International Dark Sky Park


The Headlands, a beautiful 550-acre park just west of Mackinaw City, is one of six International Dark Sky Parks in the U.S. and one of nine in the world. Named a Dark Sky Park in May 2011, this designation means that The Headlands is a spectacular place for sky and star gazing.

A Dark Sky Park has minimal light interruption from nearby cities or places making it a perfect place to view the skies at night. The approval required a lengthy process by Emmet County, who owns and operates the park. As an official Dark Sky Park, the only one in Michigan, The Headlands must be open at all times and include an educational component about astronomy and maintain park lighting that is minimizes interference with star gazing.

The nation's other Dark Sky Parks are in Utah, Pennsylvania, Washington, Ohio, and New Mexico.

The Headlands contains two miles of pristine Lake Michigan beaches, rare and endangered plant life, and wild life including bald eagles and osprey. Trails through the park offer the opportunity to view the plant and wild life.

Throughout the year, the Headlands Dark Sky Park hosts night time events such as a Halloween event as well as those to celebrate a lunar eclipse or meteor shower. The Headlands Dark Sky Park already is drawing visitors from around the U.S. who travel to Northern Michigan to observe the sky in such a perfect setting.

2017 Programs

May 6, 6pm Photographing the Night Sky. An evening of learning how to photograph the night sky from those in the know, featuring the talented John Hill, who’s been capturing the starry skies over Headlands in rare style. Reservations will be required by calling 231-348-1713.

May 20, 7:30pm Preparing for the Great American Eclipse. With Tyler Nordgren, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Redlands in anticipation of what is already being predicted to be the most-watched celestial phenomena in history ~the Great American Eclipse of August 2017.

June 22 Grand opening of the Waterfront Event Center. Celebrate the influence of the stars in the cultural life of humanity and the natural wonders of Emmet County at the grand of opening the Waterftont Event Center and Observatory, with music, fine art, great food, and special guests.

July 1, 9pm Nature’s Fireworks with the Sky Giants Saturn and Jupiter. Peek through the Roger McCormick 20" PlaneWave Telescope in the Observatory Tower out into the planetary system to get optimal views of the Saturn giant and his Olympian son Jupiter. These two come together in conjunction only every 20 years (the next will be in 2020), creating a triangle form that precesses through the sky throughout history. Prepare for the coming conjunction by learning about the connections between Saturn and Jupiter in mythology, their influence on the world of astronomy, and more.

July 28, 9pm Making Wishes on the Lucky Stars of the Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower. The waxing crescent Moon sets a romantic stage for this beautiful Summer shower of falling stars; come early for the program, then stay late for making wishes! The Moon will set at midnight, leaving in its wake the greater part of the Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower activity, which usually peaks around 2am Don’t be fooled, the Delta Aquarid Meteors can be sparse, but they leave a persistent train and they move slowly, because of their sideways angle of approach through Earth’s atmosphere.

August 11, 9pm Perseid Meteor Shower and Lights Out Challenge. The brightness of First Quarter Moon doesn't stand a chance against local enthusiasm for Lights Out under the Perseid Meteor Shower. Join us for an evening of counting falling stars as the lights go out around Northern Michigan to celebrate the night sky! Headlands Dark Sky Park.

August 21, 2pm The Great American Solar Eclipse. If you aren’t able to get into the path of totality for the biggest celestial event of the year, you can view part of it through the solar telescope at Headlands. Only a partial eclipse will be visible from Headlands.

September 23, 7pm Autumn Equinox in Northern Michigan. The balance has been struck and at this program will follow Sun and Moon across the western horizon into the story and wonder of the growing dark.

October 6, 7pm It’s the season of Harvest Moon – a time to dance and celebrate the bounty of Earth and the shining stars! Entertainment TBA. There will be a charge for this program.

October 21, 8pm Headlands Challenge. Set the imaginations on fire with a one-mile candlelit walk. This year we dare you to "walk like an Egyptian." in honor of the constellation Orion, his association with the Ancient Egyptian god Osiris, and the peak of his Meteor Shower this weekend. Guests are invited to come in their best Egyptian-themed costumes.

November 17, 10pm Leonid Meteor Shower. It is the peak of the lion's meteor shower, and you are invited to join the Headlands Dark Sky staff for a beautiful night under starry skies.

December 21, 4pm Winter Solstice at the Waterfront Event Center. Gather in the sacred dark that accompanies the natural quiet of the season, for the song and ceremony of Earth and stars. Program will include live entertainment and supplies.

For more information:
Headlands Dark Sky Park
7725 E Wilderness Park Dr
Mackinaw City, MI 49701

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For more activities & attractions, check out these additional links for Things to Do in Northern Michigan:

Harbor Springs, Michigan -- Harbor Springs is the place to try new things! Rent a bike or a kayak, go snow tubing, attend a concert or an art fair, or play a round of golf with friends.
Petoskey -- There's so much to do in Petoskey from the Bear River Valley Recreation Area, to Petoskey State Park, to biking, golfing, hiking, and more.
Charlevoix, Michigan -- Visiting Charlevoix in Northern Michigan is a fun-filled vacation with great beaches, boating, skiing, fishing and year 'round family fun.
Things to Do in Boyne City, Michigan -- Nothing is quite like Boyne City in Northern Michigan with camping, boating, skiing, year 'round outdoor activities, and of course, the morel mushroom!
Lots of Activities in Mackinaw City, Michigan -- Explore Mackinaw City in Northern Michigan for history, the International Dark Sky Park, and outdoor activities.
Mackinac Island -- Take a step back in time and find lots of things to do when you visit Mackinac Island by horseback or bike--no cars allowed!
Northern Michigan Activities & Things to Do -- Northern Michigan offers many fun things to do for the entire family whatever the season, whatever the reason!
Last Updated: 05-02-2017 01:16 PM ID: 857