Many families are looking for outdoor activities and we wanted to share some thoughts about a fun family-friendly activity that you can do safely, right in your own backyard (literally). Despite being known as a concrete jungle, the city still has a lot to offer regarding natural spaces — including the sky. Yes, you can stargaze in New York City!

You may be wondering how anyone can stargaze in a city that never sleeps, but you don’t need to travel far to catch a glimpse of celestial bodies. Find the biggest bit of sky you can, choose a clear, cloudless evening, and keep warm as you take in the moon and the stars.

Stargazing lets your kids reconnect with nature. Aside from that, there are plenty of health benefits from stargazing which a lot of people are now discovering. The COVID-19 lock down kept everyone at home, taking a toll on their mental and emotional well-being. With nowhere to look but up, there has been a huge increase in interest in astronomy; an article by Claire Moore notes that high-performance binoculars are frequently out-of-stock around the country as the demand for them surges. Stargazing can elicit positive emotions and minimize stress caused by gadget use.

What to Prepare for Stargazing in the City

Packing a few tools for a night of stargazing can help keep kids entertained and comfortable. Here are three must-haves for stargazing:

A portable chair: Standing and looking up for an extended period can tire your little ones out, not to mention strain their necks. It may be best to bring chairs along. You can consider these camping chairs from Coleman which are small and light when folded, making them very portable. This model even has a zip-top soft cooler, mesh cup holder, and storage pocket — perfect for snacks and refreshments.

An astronomy telescope: It’s especially tricky to stargaze in a bright city like NYC, so investing in a telescope is a good idea. As these astronomy telescopes from Adorama showcase, there are lots of different telescopes, and they come at very different price points. The Celestron Powerseeker 127EQ, for instance, is an affordable model that’s easy to assemble. Similarly, the Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ is also considered a great starter telescope; you can even connect it to a smartphone app for supplemental educational resources. Telescopes can make the experience more interactive for your children, so don’t forget to have enough power for it!

A red-light flashlight: It takes some time for your eyes to adapt to darkness, so a red-light flashlight can help your children look at telescope markings, read a star chart, or find their stuff in the dark. Aside from providing visibility in the dark, you can also attach red lights onto your tripod legs so your little ones don’t trip in the dark.

Best Places to Stargaze in NYC

According to these tips from NASA, altitude is a big consideration for stargazing, as too-low altitudes contain haze, fog, and smoke that obscure your view. You can avoid the light and pollution in New York by going as high above the buildings as possible or looking for spots where the bright lights are a little muted.

Here are three of the best places to stargaze in NYC:

Carl Schurz Park: The picturesque Carl Schurz Park looks out over the East River and is one of the city’s best-kept secrets. In the daytime, this Upper East Side park is perfect for strolling or walking your dog; at night, it becomes a spot where stargazing events are sometimes held.

Alley Pond Park: In the middle of northeastern Queens sits the Alley Pond Park. With over 635 acres of forests, meadows, ponds, and marshes, it’s easily one of the best places to stargaze within the city. Plus, the Environmental Center also hosts several other kid-friendly nature activities.

Brooklyn Bridge Park: The Amateur Astronomers Association (AAA) of New York hosts events at the Brooklyn Bridge Park. You can even sign your family up for free stargazing sessions organized by AAA. This way, you can have them guide you through the experience.

If you are looking to stargaze in New York we hope this article has helped.