From stargazing meet-ups to museum events, these are the best astronomy activities around town
Do you have a budding astronomer in your family? Is your little one always looking to the stars? New York City has plenty to offer to kids interested in space and the universe. We’ve rounded up the best family-friendly places to visit with kids who are obsessed with space. From planetariums and museums to observatories and amateur astronomy star parties, check out everything that NYC and its surrounding area has to offer for astrophiles.
Space Events and Exhibits in NYC
Beyond the Light at Artechouse
Sit down on one of the provided cushions and watch the projected images dance around and beneath you. For “Beyond the Light,” Artechouse collaborated with NASA scientists to create a visual representation of the data collected from space over the years. The immersive art experience was crafted with the help of the latest technologies, including AI-created visuals, an original musical score crafted from galactic data, and stunning images from the new James Webb telescope. Each presentation lasts about half an hour and loops seamlessly. An on-site is available with space-themed cocktails (the baristas are also adept at turning these into mocktails for the little ones!). Sit down, relax with a drink in hand, and let the experience wash over you!
On display through Sep. 30, 2023
439 W 15th St.
Stargazing on the High Line
Head to the High Line every Tuesday evening through October for telescope viewings of the night sky. Knowledgeable hosts from the Amateut Astronomers Association will be on site from sunset to park closure to guide visitors in their exploration of stars, planets, constellations, and beyond. State-of-the-art telescopes will be available for visitor use—no experience necessary! The program is free and open to aspiring astronomers of all ages.
Every Tue. from sunset to 30 minutes before the park closes, Apr. 4-Oct. 31
Gansevoort St. To W. 30 St. bet. Washington St. and 11 Ave.; meets at 13th Street
Astronomy Nights at Summit One Vanderbilt
It can be difficult to find a good place to view the stars among all the lights of NYC. Rise above the lights—literally!—for the best views, literally. SUMMIT’s Astronomy Night gives you an incredible view of the NYC night sky from over 1,100 feet above the Manhattan streets. Hosted by the Amateur Astronomers Association, these stargazing events give visitors access to telescopes and expert guidance. This event is held about once a month, and umis included in the entry fee to the summit. While you’re there don’t forget to look down through the clear floor to see the twinkling lights of the city, much like stars themselves!
Certain Wednesdays through October
45 East 42nd St.
Stargazing and Astronomy Speeches with the Amateur Astronomers Association
Besides the High Line and the SUMMIT, the Amateur Astronomers Association hosts other star viewings at various times and locations around NYC throughout the year. While some events are members-only, others are open and free to the public and all ages. Each stargazing meet is guided by members of the association, who’ll show you everything from how to use a telescope to how to find celestial bodies in the sky. Check the website to find an upcoming event!
Various times and locations
Columbia Astronomy Public Outreach at the Pupin Physics Laboratory
For the older or more serious junior astronomers, Columbia University’s public outreach programs might be a good option. The program is held at the Pupin Physics Laboratory and consists of a number of opportunities to interact with telescopes and experts. There are free public lectures, guided star-gazing sessions, Q&A with scientists, slideshows of astrophotography, and more. Once in a while, the program sets up their telescopes at the corner of 125th St. and Adam Clayton Powell Blvs. During the summer, you can also catch sci-fi movie screenings, followed by lectures analyzing the science in the movie. And if that isn’t enough for you, you can catch Family Astro events, which are held three times a year and have activities aimed at kids ages 6-12.
Enter at Broadway and 116th St.
Star Parties at South Mountain Facility
Star parties with the Lehigh Valley Amateur Astronomical Society are a family-friendly affair. The events happen a few times a year and include a Planetarium show for parents with kids, and a presentation about space exploration. Throughout the event, you can go on tours of the observatory and look through the telescopes.
620 East Rock Road
Star Parties with the Westchester Amateur Astronomers Society
Party with the stars—at least, the ones in the sky! These star parties are held by the Westchester Amateur Astronomers Society once a month, with dates selected based on when the moon will be the least visible (if the weather’s not great, a make-up date will be scheduled). These parties are bring-your-own-telescope, but the regulars at the events are usually more than happy to share their telescopes and knowledge if you’re not sure if you want to commit to buying your own yet—and if you do decide to buy, you can bring it to an event to get help from the experts on how to set it up and use it. You can prepare for each star party by downloading the detailed PDF that shows which planets and notable objects will be visible on that night.
Ward Pound Ridge Reservation
Route 35 and 121 South
Cross River, NY
Stargazing in the Parks
The NYC parks’ Urban Rangers periodically hold astronomy nights in various parks around the city. These events provide telescopes for visitors to use and expert guidance to help kids along. Check the NYC Parks website to see what’s coming up!
Various times and locations
Astronomy Programs at the Library
If you’re looking for kid-friendly activities and educational programs about space, look no further than your local library. Libraries all around the city often hold astronomy programs for different age audiences. For example, as I’m writing there’s one program coming up that teaches kids about stars and galaxies through interactive demonstrations. Check the websites for the Brooklyn and New York Public Libraries to see what’s coming up near you!
