Programs & Events
Welcome to the Headlands International Dark Sky Park! The grounds, trails, and viewing areas at the Headlands are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. 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. On clear nights during the summer, the Headlands staff will bring telescopes out onto the viewing platform and professional star-gazers and astronomers are often onsite to enhance your viewing experience. Visitors are welcome to bring their own telescopes and/or binoculars. Park staff maintains the number of people in the park by limiting parking only to the 67 parking spaces near the event center. On clear and warm nights, please expect to wait at the entrance for the next available parking.
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 protected] and be sure to follow our Facebook page for more news and photos.
Dark Sky Park Program Coordinator
All observing dates are weather-permitting. (Check our Facebook page for the any updates about our observing nights.) The Headlands staff will have some telescopes available on the outside viewing platform if conditions allow. Professional star gazers and astronomers will be on site to enhance your viewing experience with guidance and to answer questions. If you wish, bring your own binoculars or telescopes to see more. Call (231) 427-1001 with any questions.
Each year we line the one-mile paved entrance to the Headlands with candles and invite you to experience the dark walk by star shine and candlelight. Weather-permitting, we will have telescopes out on the viewing platform from 7-9 p.m.
In autumn, the Headlands provides breathless views of nature in transition. Hike with us through the woods by day and take it all in. Weather permitting, outdoor event only.
On Monday, Nov. 11, we’ll observe Mercury transit across the sun from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. The peak transit time is around 10:20 a.m. The next time Mercury will transit the sun is 2032. What makes this particular transit special is that Mercury will pass almost directly through the center of the sun. The last time it was as close as it is supposed to be was 1973 and won’t be this close again until 2187. The only way to see this is with a properly filtered telescope, as it will be too small to see with just using solar eclipse glasses. The event may also be viewed as a NASA live stream event.
Rod Cortright of Northern Michigan Astronomy Club will be setting up a telescope with a solar filter on it for interested guests to view the transit and to answer questions. All observing dates are weather-permitting. (Check our Facebook page for the any updates about our observing dates.) Call (231) 427-1001 with any questions.
For our Cosmic Series, we will gather with our friends from the Northern Michigan Astronomy Club who will inform and entertain us on various astronomy topics. Cost is $5 a person.
Celebrate the Solstice by bringing light and rhythm into the dark stillness of the season. Join us for a celebration of the season. Cost is $10 a person for the North Star Celebration. Guided observing will be part of the program. The Headlands staff will have some telescopes available on the outside viewing platform if conditions allow. Professional star gazers and astronomers will be on site to enhance your viewing experience with guidance and to answer questions. If you wish, bring your own binoculars or telescopes to see more. Other visitors to the park will be welcome to use the green space and other designated viewing areas, but will not have the option of guidance and assistance from our staff unless attending the program. Call (231) 427-1001 with any questions.
Join us Friday, March 6, from 7-9 p.m., for an evening painting class with Creation Station as they guide us through painting our own masterpiece.
Cost to participate is $35 per person and includes all materials, step-by-step instructions and refreshments. No painting experience is necessary.
As space for the class is limited, pre-registration is required. Sign up now at Creation Station’s website or call (231) 268-3059. Payment is due at time of reservation to guarantee your seat. Credit card accepted by phone and online.
The Headlands will kick off its “Evenings Under the Stars” series of programs on Friday, April 17! Alpena’s Besser Planaterium Director Johnathan Winckowski will give a presentation in celebration of Statewide Astronomy Night. The event runs from 7-9 p.m. and is free to the public.
Beginning at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 22, our astronomy assistants will deliver a presentation and then help guests in viewing the Lyrids Meteor Shower through binoculars. Binoculars will not be provided and guests will need to bring their own. Observation is weather-permitting. Cost is $5 a person.
The Lyrids is an average shower with about 20 meteors per hour at its peak runs annually from April 16-25. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher discovered in 1861. The shower peaks in 2020 on the night of the night of the April 22 into the morning of April 23. The meteors radiate from the constellation Lyra though they may appear anywhere in the sky and sometimes produce bright dust trails lasting for several seconds. A nearly-new moon this year will ensure dark skies to help with the Lyrids show.
Beginning at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 23, our astronomy assistants will deliver a presentation about the Structure of the Solar System, followed by guided night sky observation with telescopes out on the viewing platform. Observation is weather-permitting. Cost is $5 a person.