Need Some Space?

6 Stargazing Spots Houstonians Should Visit

Count constellations at these interstellar locales within reach of the city center.

By Alexia Partouche

For a place called Space City, Houston’s starscape leaves much to be desired. Our beloved metropolis produces enough light pollution to flood the night sky—and as a result, sadly dim our hopes of stargazing. 

Nevertheless, amateur Houston astronomers shouldn’t count themselves out of all the fun: dark skies are within your reach, though it will take a set of wheels. So pack your telescope, fill up your tank, and head to one of these cosmic destinations. 

Brazos Bend State Park 

If you’re looking for something close to home, Brazos Bend State Park is the ideal stargazing location. At this spot less than an hour from Downtown, the city’s infamous light pollution is still a little visible, but not so much that it ruins the night sky. Star seekers can look forward to traversing the park’s many trails with their binoculars or settling down by the Brazos River with their telescope. If you stay overnight in a rented campsite, your stargazing won’t have to end at the park’s 10 p.m. closing time. 

Galveston Island State Park 

Although Galveston has its fair share of light pollution, one stargazing spot is still worthy of your time on Houston’s favorite island. Galveston Island State Park is located far enough from the heart of the city that you can enjoy clear skies and spottable constellations at night. Set yourself up on the beach side of the park with your binoculars, or stroll along the boardwalks while the stars shine down on you from above. After a long day of outdoor activities, make this park your last stop before heading home. Or better yet, camp out for the night! 

George Observatory 

While just strolling through Brazos Bend State Park at night will give you the chance to spot a constellation or two, the George Observatory offers guided tours of the stars. At this collaboration between the park and the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the museum equipped the observatory with everything you need to advance your astronomical education, including powerful telescopes, live camera feeds, constellation laser tours, and on-site experts. Use of the observatory requires a reservation in advance, but on the off chance your chosen night has overcast skies, you can still look forward to seeing previously captured images and taking a tour of the area. 

Houston Astronomical Society Dark Site 

Located 80 miles west of Downtown in Columbus is the Houston Astronomical Society’s Dark Site, a hard-core astronomy buff’s dream with various stargazing resources. Access to the site requires membership and orientation training, and if you want to visit their observatory and its three telescopes, you’ll need to participate in an additional training course. But if you’re up for the commitment, the membership dues and training are a worthy trade-off for impeccably clear skies closer to home. Plus, HAS membership includes opportunities to attend Texas Star Parties—stargazing gatherings that bring together amateur astronomers from across the state. 

Sam Houston National Forest

At first glance, a heavily canopied forest wouldn’t seem the ideal place to access clear, open skies. But in fact, Sam Houston National Forest’s trees are the key to its stargazing greatness. The forest is only an hour away from the city, but it’s just far enough for the tree canopy to block Houston’s light pollution, so the stars are the only things brightening the night sky. Rent a campsite and stay overnight to enjoy the atmosphere at its darkest, and while you’re waiting for the sky to dim, make the most of the forest’s trails and lakes by hiking, biking, and canoeing the day away. 

Sam Houston State University Observatory 

Just a little over an hour north of Downtown is the Sam Houston State University Observatory in Huntsville, which offers open observatory nights perfect for stargazing. Dealing with bad weather? Swap natural skies for the university’s planetarium, which provides free star shows to the public a handful of times every month. While it’s not quite the same experience as the one you’d get at the observatory, the shows provide an extra dose of interstellar educational content, covering topics like the hypothetical existence of a ninth planet in our solar system and the death and birth of stars. 

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