The Best Stargazing Sights near Space City

Grab your telescope and head to these out-of-this world stargazing spots in and around Houston.

Courtesy of the Museum of Natural Science
Courtesy of the Museum of Natural Science
Courtesy of the Museum of Natural Science

Despite being dubbed “Space City,” Houston is actually a pretty disappointing place to try and view the stars. If you’ve ever driven into the H at night, you know that our city’s stunning skyline can be seen from miles away. Unfortunately, that glow also radiates to the skies, with light pollution in Houston being some of the highest in the state of Texas.

That said, there are still a number of celestial events worth witnessing, like the ongoing Perseid meteor shower (visible through August 24). While the shower’s peak was expected this past weekend, there’s still time to catch this star-studded celestial show, and, if you’re willing to take a drive away from the city lights, you can do so without going too far from home. Keep reading for some of our favorite spots to stargaze near Houston.

Stargazing Spots Near Houston

Rustic Oaks Park

Rustic Oaks Park in League City has a surprisingly clear view of the night’s sky. The stargazing is so good down here that the Houston Astronomical Society, as well as other astronomy-centric groups use the park to host semi-regular gatherings at the park. While Rustic Oaks park is open for stargazing, it is not a campground, so don’t get too cozy.
Distance: 33 minutes

Lake Houston Wilderness Park

Take a trip out to New Caney and soak in the stars at Lake Houston Wilderness Park. Lake Houston’s 5,000 acres of wilderness provide a wonderful getaway from the bright lights of the city with plenty of spots to get a clear view of the sky.
Distance: 30 minutes

Brazos Bend State Park

Southwest of downtown Houston in a little town called Needville, you’ll find Brazos Bend State Park. With acres of wilderness trails and a substantial distance from Houston’s light pollution, Brazos Bend is one of the best (and closest) spots to catch a glimpse of the night’s sky. In fact, the sky sightings are so good here that it’s home to the Museum of Natural Science’s George Observatory. Tickets to the observatory are sold separately from entry to the park though, so if you’re hoping to get up-close-and-personal with the stars, be sure to book your ticket in advance.
Distance: 45 minutes

Huntsville State Park

Take 45 North and hop off near New Waverly to find yourself surrounded by towering pines and minimal light pollution. Comfortably positioned in the middle of nowhere, Huntsville State Park is an easy, and reasonably local place to catch a glimpse of a good night sky, particularly near the lake. Unlike national forests, there are camping fees associated with overnighting at state parks, so be sure to check ahead for availability and check in processes.
Distance: ~1 hour

Sargent Beach

Head to the coast if you like your stargazing served with a side of sand and sea. The sleepy little town of Sargent is far enough south (via HWY 288) that the Space City glow doesn’t quite reach its skies making it an ideal place for a serene celestial escape, Bring your telescope and park on the beach for a stargazing experience you won’t believe you found near the city.
Distance: 1 hour+

Sam Houston State University Planetarium

The observatory at Sam Houston State University is located about 10 miles north west of the SHSU Campus, making the drive from Houston a quick 1 hr and 15 minutes. The observatory is free and open to the public, and is an excellent family excursion. Visitors can check the SHSU observatory website for an astronomic event calendar, but you can also just show up during open hours and enjoy the facilities.
Distance: 1 hour and 15 minutes

Angelina National Forest

Get on Highway 59 North and head out to Angelina National Forest. Situated between the cities of Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Angelina is home to miles of hiking trails, serene waterways, and vast, dark skies once the sun sets. Overnight camping is free here, so bring your tent, your cooler, and your telescope to get a front row seat to the stars. Pro tip: try to snag a campsite on a waterway for panoramic sky views.
Distance: ~2 hours

Mission Tejas State Park

Halfway between Dallas and Houston, on the north edge of the Davy Crockett National Forest lies Mission Tejas State Park. North of Houston, Mission Tejas offers dark skies, miles of hiking trails and cozy camp accommodations. If you’re planning to catch the meteor shower here, you’re definitely going to want to make a campsite reservation. We promise it’ll be worth it.
Distance: 2 hours

Lake Murvaul

If you find yourself with a long weekend (or are just committed enough to stargazing that you’re willing to take time off for the best spots) you have to head to Lake Murvaul. The lake is vast and friendly to swimmers, boaters, and fishers alike, but the real star of the show (pun intended) is the crystal clear view of the skies that can only be found when you’re miles and miles away from any city with an HEB plus. The drive from Houston is a lengthy one but if you want a good view of the sky and a peaceful weekend getaway, I can’t recommend this one enough.
Distance: 3 hoursWant more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Jupiter Contreras is a Thrillist contributor.


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 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 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

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

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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