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.

Jul
15
Fri
New in 2016: Starlight Trivia on Friday nights! @ Shoreline Dark Sky Viewing Area
Jul 15 @ 8:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars

Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars ~ photo by Aliana Lee

Fridays throughout the summer, starting July 1 (and unless there is a formal program scheduled) join us at the shoreline viewing area with your favorite team of family and friends for Starlight Trivia, designed to test and delight your knowledge of the stars! In the event of inclement weather, Starlight Trivia will take place at the Heritage Village Pavilion, across the street from Headlands main entrance. There are prizes to win, star names to learn, and plenty of fun to be had!

Remaining Starlight Trivia dates are July 29; and Aug. 5, 19, 26, and trivia will conclude with one last hoorah on Sept. 2.

Jul
22
Fri
New in 2016: Starlight Trivia on Friday nights! @ Shoreline Dark Sky Viewing Area
Jul 22 @ 8:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars

Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars ~ photo by Aliana Lee

Fridays throughout the summer, starting July 1 (and unless there is a formal program scheduled) join us at the shoreline viewing area with your favorite team of family and friends for Starlight Trivia, designed to test and delight your knowledge of the stars! In the event of inclement weather, Starlight Trivia will take place at the Heritage Village Pavilion, across the street from Headlands main entrance. There are prizes to win, star names to learn, and plenty of fun to be had!

Remaining Starlight Trivia dates are July 29; and Aug. 5, 19, 26, and trivia will conclude with one last hoorah on Sept. 2.

Jul
29
Fri
New in 2016: Starlight Trivia on Friday nights! @ Shoreline Dark Sky Viewing Area
Jul 29 @ 8:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars

Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars ~ photo by Aliana Lee

Fridays throughout the summer, starting July 1 (and unless there is a formal program scheduled) join us at the shoreline viewing area with your favorite team of family and friends for Starlight Trivia, designed to test and delight your knowledge of the stars! In the event of inclement weather, Starlight Trivia will take place at the Heritage Village Pavilion, across the street from Headlands main entrance. There are prizes to win, star names to learn, and plenty of fun to be had!

Remaining Starlight Trivia dates are July 29; and Aug. 5, 19, 26, and trivia will conclude with one last hoorah on Sept. 2.

Jul
30
Sat
‘Fairy Tales in the Musical Moonlight’ Dark Sky Coast Association membership drive event July 30 @ Heritage Village park, across the street from the main entrance to the Headlands
Jul 30 @ 8:30 pm – 10:00 pm

An evening of music and magic in the moonlight is in store Saturday evening, July 30 as Northern Michigan’s Dark Sky Coast Association celebrates the rich heritage and dark skies along nearly 25 miles of Lake Michigan’s shoreline in Emmet County.

The public is invited to the evening program “Fairy Tales in the Musical Moonlight” from 8:30 to 10 pm under the festival tent at Heritage Village, directly across the street from the Headlands entrance. The program is free and will feature the Patterson Piano Duo together with Headlands Program Director Mary Stewart Adams. Guests will experience a night of magical music and storytelling linked to the stars, brought together as a celebration of the mission of Dark Sky Coast Association in order to raise membership in the association, friends, funds, and awareness.

The DSCA is a non-profit friends group that was formed in 2014 to help steward the natural beauty of the area, following the success of Emmet County achieving the rare distinction of International Dark Sky Park designation for its Headlands property. The designation was followed closely by State of Michigan legislation passing a bill to protect the natural darkness over an additional 20,000 acres of land, also in Emmet County, known as Michigan’s Dark Sky Coast.

Mary Stewart Adams

Mary Stewart Adams

“There is a rich heritage of cultural arts and stewardship in northwest lower Michigan that serves as the perfect foundation for this evening of entertainment,” said Adams, “and I am particularly excited to work with Tony and Casey, the Patterson Piano Duo. They’re really fun and talented folks, so it’s a terrific way to have a community celebration of the natural resources that are so vital to our area, and to introduce the initiative of the Dark Sky Coast Association. So many people are thrilled with our efforts and have wondered how they can get involved and show their financial support, so now we have a vessel for that.”

The Pattersons are known to play with a lot of spontaneity, beauty, and depth, and are well known in the local community from their performances at the Bay View Music Festival, Adams said. “But that’s not all! The Duo has also played with orchestras, pit bands, rock bands, pick-up bands, smooth jazz groups, and gospel choirs. Now, we’ll link them to the stars!” said Adams.

Anthony Patterson enjoys a multi-faceted career as solo pianist, composer, arranger, collaborative pianist and chamber musician. After beginning formal piano study at age three, Tony made his debut with the Lima Symphony when he was eight, playing Mozart’s Concerto no. 28. Casey Robards is a collaborative pianist and vocal coach known for her versatility, imagination, and sensitive musicality.  She has given recitals with singers and instrumentalists throughout the United States, as well as France, Brazil and Costa Rica. A committed coach and pedagogue, Dr. Robards is currently on the faculty at Central Michigan University and serves as faculty artist at the Bay View Music Festival.

