San Diego area residents and visitors are in for a special treat in February! Pick up your Museum Month discount pass at participating libraries or when you stay at a Hilton to enjoy 50% off the...
San Diego's sunny weather and shimmering coastlines aren’t the only perks worth swooning over. At one time, the county’s night skies were so clear that it became a sought-after spot for researchers to build astronomical observatories. While the city lights have changed the skies since then, the county still stands as an excellent place to stargaze. From surprising spots within the city to mountain getaways just outside of town, read on to find the best places for stargazing in and around San Diego.
Fleet Science Center
On the first Wednesday of each month, catch the San Diego Astronomy Association outside the Fleet Science Center during their “Stars in the Park” event in Balboa Park. This free telescope viewing immediately follows the science center’s “The Sky Tonight” show, which is a monthly astronomer-led planetarium show held in the iconic dome IMAX theater.
In addition to its beloved pies and apple orchards, the historic mountain town of Julian is known for its dark sky community and star-centered events. The big one is the Julian StarFest, an annual amateur astronomer event hosted by the SDAA every August. Year-round, however, visitors can enjoy sky tours put on by the Observer’s Inn or solo stargazing, preferably with a piece of pie in hand.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
For those looking to stay close to home, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is one of the best spots you'll find in the city. While you'll still have to battle the city lights of nearby Del Mar, the summer months allow for some clear skies and stargazing opportunities. Head down to the beach with a few blankets—just be sure to check the tide levels beforehand!
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
This internationally recognized Dark Sky Park, nearby California’s first International Dark Sky Community of Borrego Springs, is an absolute must for emphatic stargazers visiting the San Diego area. About an hour and a half drive from the city, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park’s expansive desert landscape lends for a brilliant and vastly clear night sky. Choose from a few campgrounds within the park and be sure to check out the monthly stargazing and moon-watching programs November through April.
Mission Valley and Old Town
For the more impromptu constellation chasers, Mission Trials Regional Park's Cowles Mountain offers great sky views with a little less air pollution than what you'll find in the city center. The trail is well-marked and popular, even at night, but still be prepared to bring water and flashlights for extra precautions.
While Palomar Mountain's astronomical research observatory closes in the afternoon, the nearby campground is an ideal spot to catch your favorite constellations come nightfall. The site comes equipped with special concrete pads designed for telescope usage and hosts a monthly (and free!) "Explore the Stars" party from April through October.
Just under an hour outside of San Diego, Mount Laguna offers all of the necessities for stargazing (no city lights, crisp air, 4,000-foot-elevation) while still maintaining a short distance back to civilization. Plus, there are a few great trails worth exploring during sunlight hours if you want to make a day getaway out of your trip!
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