Permanent Space Exhibits in NYC
The Rose Center for Earth and Space at the AMNH
Probably the most famous option for star-eyed young learners, the Rose Center at the American Museum of Natural History is the best place in NYC to learn about the universe. Literally walk through a scale model of the universe, where you can get a sense of size and distance. Speaking of scales, see how much you’d weigh on different planets. Plus, learn a vast amount of information about space through informational displays. Don’t miss the show at the Hayden Planetarium, displayed at a spectacular half dome above you (note that this show isn’t recommended for kids under 6, because it’s loud and dark!).
81st St. between Central Park West and Columbus Ave.
Upper West Side
The Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum
This museum, housed on a literal docked aircraft carrier, is a great place to learn about aviation, space exploration, and the US Navy. Among its many aviation and Navy artifacts, the aircraft carrier houses the prototype space shuttle Enterprise, as well as original artifacts, photos, audio, and film that showcase the history of the Enterprise and its role in shaping the space shuttle program. The exhibit is also home to the Soyuz TMA-6 space capsule, and you can get a bird’s eye view of it all from an observation deck. The Intrepid often holds special exhibits and events, sometimes held virtually, and even has sensory-friendly days for different age groups.
Pier 86, West 46th St.
New York Hall of Science
This kid-friendly, hands-on museum has plenty of ways to interact with STEM topics for the youngest in your family. Spark a love of space exploration with the interactive exhibits at the NY Hall of Science, where concepts of math and engineering are explored in a multi-disciplinary and approachable way. Of course, no trip to the museum is complete without a pit stop at the museum’s Rocket Park, where families can play mini-golf among actual space rockets and space vehicles parts.
47-01 111th St.
City of Stars Self-Guided Tour
NYC has so many more space-themed sculptures, parks, exhibits, and cool spots to explore, that you could make an entire list of them. Luckily, we don’t have to—the fantastic Neil deGrasse Tyson already has. In an article written in January 2002, Tyson creates a list of astronomy-related sites in New York City. The sites include the Atlas and Prometheus sculptures at Rockefeller Center, the stunning night sky and zodiac painted ceiling of Albertine Bookstore, the phases of the moon sculptures at South Park in Hunter’s Point, and many more. You can find a full list with descriptions at the Amateur Observers’ Society of New York. (An interactive map of them can be found here.) Embark on a scavenger hunt to check out all the items on the list, or keep an eye on the AOSNY website for the occasional guided tour opportunity.
Astronomy Exhibits Beyond NYC
The Vanderbilt Museum’s Planetarium Sky Observatory
Whether you visit the Vanderbilt Museum during the day or night, the planetarium and observatory has something to offer. That’s because the sky observatory has both nighttime and daytime telescopes for visitors to check out. You can even check out the changes that the sun undergoes in real-time, thanks to their H-alpha telescope. If you buy tickets for a show at the planetarium, you’ll also gain access to the rest of the museum, the grounds, and the mansion—so make sure to make time to explore! For those space lovers who also enjoy a day out in nature, you can check out the solar system hiking trail, which features a scale model of the Solar System. Just be aware that the trail isn’t beginner-friendly, as it features mixed terrain and drastic elevation changes.
180 Little Neck Rd.
Cradle of Aviation Museum
Long Island’s Air and Space Museum is a love letter to aviation and space flight. They display everything from hot air balloons and airplanes to spacecraft and lunar modules. Aviation fanatics will be thrilled at the expansive display, featuring over 75 air and space vehicles across eight themed galleries. Explore the history of flight, from the first few seconds off the ground to the first steps on the moon—and beyond! Plus, learn about Long Island’s own history in the aerospace world, and why it’s called the Cradle of Aviation. Visitors will be greeted by expert volunteers on hand to answer all their questions, and more easily distracted kiddos will be kept entertained with over 30 hands-on exhibits and a bunch of actual cockpits to climb around and explore. You can even download and print “Aerospace Quests,” a fun and interactive way to engage with the museum.
Charles Lindbergh Blvd.
Garden City, NY
The Dudley Observatory Loudonville, New York
The Dudley Observatory is three hours away from central NYC by car, but it’s well worth the drive. The observatory has tons of interactive experiences and programs for visitors of all ages that aims to present the science of space in an approachable way—whether you’re a kid or a scientist. Programs on offer include star parties, camps, and labs, as well as special events like “Ask an Astronomer” educational sessions, lessons, and dark sky observations. For a sneak preview at what the night sky has to offer, you can visit the observatory’s Facebook page, where you’ll find the informational Skywatch Line. This is where you can read a detailed explanation of what to look for in the sky tonight, any cool upcoming celestial events, and even some fun bits of history.
515 Loudon Rd.
The Alice and Leonard Dreyfuss Planetarium at the Newark Museum of Art
This planetarium is included with the admission to the Newark Museum of Art, and is a must if awesome shows are what you’re into. The planetarium is an interactive dome theater all about space science, with rotating shows that tend to contextualize the science of space within the realm of life on earth. At the time of this writing for instance, one of the shows being screened is “Stars of the Pharaohs,” a program that shows how ancient Egyptian knowledge of the stars contributed to their architecture and culture. Different shows have different age recommendations, so be sure to check the recs before you take the littles.
49 Washington St.