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.
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 Moon 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.”
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
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, or head region of the mighty Lion
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.
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.
January’s New Moon carries the promise of deep darkness for finding the stars and constellations that are used to determine the celestial new year, not only in the Chinese Calendar, but in the Native American and Christian cultures as well. Gather at Headlands just before sunset to learn about these different traditions, to craft star calendars, celebrate the year of the rooster, and to follow it all up with some winter stargazing. Some supplies provided, though you are welcome to bring your own. Suitable for ages 9 to 90…
In the heart of winter and the approaching Valentine’s Day, Headlands will host special guests, musician Laszlo Slomovitz and poet Jennifer Burd with their extraordinary project of setting the mystic poems of Rumi and Hafiz to song. “From the cultural perspective, poetry is the closest we can come to the stars, and through this program, Laszlo demonstrates the beauty of such an idea,” said Program Director Mary Stewart Adams. “Tonight is an ideal date night for couples and individuals young and old, newly in love or celebrating the enduring romance of a fixed-star union.” Guests to tonight’s program may bring snack and beverage and arrive early to catch sunset at 6 pm, or arrive 6:30-6:45 pm to park, get settled and wait for the show to begin’ plan to stay late, because the Moon will touch the heart star Regulus in the midnight sky! “This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment…”~Rumi
Nationally-acclaimed and award-winning night sky and northern lights photographer extraordinaire Shawn Malone of Lake Superior Photo is back by popular demand for an exciting hands-on lecture and workshop at the Headlands Guest House , just as Spring Equinox approaches and the aurora get more active! The program will occur in two parts, with a free lecture open to the public, followed by a hands-on workshop that requires advance registration at 231-348-1713 due to the limited number of spaces available.
Malone says she can’t remember a time when she wasn’t keen on capturing and recording the world around her through photography. “There’s always been a latent interest. Even as a kid I carried around a film instamatic.”
Malone turned to the dark side, the dark side of night, that is, to photograph nature at its most elusive and expressive in the late 1990s, when she photographed her first aurora, also known as the Northern Lights.
Since then, Malone has enjoyed an enviable reputation through national media, with award-winning recognition from Smithsonian Magazine, publication in National Geographic, and with her work appearing multiple times on NBC Nightly News. “I consider Smithsonian and National Geographic the two biggest (photography) institutions in the world. Their recognition was humbling.”
Malone, who sells her work around the world from her gallery and studio, Lake Superior Photo, in Marquette, MI, will share the ups and downs of this success, and the do’s and dont’s of night sky photography at the Headlands Guest House during a two-part event that will include a public lecture and a hands-on photography workshop. The workshop portion of the program is by advance registration only.
Malone says that her current focus in photography is on a “wet plate collodion” process with large format cameras. “It’s a turn-of-the-century process that preceded film and instead uses chemicals processed on tin or glass. I’m looking forward to getting back to the roots of the photographic process and image that is in a totally different direction from anything I’ve done in the past, kind of in rebellion against the digital age and lack of authenticity of photography with all the over-the-top manipulation that is occurring these days.”
Reservations are not necessary for the lecture portion of Malone’s program at the Headlands, but are required for the hands-on workshop that will follow, by calling 231-348-1713 or by email at email@example.com. Space is limited for the workshop and a suggested donation of $10 is requested.
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!