You may not know your eclipse from your penumbra but you still thrill at the sight of a falling star. Share that sky-high feeling with your own starry-eyed wonders by trying these stellar picks for celestial-inducing oohs and ahhs that make it worth keeping them up past bedtime.

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Go to Paris. Paris, Va, that is.
Cruise an hour west of NoVa near Paris Va. to escape the bright city’s lights and find the perfect stargazing site at Sky Meadows State Park. Each month, the park opens at night for a Saturday night star party, that includes a half-hour program for kids ages 7-12 presented by Air and Space Museum Albert Einstein Planetarium staff, a night sky orientation and (cross your fingers for clear night skies) an opportunity to see the stars and planets up close and personal through a telescope. With a little night luck, you and the kids will share the real deal of the Milky Way. Cue the star soundtrack for the ride home. We are stardust. We are golden. Insider Tip: Bring flashlights but cover them with a brown paper bag. Stargazing etiquette is to keep things dark. A brown paper bag lets you see but it is not a bright light.

Sky Meadows State Park
1012 Edmonds Ln. (Delaplane, Va)
Cost: $5/car
540-592-3556
Online: dcr.virginia.gov

We Don’t Need No Stinking Telescope
You can watch the International Space Station travel across the sky without a telescope. NASA’s Spot the Station website delivers all the deets on when and where in the night sky to look for the coolest flyby in your corner of the universe. Wait for the longer flight durations (5-6 minutes) and pass on the 3:34 am flyby; this craft will orbit around again. Pro tip: Sneak a test run so you’ll be ready to help your space explorers spot the astronauts wave as they pass by in the space station. Oh, when it says 9:52 pm, they mean it. You snooze, you lose. Jaw-dropper fact you can casually mention to the kiddos: Space Station is moving 5 miles per second or somewhere around 17,500 miles per hour. Whooosh!

Online: spotthestation.nasa.gov

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Fantabulous night for a Moondance
Come Sept. 9 head outside with the kids in PJs and gawk at the superdooperest super moon you’ll see all year (there are three of them, and this is the last one). Read them their bedtime story by moonlight. If Goodnight Moon is an old cliché (do they ever tire of that book?) try Kitten’s First Full Moon. Some North American Indian tribes call the full moon the Green Corn Moon or Sturgeon Moon. What would your family name this moonzilla? Weather permitting, howling and dancing are recommended.

Icarus Couldn’t, But You Can
Go ahead get close to the sun and stare. No worries—you and your mini sunbeams can gawk safely at sunspots through the really big telescope at the Public Observatory, just outside of the east terrace of the Air and Space Museum. If you are lucky you will also see a moon crater and Venus, too. Umbrella warning: If it is cloudy or rainy the Observatory is closed.

Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory
National Air and Space Museum
Independence Ave. at 6th St., SW (National Mall)
Open: Wed.-Sun., 12 pm-3 pm
Online: airandspace.si.edu

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Monthly Stargazing Fix
Satisfy your stardust jonesing with a fix at these local planetariums, observatories and sky watching events online.

  • Rock Creek Planetarium and Nature Center
    5200 Glover Rd., NW
    202-895-6070
    Online: nps.gov
  • Arlington Public Schools
    David M. Bowen Planetarium
    426 N. Quincy St. (Arlington, Va)
    703-228-6070
    Online: aspsva.us
  • University of Maryland Observatory
    3200 Metzerott Rd. (Adelphi, Md)
    Online: astro.umd.edu

 Where do you go to stargaze? Give us the scoop in the comments section below. 

—Linda Bennett

Photo courtesy of Lotzman Katzman via Flickr, Sage Ross via Flickr, Anthony Crider via Flickr