Lifestyle

Here’s Where to Stare Into the Night Sky and Go Stargazing in and Around Boston

Dark Sky-certified locales, observatories, and lots more.

Photo by Timothy Little, courtesy of AutoCamp Cape Cod
Photo by Timothy Little, courtesy of AutoCamp Cape Cod
Photo by Timothy Little, courtesy of AutoCamp Cape Cod

The night sky is an infinite sea of celestial enchantment and has a way of blanketing us with a sense of calm and quiet wonder. And even though Boston’s bright lights can make local stargazing difficult, there are still plenty of places in and around town where staring starry-eyed into the ether is still a stellar experience.

Nebula newbies can start with a free app like¬†SkySafari or take advantage of Boston-area universities’ courses. MIT, for example, offers the free online course Hands-On Astronomy: Observing Stars And Planets. From there, planning a night of cozy constellation contemplations-or spending the night counting the stars in the Milky Way-is easy. Your only decision is how far you want to travel. Hop on the T for the city’s phenomenal observatories or take a road trip away from the city lights, where the au natural darker skies will leave you in awe.

Whether you want to see the annual autumn light show associated with the Orionids Meteor Shower or spend the night sipping beer and making always-funny Uranus jokes, we’ve rounded up all the best places for stargazing in and near Boston.

Stargazing Spots in Boston

Coit Observatory at Boston University
Fenway‚ÄďKenmore
Since 1967, Boston University’s Coit Observatory has been hosting free observation nights open to students and the surrounding community. Experts guide visitors who use telescopes and binoculars to view the night sky in breathtaking clarity. Though free, space and equipment are limited, and tickets drop at 11 am the Thursday before each event. Naturally, the weather pretty much dictates whether the event will proceed as scheduled, so you can call 617-353-2630 two hours before to check.

Museum of Science Sea the Stars Cruise
Seaport District
One way to get away from the city light is to hop on a night cruise for a lil’ stargazing, and maybe have a few cocktails. Boston Harbor City Cruises and the Museum of Science combined superpowers to make that happen and treat guests to a presentation and some celestial strategy. Bring a light jacket, binoculars, and money for the cash bar-and let the Museum of Science Astronomy Educators take it from there. Tickets start at $65.

Photo by Timothy Little, courtesy of AutoCamp Cape Cod
Photo by Timothy Little, courtesy of AutoCamp Cape Cod
Photo by Timothy Little, courtesy of AutoCamp Cape Cod

Stargazing Spots Within 2 Hours of Boston

Astronomy Nights at Arlington’s Robbins Farm Park
Arlington
The folks at Arlington Astronomy host regular night-sky gatherings at city-adjacent Robbins Farm Park. It’s dark (duh), so bring a flashlight to make your way through the park and meet up with the group. It’s a very casual vibe, making it easy to let your inner Galilei shine bright. All of this is possible only if Mother Nature cooperates, of course. Clouds are a deep space dealbreaker. The outings are free, but organizers ask one favor-stash that flashlight away during stargazing time.
Distance from Boston: 25 minutes

Stargazing at AutoCamp Cape Cod
Cape Cod
Say yes to the gravitational pull of adventure and take a road trip down to the Cape. Score an Airstream, cabin, or glamping tent at AutoCamp Cape Cod, where the menu of experiences is as vast as the universe. Join local astro-landscape photographer Timothy Little who’ll school you in Astro-awesomeness, including how to spot the Milky Way and deep-space objects. Pack your camera and curiosity, and the universe is your (Wellfleet) oyster.
Distance from Boston: 1 hour and 30 minutes

