When Angelenos talk about seeing “stars,” they often mean the type on the red carpet. But there’s not an actor or actress alive who can hold a candle to the magnificence of the night sky. The universe might not appear as sparkly and vast here as it does in less-populated areas, but there are still plenty of opportunities to gaze up in wonder at the constellations, planets and moons.
The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (www.lamountains.com) regularly hosts free summer campfire and stargazing events, nature walks and educational workshops at parks and wilderness
areas throughout the Santa Monica Mountains. Stargazing events have taken place at downtown’s beautiful Vista Hermosa Natural Park, while evening campfires and marshmallow roasting are regularly held at sites such as Temescal Gateway Park, Marsh Park and King Gillette Ranch. Events can run as late as 9-10 p.m., so you might want to bring the kids in their pajamas.
You don’t need clear weather or even a night sky to go star gazing at Griffith Observatory (2800 East Observatory Rd., L.A.; www.griffithobservatory.org). The state-of-the-art Samuel Oschin Planetarium offers several different shows that will have families positively mesmerized by the vastness of our universe. Show tickets are a killer deal at $7 adults, $5 for seniors and students, $3 for ages 5-12 and free for ages 4 and younger. Children under 5 are admitted to the first show of the day only. The observatory also hosts outdoor public stargazing parties about once a month from 2-9:45 p.m., with upcoming events July 5 and Aug. 2 and 30.
Santa Monica College’s John Drescher Planetarium (Drescher Hall, Room 223, 1900 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; www2.smc.edu/planetarium) features a state-of-the-art digital projector, and offers narrated shows open to the pubic at 7 p.m. Fridays, with outdoor night sky “observing events” through a telescope offered after the show on clear nights. Shows are generally recommended for ages 6 and up, and tickets cost $6 for adults, $5 for children and seniors.
If you’re feeling adventurous enough to travel further afield, California Overland’s Celestial Overnight jeep tours ($225 adults, $150 ages 13-17, $90 ages 12 and younger includes dinner and breakfast; www.californiaoverland.com) in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park could be just the ticket. These special events are offered only a few times a year and include expert guidance by astronomer Dennis Mammana.