Okay, so Chicago’s not exactly a haven for stargazing. Quite the opposite, actually, what with all the light pollution. But sometimes you just need to look up at the sky and marvel at those faraway twinkling lights—sadly, it’s not often that you can see them from the city’s rooftop bars (try as we might). When you feel like stretching out a little—maybe going on a little day trip and looking up toward a bright nighttime sky—consider spending an evening at one of these spots in and around Chicago. Just be sure to call before you go, as some locations stay open after dusk only for special stargazing events.
Triton College. 30 mins by car, 1hr by train and bus
Mark your calendars for one of the Saturday Skywatch events hosted by the Cernan Earth and Space Center, with summer events scheduled on June 11, July 9 and August 13. Dates and times are subject to change, so be sure to call the center at 708-456-0300, Ext. 3372, before heading out. Events begin with an indoor program for a small fee and are followed by free outside observation at 8pm if the sky is clear. 2000 Fifth Ave, River Grove, IL
Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center. 30 mins by car
Once home to a one-room schoolhouse, this area has a vibrant history that dates back to the 1880s. Enjoy a free night under the stars at 8pm on June 18 and July 16 or 7:30pm on August 13. 9800 S 104 Ave, Willow Springs, IL
Spring Valley Nature Center. 45 mins by car
After a day spent kicking back and bird-watching, check out the free stargazing party from 8:30–11pm on August 6, when telescopes will be set up around the nature center and star-studded events scheduled inside. 1111 E Schaumburg Rd, Schaumburg, IL
Kemil Beach, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. 1hr by car
This area is home not only to wide, open skies but also hiking trails and even homes from the 1933 World’s Fair. Make a day of it when you join the Chicago Astronomical Society for a free public stargazing event (see the constellations Sagittarius and Scorpio) on August 6 at 8:30pm. Chesterton, IN
And, of course, from a boat on Lake Michigan.
The experts at Adler Planetarium say the best way to see the stars is from a boat. Start at one of the beaches looking east and take a ride out as far as possible in Lake Michigan.