The Astronomical Society of Northern New England Starfield Observatory
Kennebunk, ME
The Astronomical Society of Northern New England (ASNNE) calls Kennebunk home, but members’ hearts belong to the sky above-and they want to share that with everyone. Kennebunk is a quaint seaside town known for its artsy shops, beaches, coastal hikes, dog-friendly restaurants, and cozy lodging like the¬†Wanderer Cottages. Combine that with ASNNE’s Starfield Observatory, annual autumn three-day Starfest, monthly solar observation gatherings, and it’s perfect for anyone who ever looked up at the sky and wondered what magic binds the universe together.
Distance from Boston: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Lake Solitude at Mount Sunapee
Newbury, NH
Watch the night sky while sitting on the quiet shores of Lake Solitude. A short hike from the base of Mount Sunapee, the lake’s calm water creates a cosmic mirror of sorts, where you can watch stars skim across the sparkly night sky. After your evening of lakeside stargazing, head to¬†Bluebird Sunapee, the hotel closest to the mountain. You can regale each other with lunar tales while indulging in the hotel’s Night by the Fire experience, complete with fire pits and plenty of ooey-gooey s’mores.
Distance from Boston: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center
Charlestown, RI
The Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center in Rhode Island is the regional darling of the astronomy scene, and rightly so. The organization’s prolific lineup of events, stargazing, and meteor shower parties draws visitors from New England and beyond. They also invite the public into the observatory for Summer Stargazing Nights every Friday, though the time changes with the seasons. Sometimes they even shake it up and host events with live music under the starry sky. Afterward, drive just 15 minutes to the Rhode Island shoreline and the comfort of Weekapaug Inn-a favorite among nature lovers.
Distance from Boston: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Photo courtesy of RVshare
Photo courtesy of RVshare
Photo courtesy of RVshare

RVshare x Hipcamp
Various locations
Those looking to take their love of stargazing on the road for a truly immersive experience can rent an RV or camper from RVshare. During check-out, you’ll have the chance to search through Hipcamp’s RV-friendly campsite rental locations. Hipcamp’s map capabilities include a dark sky feature, allowing you to select a campsite with minimal light pollution, like the 30-acre dreamscape of TurtleBend Farm in Russell, MA. So, pack your binoculars and telescope, and head out on an easy breezy interstellar-inspired road trip.
Distance from Boston: Varies

Photo courtesy of Maria Mitchell Association
Photo courtesy of Maria Mitchell Association
Photo courtesy of Maria Mitchell Association

Stargazing Spots Within 4.5 Hours of Boston

Seesaw’s Lodge
Peru, VT
Three hours from Boston, in the town of Peru, Vermont, a 100-year-old inn offers dark sky secrets to its visitors. The fully restored Seesaw’s Lodge features just 16 guest rooms but endless astrological delights. There’s minimal light pollution, and guests can easily see the Big Dipper and, depending on the season, the Milky Way. Upon request, the lodge will bring an astronomy expert on property for an expert-led stargazing sesh. Alternatively, count shooting stars while soaking in the cedar hot tub, nestled in the woods, or sitting by the fire pit and noshing their signature treat-maple s’mores.
Distance from Boston: 3 hours

Loines Observatory
Nantucket
Thirty miles offshore, Nantucket is a floating haven for amateur astronomers-or folks just looking to lay on the beach and bask in the star dust vibes. Due to its distance from the mainland, Nantucket’s skies are dark enough to observe the constellations or meteor showers. The island is home to the Maria Mitchell Association and its Loines Observatory, named for the first female astronomer in the United States who discovered the comet “1847 VI” while stargazing on Nantucket in 1847. Upon request, guests at¬†Greydon House, and other local inns, can have private access to the observatory and its refurbished antique 8-inch Alvan Clark telescope and a 24-inch research telescope.
Distance from Boston: 3 hours and 45 minutes

New England’s official International Dark Sky Places
Maine
The global authority on light pollution, the International Dark-Sky Association, certifies dark sky locations across the globe. The distinctions include parks, sanctuaries, reserves, places, and communities. Luckily, we have two certified dark sky locations near BostonAMC Maine Woods (park) and Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (sanctuary). Set your nav for a four-hour drive to Medawisla Lodge & Cabins to experience the best of AMC Maine Woods and its interstellar evening escapades. Or-with an investment of just an additional hour of driving-you’ll reach the dark sky sanctuary of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. Camp in a tent under the stars or stay at nearby Mt. Chase Lodge.
Distance from Boston: 4 hours and 30 minutes to AMC Maine Woods; 5 hours to Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

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Melanie Carden¬†is a private chef turned travel writer. She’s equal parts adrenaline-seeker and¬†Golden Girls¬†vibes. You can find her trying new things, thrifting for treasures, grinding it out on a trail, or lounging on a picnic blanket-Aperol spritz in hand. She’s fickle about¬†social, but the sporadic nuggets are worth the wait-cricket tacos, anyone?

