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.

Photo courtesy of SUMMIT
Photo courtesy of 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.

New York City may not be Dark Sky-certified, but 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, we promise 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.

Photo by Karen Blumberg
Photo by Karen Blumberg
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 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 Amateur Astronomers Association (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.

Justin Starr Photography/Shutterstock
Justin Starr Photography/Shutterstock
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 [email protected] or find her on Instagram.

Juliet Izon is a contributor for Thrillist.


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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