Headlands july 30 CASEY

Casey Robards

“Tony and Casey share a commitment to musical expressiveness and communication, and when they play together as a piano duo, audiences note that that their sound travels with a single-minded heart and soul that both relaxes and inspires.  This is the perfect set up for reaching into the starry night skies that we’ve protected over the northwest tip of Michigan’s mitt, and for raising awareness about why organizations like the Dark Sky Coast Association are essential to sustaining the natural beauty of our area,” said Adams.

In addition to her role as Headlands Program Director, Adams is also host of the weekly Interlochen Public Radio segment “The Storyteller’s Night Sky” and throughout the summer months she narrates night sky cruises along the Straits of Mackinac with Shepler’s Ferry service.

Guests are encouraged to arrive at least half an hour before the program begins at 8:30 p.m., to allow for parking and settling in before the show begins. The evening will include live music, storytelling, and guided tours of the night sky, as well as information sharing about the mission of the non-profit Dark Sky Coast Association. Light refreshments will be available.

“Bring family, friends, and bring enthusiasm for the wonder and beauty of it all,” said Adams.

The program will take place from 8:30 to 10 pm under the festival tent at Heritage Village, Mackinaw City, directly across the street from the entrance from the Headlands International Dark Sky Park. The Headlands entrance is located at 15675 Headlands Road, Mackinaw City. There is no charge to attend this program, though donations will be gladly accepted.

If you have questions, please contact Adams at (231) 838-8181. The DSCA is an independently run non-profit not affiliated with Emmet County.

Aug
5
Fri
New in 2016: Starlight Trivia on Friday nights! @ Shoreline Dark Sky Viewing Area
Aug 5 @ 8:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars

Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars ~ photo by Aliana Lee

Fridays throughout the summer, starting July 1 (and unless there is a formal program scheduled) join us at the shoreline viewing area with your favorite team of family and friends for Starlight Trivia, designed to test and delight your knowledge of the stars! In the event of inclement weather, Starlight Trivia will take place at the Heritage Village Pavilion, across the street from Headlands main entrance. There are prizes to win, star names to learn, and plenty of fun to be had!

Remaining Starlight Trivia dates are July 29; and Aug. 5, 19, 26, and trivia will conclude with one last hoorah on Sept. 2.

Aug
12
Fri
Perseids information / Headlands event details
Aug 12 @ 7:00 pm
Perseids information / Headlands event details

Excitement is building as Earth rolls toward the thickest part of Summer’s fairest Meteor Shower the Perseids next week, and at Headlands, we’re gearing up for another spectacular evening! If you’ve been following our social media, then you know we are under construction on a wonderful new event center and observatory, and you also know that this means parking is confined to the Headlands entrance for all events, so here’s what we’re planning for the Perseids:

  1. Our formal program for the Perseids will take place Friday, August 12 at 9 pm under the festival tent near the Headlands entrance. This means you get to park your car and stay close to where the action is! The program will include the history, science, mythology, and story connected to the Perseid Meteor Shower. Note that sunset on August 12 is at 8:53 pm, and astronomical twilight (the time it takes for skies to get truly dark) extends until 10:52 pm ~ so basically from 9 to 10 pm it will still be light out, and we will do our program during this time. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS YEAR THE MOON IS A FACTOR IN HOW DRAMATIC THE PERSEIDS WILL BE: The waxing gibbous will Moon rise in the east at 4:15 pm, so we will have Luna to contend with all night long.
  2. Starting at 10 pm, community members and businesses that have chosen to participate in our Lights Out Challenge will turn off their lights for an hour, and we will conduct our sky quality measurements to see which of the competing communities gets darkest. The Mackinac Bridge lights will be turned off during the competition, to add to the mystery of the night! Note that the participating communities are St. Ignace to the north of the Straits competing with Mackinaw City to the south, and Petoskey on the south side of Little Traverse Bay competing with Harbor Springs to the north. We wish good luck and starshine to everyone who participates!
  3. Following our program, guests to Headlands can choose one of three viewing places for the meteor shower, each of which will be staffed with folks that can answer questions and guide you through the night:
    – The Heritage Village Field, where we have hoisted our festival tent near the parking area. Facilities include porta potty. There is no walking required to view from this area. The thickest part of the Milky Way is obstructed by the treeline to the southwest, but the view to northeast where the constellation Perseus rises is in full view. You do not need to look at Perseus to see the shower because the meteors can fall anywhere through the sky (and that’s the beauty of it!).
    – Headlands shoreline viewing area, which is accessed by one mile walk from parking area to shoreline. The route is mostly paved and then becomes flat gravel before you arrive at the 1/4 mile of rugged Lake Michigan shoreline for viewing. From here you can see the thickest part of the Milky Way to the southwest, and views to the east are buffered by the forest. Facilities include a porta potty and this is a no white light zone, meaning red filter flashlights only.
    – The Headlands Guest House, accessible by the same one mile walk you follow to get to the shoreline area, with a left turn toward the house when you get to the shore. Views are north, west, and south, with the view to the north and east buffered by trees. Facilities include indoor restrooms. This building will close to the public at midnight and it is also in our no white light zone, so red filter flashlights only though the Moon will provide plenty of natural light for those who are comfortable with it!