Lifestyle

The Best New Bookstores in LA are Curated, Specific, and Personal

Discover a new favorite book, join a book club, and maybe even do some karaoke at the new wave of LA bookshops.

Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

A couple of years ago, the legendary Powell’s Books in Portland released a perfume designed to evoke the smell of a bookstore. The scent has notes of wood, violet, and the lovely and unusually precise word biblichor, the particular aroma of old books. The reality of the scent is what it is-mostly sweet and floral-but more important is the imagery it conjures. The best bookstores are both cozy and mysterious, familiar and surprising, with endless potential for discovery.

Los Angeles has a wealth of independent book sellers, including beloved legacy shops like The Last Bookstore, The Iliad, and Chevalier’s. But a new wave of bookstores has been growing over the last few years, shops that eschew the traditional one-of-everything mindset to focus on specificity, curation, and point of view. There are bookstores with themes, bookstores that double as event spaces, bookstores that reflect their neighbourhoods, bookstores that take inspiration from a specific person-whether that’s the shop owner, a historical figure, or a little bit of both-and so many more.

Like the niche-ification of the internet and the culture at large, these new and new-ish bookstores provide a space to discover books, ideas, and perspectives led by an expert, the kind of things that you may never have found on your own. They can also be a safe harbour for pure nerdiness, a place to dive deep into your favourite category or cause. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a list of some of the best new bookstores in LA, with a focus on curated shops with their own specific perspectives.

Photo courtesy of Octavia's Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf

Octavia’s Bookshelf

Pasadena
Pasadena is a famously book-friendly city, with bookstore royalty in the form of legendary Vroman’s and its own literary alliance. Now it has one of the most exciting new bookstores too. Octavia’s Bookshelf is owner Nikki High’s tribute to the science fiction master Octavia E. Butler, who was a Pasadena native herself. The name of the shop provides a clue into High’s inspiration, titles she imagines Butler would have had on her shelves, with a focus on BIPOC authors. The storefront is small, but the collection is impeccably curated and the space is cozy and welcoming for readers of all backgrounds.

Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop

North Figueroa Bookshop

Highland Park
Vertical integration can be a beautiful thing, especially when it allows independent creators more control over their products. The new North Figueroa Bookshop is a shining example of the concept, a storefront built on a collaboration between two publishers, Rare Bird and Unnamed Press. North Fig features titles from those presses, of course, including lots of striking literary fiction and memoir, but it also features a curated collection of other books. They’ve made it a point of emphasis to serve the needs of the local Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, and Eagle Rock community-there’s lots of fiction from fellow independent publishers, other general interest titles with a focus on California history and literature, and plenty of Spanish-language books.

Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

Zibby’s Bookshop

Santa Monica
Speaking of vertical integration, there’s another new combined publisher and bookstore on the other side of town. Zibby’s Bookshop is the brainchild of Zibby Owens, Sherri Puzey, and Diana Tramontano, and it’s the physical home of Zibby Books, a literary press that releases one featured book a month. That system is designed so that each book gets the full attention and resources of the press. Owens is an author, podcaster, and book-fluencer, and she has become something of a lit-world mogul with a magazine, podcast network, event business, and an education platform too. The shop has a unique sorting system, built around a feeling for each book-in store many of the shelves are labelled by interest or personality type, like “For the foodie,” or “For the pop culture lover.” On their webshop, you can browse for books that make you cry, escape, laugh, lust, or tremble. There are recommendations from Owens and the staff, sections for local authors, family dramas, and books that have just been optioned. If this all seems a little overwhelming, you should probably avoid the section dedicated to books that make you anxious.

