If you have a little Galileo on your hands, you're in luck: New Jersey is home to a myriad of majestic outdoor stargazing locations, as well as many public observatories and astronomy clubs for the truly dedicated. With the proper equipment, information, and planning, your family can get an up-close look at planets, star clusters, and the moon.
Continue your celestial exploration at area planetariums, including those at Liberty Science Center and the Newark Museum.
Happy stargazing, NJ!
Outdoor Stargazing Spots
If your kids are curious about the vastness of the universe but you're not quite ready—or they're not quite old enough—for stargazing beyond the backyard trees, check out one of the following state or national parks. They might not feel the enormity of the universe, but young skygazers might be awed by the size and scope of the amazing views.
High Point State Park – Sussex
Hike up to the High Point Monument for breathtaking views of New Jersey's farmland and forest. Open 8am–8pm April 1 through October 31 and 8am–4:30pm November 1 through March 31.
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area – Columbia
Enjoy beautiful vistas of streams, ridges and mountaintops, as well as a portion of the famous Appalachian Trail at the Watergate Recreation Site.
Allaire State Park (Farmingdale), Bass River State Forest (Tuckerton), Belleplain State Forest (Woodbine), Double Trouble State Park (Bayville), and Wharton State Forest (Hammonton) also offer notable views. Call or check park web sites for seasonal hours of operation and special events since some parks are not open in the evenings during the fall and winter months.
When you're ready for some serious stargazing:
United Astronomy Club of New Jersey – Hope
The UAC hosts public programs each Saturday night from April through October from its observatory at Jenny Jump State Forest. Programs start at 8pm and are followed by stargazing / telescope observing until 10:30pm. Many of the programs are accessible to a general audience as well as kids.
Paul Robinson Observatory at Voorhees State Park – High Bridge
This observatory is home to the largest public telescope in New Jersey. From Memorial Day to end of October, the observatory is open each Saturday evening from 8:30–10:30pm, as well as every Sunday afternoon from 2–5pm. The observatory also offers a Young Astronomers Series geared toward younger stargazers (second or third Saturday of the month, from May through October, 6:30-8pm). Registration is required for this program.
John W. H. Simpson Observatory at Washington Crossing State Park – Titusville
The observatory, operated by the Amateur Astronomy Association of Princeton, is open Friday nights April through October from 8–11pm.
William Miller Sperry Observatory at Union County College – Cranford
The Sperry Observatory, as it's more commonly known, hosts public talks most Friday evenings throughout the year starting at 8:30pm. On these Fridays, the observatory is open from 7:30 to 10:30pm. Presentations for young audiences can be arranged, by request, at 7pm. Special events include Star Parties and the annual Astronomy Day celebration.
William D. McDowell Observatory at Richard W. DeKorte Park – Lyndhurst
Located at Bergen Community College, this observatory hosts free public programs throughout the year, including a viewing every Wednesday during the summer. Hours change with the seasons.
3M Observatory – Branchburg
See the skies through the 16-inch Meade telescope, or watch a digital star show at the Raritan Valley Community College Planetarium. Children's star and laser shows rotate every month in the recently renovated theater. The lobby of the theater also hosts some small exhibits geared toward children that round out your trip!
Astronomical Societies and Astronomy Clubs
New Jersey is home to several astronomical societies and astronomy clubs, including Morris Museum Astronomical Society (Morristown), West Jersey Astronomical Society (Gloucester City), North Jersey Astronomical Group (Montclair) Astronomical Society of the Toms River Area (Toms River), and South Jersey Astronomy Club (Petersburg). Call or email the groups for more information.
This article first published in 2012 and has been updated for 2018.