Bring snacks and something comfortable to sit on. Be tidy. Be polite. Bring all of your wishes!

If you have questions about any or all of this, please call us at 231-348-1713 and keep checking back here for more information, and share your photos. Protecting the night sky takes all of us, and we love to celebrate it with everyone who comes out to join us!

Lights Out Challenge 2016, with the Perseids
Aug 12 @ 8:30 pm – 11:00 pm

lights out together

Our scheduled Perseid Meteor Shower Program gets underway at 9 p.m. at the Headlands Guest House, and by 10 p.m. folks all over Northern Michigan are turning off their lights to join us in celebrating natural darkness and to count the falling stars!

Please arrive by 8:30 p.m. to catch sunset at the Guest House (and to get parked and settled in). Our program gets under way from 9 to 10 p.m., after which the Lights Out Challenge occurs in the surrounding communities (from 10 to 11 p.m.)

You can take part! Lights Out Across the Bay and Lights Out Across the Straits Challenges set for Aug. 12, 2016 during the Perseid Meteor Shower

About Lights OUT!

The Northwest Michigan region enjoys the unique and prestigious distinction of being home to one of the first 10 International Dark Sky Parks in the world at Emmet County’s Headlands park property.

That means all of Northern Michigan revels in the beauty created by protection of the night sky, and Emmet County continues its work toward protecting this resource through its annual Lights Out Challenge! This year, the fourth annual Lights Out Across the Bay and Lights Out Across the Straits challenges will take place on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, from 10 to 11 p.m. During that timeframe, residents, businesses and visitors in the cross-water communities of Petoskey and Harbor Springs, and Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, will compete with one-another to achieve greater darkness over their towns.

“We’re asking everyone to shut their lights off for one hour and take the opportunity to reconnect with the sky above,” said Headlands Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams.

The event is timed to coincide with the active Perseid Meteor Shower on Aug. 12, one of the most popular meteor showers of the year. Participants can show their support by signing a Lights Out Pledge and posting their support in residence windows or at the entrance to business locations. Pledge forms are available on the County web site, www.MIdarkskypark.org and at area Chambers of Commerce in the four communities.

“Signing the pledge means you agree to turn out your outdoor lights and inhibit any indoor light from spilling outside for one hour, from 10 to 11 p.m., on Friday, August 12,” said Adams. “It’s free, it’s full of fun good will, it saves money, and provides a great way to get to know your neighbors. Getting in touch with the night sky stirs something almost intangible in the human being – that place in each of us where we have a deep longing for wonder.”

How will it work?

Step one: Prior to the event, designated Emmet County staff will measure the sky quality, using a Sky Quality Meter that registers darkness levels, in St. Ignace and in Mackinaw City, and Petoskey and Harbor Springs.

Step two: Between now and the event, area residents, business owners and visitors will pledge to turn out the lights and plan for an evening in the dark!

Step three: On August 12, between 10 and 11 p.m. turn out your lights across Little Traverse Bay and the Straits of Mackinac!

The winning community from each pair of towns will receive media recognition and an award from Emmet County.

Once again, the Mackinac Bridge Authority will participate in the Straits challenge by turning off the cable lighting on the Mighty Mac, and the Michigan Department of Transportation is getting involved as well!  “The motivating intent behind this event is to raise awareness about the effective use of light at night. The more participation we have, the more we can effect positive change in the way we steward the vanishing natural resource of the night sky,” said Adams.

“The beauty of our natural northern Michigan surroundings is a fundamental reason why tourists choose to visit the Straits area, and why residents choose to live here,” said Bob Sweeney, Executive Secretary of the Mackinac Bridge Authority. “While many people come north to see the Mackinac Bridge lit, we’re happy that our participation in the Lights Out Challenge helps improve the terrific views of our night sky.”

The communities that achieve greater darkness will be announced in the week following the event.

The Lights Out initiative, led by Emmet County, includes the combined efforts of the Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce, Harbor Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, the City of Harbor Springs, the City of Petoskey, Bay View Association, the Mayors and Village Managers of St. Ignace and Mackinaw City, Mackinaw City Village Council Members, Visitors’ Bureaus, and Downtown Development Authorities, as well as the Mackinac Bridge Authority and the Michigan Department of Transportation.