The Salt Eaters Bookshop

Inglewood
Inglewood native Asha Grant opened The Salt Eaters Bookshop in 2021 with a mission in mind-to centre stories with protagonists who are Black girls, women, femme, and/or gender-nonconforming people. Over the last year and change that it’s been open, it has also become a community hub, a place for Inglewood locals and people from across town to drop in, to see what’s new and to discover incredible works in the Black feminist tradition. They also host regular events like readings, discussions, and parties.

Lost Books

Montrose
Thankfully, legendary downtown bookshop The Last Bookstore’s name is hyperbole, and owners Josh and Jenna Spencer have even gone so far as to open a second shop, Lost Books in Montrose. Instead of the technicolour whimsy of the book tunnel at The Last Bookstore, Lost Books has a tunnel of plants that welcomes you into the shop, which opened in the summer of 2021. They sell those plants in addition to books, and coffee and vinyl too, which makes Lost Books a lovely destination and a fun little surprise in the quaint foothill town just off the 2 freeway.

Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe

Stories Books & Cafe

Echo Park
Ok, this one is fudging the criteria a little-Stories has been open for almost 15 years. But over those years the shop has become a pillar of Echo Park community life, hosting readings, discussions, and events, and their cafe tables function as a de facto office for about half of the neighbourhood on any given afternoon. After the tragic recent passing of co-owner and Echo Park fixture Alex Maslansky it seemed like the shop’s future was in doubt, but thankfully after a brief hiatus co-owner and co-founder Claudia Colodro and the staff were able to band together to reopen and keep the beloved cafe and bookstore going strong.

Page Against the Machine

Long Beach
The name alone makes it clear what you’re getting at Page Against the Machine-revolutionary progressive books, with a collection centred on activist literature, socially conscious writing, and a whole lot of political history. The shop itself is small but the ideas are grand, with fiction by writers like Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead, and Albert Camus next to zines about gentrification and compendia of mushroom varieties. They also host regular readings and discussions.

Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte

Re/Arte Centro Literario

Boyle Heights
Boyle Heights has its own small but mighty combined bookstore, art gallery, gathering space, and small press in Viva Padilla’s Re/Arte. Padilla is a poet, translator, editor, and curator, and as a South Central LA native and the child of Mexican immigrants, she’s focused on Chicanx and Latinx art, literature, and social criticism. Re/Arte’s collection has a wide range of books, from classic Latin American literature to modern essays and everything in between. Re/Arte is also now the headquarters for sin cesar, a literary journal that publishes poetry, fiction, and essays from Black and Brown writers. There are always community-focused events happening too, from regular open mics and zine workshops to film screenings and more.

The Book Jewel

Westchester
Most bookshops host events, but few host them with the regularity of The Book Jewel, the two- year-old independent bookstore in Westchester. Their calendar is so full with readings, several different book clubs, signings, and meet and greets that there are sometimes multiple events on the same day. The shop also hosts a ton of family-focused readings, with regular storytime on Sunday mornings often followed by a talk with the author. It’s a great fit for the relatively low-key (but not exactly quiet) suburban neighbourhood, and it’s no coincidence that storytime lines up with the Westchester Farmers Market, which takes place right out front.

Reparations Club

West Adams
Most bookstores lean into coziness, aiming to be a hideaway for some quiet contemplation or maybe a quick sotto voce chat-not so at Reparations Club, the exuberant and stylish concept bookshop and art space on Jefferson. Owner and founder Jazzi McGilbert and her staff have built a beautiful and vibrant shop full of art from Black artists, including books but also records, candles, incense, clothing, and all sorts of fun things to discover. There’s a perfect seating area to sit and hang out for a while, and they host a range of wild and fun events from readings to happy hours, panel discussions to karaoke nights and more.

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Ben Mesirow is a Staff Writer at Thrillist.

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