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.

Jun
20
Mon
The Cycle of the Year as a Breathing Process @ Headlands Dark Sky Viewing Area
Jun 20 @ 8:30 pm – 10:30 pm

sunsetheadlands2014June 20, 2016 @ 8:30 pm – 10:30 pm

WHERE: Headlands Dark Sky Viewing Area

Just like the human being that breathes in a regular rhythm throughout every moment of every day, so, too, does the Earth follow a regular and predictable rhythm through its annual cycle of seasons. The longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, referred to as “Summer Solstice” arrives June 20th, the same day that Sun and Moon will balance the visible horizon with Full Moon rising in the east as the first Summer Sun sets in the west.

“Full Moon at Summer Solstice only happens once every 19 years, and it means there will be no real darkness to speak of for an entire 24-hour period,” said Mary Stewart Adams, Emmet County’s Program Director for the Headlands International Dark Sky Park. “This provides a really unique opportunity to consider the harmonious rhythm of the natural world, and how, despite our most sophisticated technological advances, we are healthiest when we live in harmony with these larger rhythms.

“If we consider the cycle of the Earth’s year like the in-breathing and the out-breathing of the human being, then Summer Solstice is like the out-breath, so I am very excited that we will have the opportunity to also work with local yoga instructor Mary Reilly at this event, to bring beautiful emphasis and awareness to our own breathing.”  

In addition to leading participants in a basic yoga breathing experience, Mary Reilly will share the story of the “Song of the Immortal Gander”, a beautiful and timeless story of the double nature of the gander as it relates to being human and to the breath.

“As many of our local community members know, Mary is a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher and director of North Woods Yoga in Petoskey (www.northwoodsyoga.com). She has studied extensively in India and has been teaching yoga in Northern Michigan for thirty years. The expertise as well as the tale she is bringing about the “Immortal Gander” are a perfect fit for this time of year, and for what we can see rising up in the night sky at this time, so this will be a really rich experience,” said Adams.

The Headlands Summer Solstice program will take place at the shoreline viewing area from 8:30 to 10:30 pm, and to make ready, here is a list of what’s happening celestially that day:

  • The Sun will rise at 5:49 am on June 20
  • Half an hour later, the Moon will set in the west at 6:17 am, just 45 minutes shy of being at total Full Phase
  • The Moon will be Full at 7:02 am (because this Moon arrives at Full Phase before Sun achieves its solstice moment, this is the last Full Moon of the Spring)
  • Sun then arrives at its Solstice moment, when it is highest above the celestial equator, at 6:34 pm
  • Sun will set in the west at 9:32 pm, while the Moon rises in the east at the exact moment

“This year’s Solstice marks a moment of celestial superlatives that lends itself to taking a deep, cosmic breath, so we’ll take advantage of the night to learn our way around the sky, and to consider the dynamic, rhythmic motion of things,” said Adams.

Parking at Headlands while we are under construction is at the entrance. Guests then take a 15 minute (about one mile) walk through the woods along a paved and gravel route to the shoreline viewing area for the program. Bring camp chairs and blankets, and prepare for weather that is 10 degrees cooler than inland. Programs are interactive and always include guidance about what’s overhead, with telescope on site for enhanced viewing

 

Oct
29
Sat
8th annual Headlands Challenge and Triple Fright Night details @ Park Entrance
Oct 29 @ 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm
8th annual Headlands Challenge and Triple Fright Night details @ Park Entrance | Mackinaw City | Michigan | United States

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 beckerle@emmetcounty.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

 

 

 

Jan
7
Sat
Plan Your New Year with the Stars @ Guest House Headlands International Dark Sky Park
Jan 7 @ 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm

Planning your new year with the stars

In ages gone by, community life was centered around the observance of celestial phenomena, with the consequence that the sites from which this observing took place would naturally be the place for celebrating life’s most significant moments. At Headlands, we’re stepping into the wisdom of this tradition with our first program of the New Year, during which we will highlight all the terrific phenomena coming toward us in 2017, designed to support all of us in our effort to find harmony in the greater rhythm of things! Though not required, we recommend you bring calendars and writing instruments so you can be a scribe of the stars all year long by knowing in advance how to center your year around meteor showers, eclipses, and all the other starry events unfolding overhead. During this program we will provide specific dates and times for the celestial highlights of the year, with viewing tips and the cultural history of the phenomena.

Apr
7
Fri
Statewide Astronomy Night
Apr 7 @ 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm
The Observatory Tower at Headlands features an Ash Dome and 20" PlaneWave Telescope on sneak preview during Statewide Astronomy Night April 7, 2017

The Observatory Tower at Headlands features an Ash Dome and 20″ PlaneWave Telescope that will be on sneak preview during Statewide Astronomy Night April 7, 2017

Tonight, Headlands partners with Michigan State University and organizations around the Great Lakes State to celebrate Statewide Astronomy Night (SWAN) at our observatory facility, where we will preview our new Roger McCormick 20″ PlaneWave telescope for peering deeply into the sky. Participants are also encouraged to bring their own telescopes, and questions for our experts about how to use them, which to buy, what to see, and more!
Jun
22
Thu
GRAND OPENING OF THE WATERFRONT EVENT CENTER @ Waterfront Event Center
Jun 22 @ 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Join us in celebrating the terrific resources that make up Emmet County’s Headlands property at the Grand Opening of our new Waterfront Event Center and Observatory on Thursday, June 22 from 2 to 6 pm. The grand opening will include several terrific guest speakers, tours of the grounds and facilities, dedication of the Roger McCormick Planewave Telescope, and spectacular views! 

The grounds at Headlands Waterfront Event Center and Observatory

Oct
21
Sat
9th Annual Headlands Challenge ~ Walk like an Egyptian! @ Meet at the Park entrance
Oct 21 @ 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm
The Orionid Meteor Shower peaks overnight October 21, when Earth travels through the trail of cosmic mystery left in the wake of Halley's Comet. The Meteor Shower is named for the region of the sky in front of which it appears, which is the Orion region fo teh sky, also associated by the Ancient Egyptians with Osiris, pictured here (for costume inspiration!).

The Orionid Meteor Shower peaks overnight October 21, when Earth travels through the trail of cosmic mystery left in the wake of Halley’s Comet. The Meteor Shower is named for the region of the sky in front of which it appears, which is the Orion region of the sky, also associated by the Ancient Egyptians with Osiris, pictured here (for costume inspiration!).

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 darksky@emmetcounty.org

 

Dec
21
Thu
Winter Solstice at the Waterfront Event Center
Dec 21 @ 4:00 pm

Program Director Mary Stewart Adams captured the play of snow settling in the quiet woods at Solstice time

At Winter Solstice, the Sun achieves its position furthest south of the celestial equator, and here in the north, we enter the dark stillness of the snowy season. For this afternoon’s event, we will gather inside to engage the quiet dark and stillness with candlelight and rhythm, by handrolling beeswax candles, then drumming to the sacred rhythm of the season with Northern Michigan Drum Village. Sunset on this, the year’s shortest day, will happen at 4:57 pm, so there will be plenty of time for touring the solstice evening sky outdoors as well. $5 at the door (for supplies); we will have drums on hand, and you are encouraged to bring your own, if you have one! This event is sponsored by DTE Foundation.