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.

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.

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.”

 

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

 

 

 

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

Dec
29
Thu
Snowshoe Hike Through the 12 Days of Christmas @ Meet at Park Entrance
Dec 29 @ 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm

The last New Moon of 2016 occurs during the sacred season of dark and quiet that bridges the old year to the new, traditionally known as the 12 Days of Christmas, allowing for unique contemplation of where we’ve been, and where we’re going! You’re invited to contemplate this passage of time in the old growth forest of Headlands, and to participate in engaging storytelling of the night sky. The stars of the season have lent themselves to many cultural tales and traditions, some of which will be shared both indoors and out, especially since these 12 days correspond to the 12 months of the year, and these to the 12 constellations of the zodiac. In addition to snowshoe hiking through the woods, guests can participate in making a workbook/journal designed to allow for contemplation of life experience relative to the stars.

“Winter stargazing can be deeply satisfying, because the cool air makes the night crisp and clear,” said Mary Stewart Adams, Program Director for the Headlands International Dark Sky Park.

Program happens rain, snow or shine! If we can’t take to the trails with our snowshoes, then we’ll hike the woods and enjoy the quiet outdoors with tales of the night sky.

Limited number of snowshoes available by reservation, but it is best to bring your own. (231) 348-1713 to reserve a pair.

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.