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Make it Rain: 9 Incredible Spots in the U.S. to Catch the Summer’s Best Meteor Showers

Everything is meditatively still, except the wind and the chirp of crickets as a pinprick of light traveling more than 30,000 miles per hour tears through the quiet. Spotting a meteor on any given night can be a thrill, but there’s a magical quality to sitting under the stars at the peak of a meteor shower as shooting stars appear one after another for hours on end. 

There’s something akin to the feeling of a dopamine rush in the tension of watching these meteor showers. You stare deep into time, waiting for comet debris to crash into Earth’s atmosphere and light up the sky overhead. Unlike the Northern Lights, you don’t necessarily have to travel far to see meteor showers, and they can often be spotted across the U.S. You simply need dark skies and good weather to witness the peak of a meteor shower.

While there’s not a specific “meteor shower season” (some of the best annual displays take place in the winter, including the occasionally bombastic Geminids), the summer and fall are great times to see showers because the weather makes it tolerable to sit outside for hours. 

There are plenty of warm-weather displays left to catch this year. While the Eta Aquariids peak on May 4 into the morning of May 5 (most displays are best seen after midnight on the night of their peak), with the potential to showcase 10 to 30 meteors per hour, the shower is typically visible until around May 28. There’s a dry spell before the Alpha Capricornids peak the night of July 30. This shower doesn’t produce many meteors, but among its scattered streaks, viewers will find bright fireballs. Finally, the last display of the summer is the best of the year, as the Perseids will peak the night of August 12. The moon will set just before midnight, providing perfect conditions until the dawn hours of August 13. The Perseids can unfurl up to 100 meteors per hour during this time. 

While you can see meteor showers under dark skies across the U.S., you can also make an event of it by heading to any of these nine spots that are a perfect setting for stargazing. Wherever you go, get out during this year’s meteor showers to unplug, connect with nature, and find something inspiring. 

Northern Minnesota

Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness are both certified International Dark Sky Parks by Dark Sky International. That certification means a park has worked to protect its sky from light pollution, and because of those ongoing efforts, its pristine skies are dark enough to see the Milky Way and other deep-space objects.

In northern Minnesota, however, it’s not just these parks that offer a grand view. Other areas around the Superior National Forest and the north shore of Lake Superior may not be certified parks, but are remote enough to escape most light pollution. Additionally, the area is far enough north that there’s a chance of spotting the northern lights, which are likely to appear more frequently in 2024.

Milky Way over Hollow Rock. Jackie Scherer

Salt Lake City, Utah

With low population density, gorgeous natural spaces and significant swaths of protected land, southern Utah is a stargazing paradise. (It’s also home to Under Canvas’ Lake Powell – Grand Staircase camping area, the first-ever Dark Sky Lodging.) However, don’t sleep on the area around Salt Lake City in the north. While light pollution overwhelms most meteors around the city, you don’t have to go far to find a sanctuary. Antelope Island State Park, a certified Dark Sky park, is less than an hour from downtown, offering a view into the cosmos, particularly along its western edge, away from the city and looking out across the Great Salt Lake. 

Cottonwood Canyon is less than an hour from the city and also serves majestic night sky views. The nearby Solitude Mountain Resort is an accessible hub east of the city and even hosts stargazing programs on-site.

Antelope Island. Ryan Andreasen

Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania

The West’s abundant open spaces are perfect for stargazing. It’s harder to find dark skies in the more heavily populated East. Cherry Springs State Park is an exception, and the park takes stargazing seriously. Astronomy clubs from around the region flock to its Astronomy Field, which has a 360-degree view of the night sky. Situated in the Susquehannock State Forest, Cherry Springs even hosts annual star parties that attract astronomers and space enthusiasts from near and far. While it’s a good drive from Pennsylvania’s biggest cities, more than a few cozy cabins are available through services like Airbnb.

Cherry Springs State Park, PA. Tyler Rutherford on Unsplash.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California

The West is rife with alluring stargazing perches. It’s reasonable to expect that means Idaho, Utah, northern Arizona, western Colorado or Montana, but not southern California. However, just under two hours from San Diego sits the Dark Sky-certified Anza-Borrego State Park. By land area, it’s the second largest state park in the country, about two and a half hours from Los Angeles, traffic gods willing. Part of the Colorado Desert, its stargazing prowess is a beneficiary of its proximity to the Peninsular Ranges of Southern California, which helps keep the skies clear.

ABDSP Dark Sky Party. Senior Park Aide Pablo Espinosa/California State Parks, all rights reserved

Dripping Springs, Texas

Light pollution, which is actually just pollution, is almost impossible to escape. That places like Antelope Island or Cherry Springs exist is impressive because it’s not mere happenstance that dark skies sit overhead. It has taken the persistent dedication of environmentalists to protect the night sky in those locations. Dripping Springs is a special case that demonstrates how monumental the effort can be. 

Sitting between Austin and San Antonio, residents of Dripping Springs organized to protect the community from encroaching light pollution. Like other nearby International Dark Sky Communities such as Blanco, 25 miles to the west, Dripping Springs is a small, dark haven amidst a sea of light pollution. There are plenty of places to stay in those metro areas, but Getaway’s secluded and modern tiny cabin campground is less than 30 minutes from both Dripping Springs and Blanco.

Blue Rock Estate, Dripping Springs, United States. Your Friend Andy/Unsplash

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

The Upper Peninsula’s low population density and lengthy shoreline mean there are dozens of great places for stargazing. One of those is the passionately preserved Beaver Island, which offers some of the darkest skies available in the lower 48.

Like northern Minnesota, the UP is far enough north that stargazers not only find a front-row seat to meteor showers, but the aurora can appear from time to time. The UP also houses events like the annual Upper Peninsula Dark Sky Festival at Keweenaw Dark Sky Park and Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. Additionally, the lodge hosts stargazing and northern lights photography events for guests throughout the year.

Milky Way Over the Lodge. Chris Guibert

Beverly Shores, Indiana

Beverly Shores is only about an hour from Chicago, so it’s awe-inspiring that it has managed to secure Dark Sky status. Residents have dubbed it “The Island” because it’s bordered by Lake Michigan to the north and Indiana Dunes National Park to the east, south and west. It should be bookmarked by millions because it’s four hours or less from Chicago, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Madison, Detroit and Toledo. While it’s a day trip from some of those places, there are also charming Airbnb cabins in the city and surrounding area.

Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky

Mammoth Cave doesn’t just have access to the largest cave system in the world (not to mention excellent biking paths and gorgeous canoeing along the Green River). The national park is also Dark Sky-certified. From retrofitting outdoor lighting to garnering community support and building a plan for the future, Mammoth Cave went to a lot of work to gain the certification it received in 2021. It paid off. Visitors and residents can now take advantage of its immaculate dark skies as well as its ranger-led stargazing programs.

Mammoth Cave National Park. NPS

Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida

Big Cypress, which borders the Everglades to the south, managed to get DSI status back in 2016 despite being less than an hour and a half from Miami. It has been impacted by its close proximity to Miami and Naples, but continues to preserve its dark skies for stargazers and, more importantly, its impressively diverse ecosystem. Visitors will frequently find observation events hosted by the South Florida Amateur Astronomers Association at the Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center.

Sunset over the Big Cypress National Preserve. NPS

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