“Truly it takes the entire community to protect the vast and inspiring resource of the deep, dark night sky that we enjoy in Northwest Michigan,” Adams said. “This voluntary, awareness-raising event shines the light on the unique ways Emmet County informs our community, region and state about the importance of protecting the night sky.”

If you have questions about the Lights Out Challenge, call Adams at (231) 348-1713 or email darksky@emmetcounty.org.

LIGHTS OUT PLEDGE FORM – STRAITS

LIGHTS OUT PLEDGE FORM – LITTLE TRAVERSE BAY

About the Perseids: What to expect in 2016

The Perseid Meteor Shower is indeed one of the most popular during the year because of the rate of meteors it produces and in 2016, despite the light of waxing gibbous Moon, astronomers are predicting a potential outburst of meteors, due to the orbital influence of Jupiter. This could potentially double the normal rates of meteors seen, though viewers should note that this is a prediction and not a guaranteed forecast, Adams noted. The Lights Out Challenge and Northern Michigan’s naturally dark skies attract thousands during the peak days of the shower. Here’s what to expect if you are planning to view the Perseids this year:

The meteor shower is most active when the constellation Perseus is highest overhead, which is after midnight local time, though there will be plenty of potential activity before that time. The shower peaks between Aug. 11 and 13; our event is scheduled for Friday night, Aug. 12. Sunset Aug. 12 is at 8:53 pm, with astronomical twilight extending until 10:52 p.m., after which time the only natural light in the sky will be from the Moon and stars.

Meteors can be seen in any region of the sky. The constellation Perseus, which lends its name to this shower, will be visible rising in the northeast along the Milky Way, following in the wake of the constellation Cassiopeia. The parent comet of the Perseid Meteor Shower is Swift-Tuttle, discovered independently by Msrs Swift and Tuttle in July of 1862.

Adams also noted the story of Perseus from ancient Greek mythology and it’s tie to this annual meteor shower: “Perseus is a son of Zeus, who transformed himself into a shower of golden stars and rained down upon the mortal princess Danae when he spied her confined to a vault in the Earth where her father had hidden her after the oracle predicted she would have a son that would slay him. Perseus went on to slay the Medusa and free Andromeda, and the meteor shower that comes from his region of the sky was believed by the ancients to be his gift of strength to humanity as the daylight hours begin to wane toward autumn.”

 

Our efforts were recently featured by the International Dark Sky Association to help support other communities in raising awareness about night skies~click here for that article, and follow us on Facebook for the latest up-to-date announcements. Help your community win the challenge, turn out the lights and count your lucky stars!

Aug
19
Fri
New in 2016: Starlight Trivia on Friday nights! @ Shoreline Dark Sky Viewing Area
Aug 19 @ 8:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars

Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars ~ photo by Aliana Lee

Fridays throughout the summer, starting July 1 (and unless there is a formal program scheduled) join us at the shoreline viewing area with your favorite team of family and friends for Starlight Trivia, designed to test and delight your knowledge of the stars! In the event of inclement weather, Starlight Trivia will take place at the Heritage Village Pavilion, across the street from Headlands main entrance. There are prizes to win, star names to learn, and plenty of fun to be had!

Remaining Starlight Trivia dates are July 29; and Aug. 5, 19, 26, and trivia will conclude with one last hoorah on Sept. 2.

Aug
26
Fri
New in 2016: Starlight Trivia on Friday nights! @ Shoreline Dark Sky Viewing Area
Aug 26 @ 8:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars

Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars ~ photo by Aliana Lee

Fridays throughout the summer, starting July 1 (and unless there is a formal program scheduled) join us at the shoreline viewing area with your favorite team of family and friends for Starlight Trivia, designed to test and delight your knowledge of the stars! In the event of inclement weather, Starlight Trivia will take place at the Heritage Village Pavilion, across the street from Headlands main entrance. There are prizes to win, star names to learn, and plenty of fun to be had!

Remaining Starlight Trivia dates are July 29; and Aug. 5, 19, 26, and trivia will conclude with one last hoorah on Sept. 2.

Sep
2
Fri
New in 2016: Starlight Trivia on Friday nights! @ Shoreline Dark Sky Viewing Area
Sep 2 @ 8:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars

Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars ~ photo by Aliana Lee

Fridays throughout the summer, starting July 1 (and unless there is a formal program scheduled) join us at the shoreline viewing area with your favorite team of family and friends for Starlight Trivia, designed to test and delight your knowledge of the stars! In the event of inclement weather, Starlight Trivia will take place at the Heritage Village Pavilion, across the street from Headlands main entrance. There are prizes to win, star names to learn, and plenty of fun to be had!

Remaining Starlight Trivia dates are July 29; and Aug. 5, 19, 26, and trivia will conclude with one last hoorah on Sept. 2.