Here’s Where to Escape Light Pollution and Go Stargazing in and Around NYC

Balmy summer nights are ideal for admiring the Milky Way: You just need to know where to go.

Astronomy Nights at SUMMIT
Astronomy Nights at SUMMIT | Photo courtesy of SUMMIT
Astronomy Nights at SUMMIT | Photo courtesy of SUMMIT

When looking up at the night sky in the Big Apple, you’re more likely to see planes and skyscrapers than the Milky Way. But, we’re here to prove that it’s actually possible to stargaze amid the concrete jungle.

While New York City isn't Dark Sky-certified, there are still plenty of stellar (get it?) spots within the five boroughs or just an easy drive away for some out-of-this world sightings. Plus, you don’t have to be a physics or telescope expert to enjoy solo expeditions or events hosted by local groups like the Amateur Astronomers Association—a volunteer-run, non-profit organization that hosts free lectures, solar and nighttime sky observing, and astronomy classes in the city.

With the Perseid Meteor Shower and a full, blue supermoon both gracing the Northern Hemisphere this month, there’s never been a better time to find new spots for glimpses of constellations, faraway planets, and lots more.

Whether you’re a novice or astronomy expert, here’s our guide to stargazing in and near New York City.

AAA meetup at The High Line
AAA meetup at The High Line | Photo by Karen Blumberg

Stargazing Spots in NYC

The High Line
Everyone’s favorite elevated park is also one of Manhattan’s best spots for stargazing, surprisingly. Every Tuesday night from April through October, members of the Amateur Astronomers Association (AAA) are on hand at the 13th Street entrance to host a walk along the park and the chance to peer through their high-powered telescopes. Plus, it’s free and no RSVP is required: Just show up.

Midtown East
Sea-level stargazing just doesn’t cut it sometimes. We want to feel like we can practically touch the Milky Way. Well, SUMMIT tries its very best by hoisting you 1,100 feet in the air for a dreamy stargazing experience. In collaboration with the AAA, guests of the observation deck will embark on a sky-high tour of the cosmos through high-powered telescopes with the help of astronomy experts. SUMMIT’s Astronomy Nights are included with the purchase of a SUMMIT Experience ticket.

Greenwood Cemetery
Greenwood Heights
Although some might find hanging out in a cemetery after dark morbid or spooky, there’s a serene beauty to Greenwood Cemetery—not to mention, stellar night sky views. Drop by for one of the upcoming After Hours events for an exploration of the grounds, plus a tour of the Catacombs. Take note: have everyone in your group intermittently (and preferably not while walking to avoid any sprained ankles) turn their flashlights off to cut out any additional light pollution. More events can be found online.

Lincoln Center
Lincoln Square
Along with countless performances, community events, and interactive classes, Lincoln Center is also a hub for amateur astronomers. Alternating between two locations on the property, the Josie Robertson Plaza (in front of the Lincoln Center fountain) and the Hearst Plaza (adjacent to the reflecting pool), AAA is behind these stargazing events as well. Summer programs start at 8 pm and events are currently planned through December, so there’s plenty of time to drop by.

Governors Island
New York Harbor
Located just a quick ferry ride away from Manhattan and Brooklyn, this veritable oasis of 173 acres in the middle of New York Harbor offers plenty of open spaces to take in the beauty of the Milky Way. And if you’re keen on late-night viewing, book a staycation at Collective Governors Island. Not only do they host a nightly campfire with s’mores while you stargaze, you can also admire the sky from outside your private tent or shelter.

Intrepid Museum
Pier 86
The Intrepid Museum—you know, that massive, gray aircraft carrier in the Hudson River—is also home to some of the city’s best space science programming. Throughout the year, they host monthly live events with professionals like astronauts and scientists that tackle topics like astronomy, space, and other extraterrestrial subjects. Check their schedule for astronomy nights, which they run frequently during the year.

Carl Schurz Park
Known as the home of Gracie Mansion, the official residence of the NYC Mayor, Carl Schurz Park is a hidden gem of the Upper East Side. After the sun sets, onlookers can grab a park bench or lay out a blanket in the grass to catch some twinkling stars. Additionally, if you happen to have your own telescope, there’s plenty of level ground along the East River promenade to set up. The AAA also regularly hosts events at Carl Schurz throughout the year.

Custer Institute and Observatory
Custer Institute and Observatory | Justin Starr Photography/Shutterstock

Stargazing Spots Within 3.5 Hours of NYC

Montauk Point State Park
Summertime calls for weekend getaways. The clear favorite for many New Yorkers is Montauk. While some might venture to the tip of Long Island for fancy dinners and late nights at the bars, the remoteness of the locale offers stellar night sky views. We recommend packing a few blankets and a spread of snacks before heading over to Montauk Point State Park. Pull up before sunset to fully enjoy the rocky shoreline and to explore the Montauk Point Lighthouse, which owns the title as the oldest lighthouse in New York State. Although the travel time slightly pushes past the two hour mark, it’s definitely worth the journey.
Distance from NYC: 3 hours

Vanderbilt Museum, Space Observatory, and Planetarium
After a $4 million renovation in 2013, this facility is now one of the best on Long Island for learning about the universe. Every Friday night, the museum’s observatory is open to the public and an astronomy educator is on hand to help you use the 16-inch Meade reflecting telescope, and answer questions on the night sky. Don’t miss checking out one of the shows in the planetarium either: The 60-foot domed space shows a variety of space-themed programming (and there’s even a Taylor Swift laser show!).
Distance from NYC: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Harriman State Park
You may be most familiar with this park because it’s just south of the Woodbury Common outlets. And if you’re ready and willing to embark on a hike, Harriman State Park is rife with gorgeous paths and stunning mountain views. Although there aren’t any designated stargazing areas, there are plenty of spots within the park to post up under the wide-open sky, whether you’re camping overnight or heading out after your adventure. Our favorite is Lake Tiorati Beach for constellations and lake views.
Distance from NYC: 1 hour

Fire Island National Seashore
Fire Island
At this legendary destination for the LGBTQ+ community since the 1930s, Fire Island has become synonymous with idyllic beaches, rolling dunes, and lively parties. In addition to sunbathing and connecting with other vacationers, there’s plenty of spots along the less-crowded Fire Island National Seashore to stare up at the stars. The large expanses of beach provide the necessary darkness to scout out constellations and perhaps a glance at Mercury or Venus.
Distance from NYC: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Custer Institute and Observatory
Established in 1927, this facility is Long Island’s oldest public observatory. It’s open to the public every Saturday evening from dusk until midnight, which gives you ample time to swing by. Staff volunteers are on hand to give tours, and of course, let you peek through their telescopes. Custer also runs a slew of outdoor events during the summer, like concerts under the stars or classes on how to navigate the night sky.
Distance from NYC: 3 hours and 15 minutes

Hamptons Observatory
East Hampton
Formerly known as Montauk Observatory, this facility in East Hampton is the first of its kind in the South Fork of Long Island. Throughout the year, they host a variety of events, from virtual to public lectures. Heads up: They will also host “star parties” or portable planetarium shows for a donation to the observatory.
Distance from NYC: 3 hours and 30 minutes

Kensico Dam Plaza
This fantastic stargazing spot in Westchester County is perched alongside the Kensico Reservoir. With a wide open field and little light pollution, it’s ideal for night sky viewing. Locals know, however, that the best view is when you climb the stairs to the top of the dam, where you can see a stunning mirror effect from the water below.
Distance from NYC: 1 hour and 15 minutes

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Izzy Baskette is the New York City Staff Writer for Thrillist. Talk to her at or find her on Instagram.

Juliet Izon is a contributor for Thrillist.