinaw City turns the lights down low; and visitors, residents, and business owners around the Little Traverse Bay communities of Petoskey and Harbor Springs get a chance to show off their stars by putting the lights out. Please note that participation is voluntary, so help us get the word out!
During the challenge, we host an event at Headlands that includes the myth and science of the heroic Perseid Meteor Shower, and we work hard to dispel the sensation being stirred up by an unbridled internet mania that has recently given rise to stories like this being the brightest meteor shower in the history of forever. This is simply not true. In 2017, the Perseid Meteor Shower is diminished by near-full moonlight (Moon will be Full on August 7, 2017, which means that the nights of August 11, 12, and 13, the Moon is at waning gibbous phase. It will rise up just after 11 pm, and stay up all night, when the meteor shower is at its peak). Still, the nights can be beautiful, and the Moon has its own loveliness, even when it’s swallowing up the starshine!
No reservations are necessary for this event, but you are encouraged to arrive early to secure a parking space near the Waterfront Event Center (at least an hour before program time). Once the parking lot is full, guests park near the entrance to Headlands and walk one mile to the shoreline and event center viewing areas. You are welcome to bring snacks and beverages, and please bring something to sit on and dress for temperatures 10 degrees cooler than inland. Though meteor showers are best witnessed with the naked eye, we will open the Observatory for public viewing during a portion of this evening, on a first-come, first-served basis (entry numbers will be distributed, for those interested, to save you from having to stand inside in line, and we ask you to bear with us while we sort out a system that can accommodate the wonderful demand!).
Program happens rain or shine, though inclement weather diminishes views of the falling stars!
For more information, please call 231-348-1713 or email email@example.com
Every year in October, the Headlands International Dark Sky Park dares visitors to take a one-mile walk through the woods along our candlelit path to the shoreline, where mischief and storytelling await, no matter the wind and weather. This year the October 21st event marks the 9th annual challenge, and participants are encouraged to commit to this year’s Egyptian theme, chosen because of the peak of the Orionid Meteor Shower the same night.
“The Headlands challenge was the very first ‘dark sky’ event we ever held at the Headlands. We started it in 2009, two years before we received our international dark sky designation. It was planned to coincide with the worldwide astronomy movement to get people outside viewing the sky in honor of the 400th anniversary of Galileo being the first person to use a telescope,” said Headlands Program Director Mary Stewart Adams. “But this year, it’s all about Egypt, because there is evidence that the Egyptians linked the constellation Orion to their sacred god of the dead, Osiris, and the meteor shower that comes from the Orion region of the sky will come to its peak on October 21st, the night of our event. It sets a terrific seasonal mood.”
The Headlands Challenge is part of the “Triple Fright Night” events taking place October 21st in the northwest region of Emmet County, and which include trick-or-treating at Heritage Village from 6 to 8 pm, the Headlands Challenge from 8 to 10 pm and the haunted McGulpin Point Lighthouse until 11 pm. Take in one, two, or all three events, which include games, treats, seasonal decoration, storytelling, stargazing, and the meteor shower.
“October skies can be dramatic, what with the high winds and clouds, and the thickest part of the Milky Way setting to make way for the deeper dark of the less populated star fields of the Orion region,” said Adams. “It’s just the perfect time of year to challenge yourself to be outside and brave the elements.”
The Headlands Challenge and Triple Fright Night are free events, family friendly, and open to the public. Events happen rain, sleet, snow, or shine. Participants can park at Heritage Village and trick-or-treat, then cross the street and walk the one-mile candlelit path to the Headlands Waterfront Event center for games and storytelling at 9 pm. The haunted McGulpin Point Lighthouse will remain open until 11 pm, and can be accessed from Heritage Village by free shuttle.
For event information and details, please call the Headlands International Dark Sky Park Office at 231-427-1001. You may also email at firstname.lastname@example.org