2017 is a big year for those looking skyward, with a total solar eclipse scheduled to cross the U.S. on August 21st. Gear up for that big day by getting the kids interested in all things beyond our atmosphere. From museums to planetariums to gatherings of astronomy buffs, there are tons of opportunities to encourage your kids’ cosmic curiosity. Read on to see what’s available near you!

Photo: Chabot Space and Science Center

East Bay

Chabot Space and Science Center
The Chabot boasts three powerful telescopes allowing 180 degree access to the sky above. Two planetarium shows are included with each general admission to the center. Daytime viewing on the observatory deck happens on Saturdays and Sundays with volunteers available to point out the sun, moon or Venus. On Friday and Saturday evenings after the sky goes dark, visitors have complimentary admission to the observatory deck to access the telescopes.

10000 Skyline Boulevard
Oakland, Ca
Online: chabotspace.org

Lawrence Hall of Science Planetarium
A visit to the Lawrence Hall of Science is incomplete without a stop at the planetarium. Offering six interactive shows from 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., kids can learn how NASA’s Kepler space telescope discovered thousands of planets orbiting other stars or how astronomers measure stars and galaxies without ever going out into space. Planetarium tickets are $4 in addition to the admission price.

One Centennial Drive
Berkeley, Ca
Online: lawrencehallofscience.org

hiller aviation starlab

Photo: Hiller Aviation Museum


Starlab Planetarium at the Hiller Aviation Museum
Crawl through a short tunnel to enter the Starlab Planetarium and you will be rewarded with glittering stars projected overhead. Learn about the constellations, planets and more in this one-of-a-kind show. Ideal for kids 5 and up, tickets for the shows can be purchased at the museum gift shop on the day of the show. Check the online calendar for showtimes.

Hiller Aviation Museum
601 Skyway Road
San Carlos, Ca
Online: hiller.org/event/starlab

Photo: Chabot Space and Science Center

South Bay

Montalvo Arts Center
Once per summer, Montalvo welcomes astronomers of all ages to join them for their Starry, Starry Night program. Stargaze through telescopes set up on the Great Lawn, engage in cosmic art-making activities and be transported by star-inspired stories and poetry. After enjoying the evening’s festivities, you are welcome to roll out your sleeping bags and sleep under the stars. The event concludes the next day with a pancake breakfast.

Date: June 22-23
Price: $50/adult, $25/child
15400 Montalvo Road
Saratoga, Ca
Online: montalvoarts.org

DeAnza College Fujistu Plantetarium
Head to DeAnza College for some out of this world fun! In September through March they offer afternoon programs on Saturdays and Sundays for families. Programs like “The Magic Tree House” teach kids about the night sky with presenters available to answer questions. Special for 2017, learn about the eclipse this summer by attending one of their showing of “Totality” – an examination of how and why eclipses occur. (Showing on June 24, July 15, July 29, August 5 and August 12.)

21250 Stevens Creek Boulevard
Cupertino, Ca
Online: planetarium.deanza.edu

San Jose Astronomical Association
Join the San Jose Astronomical Association as members set up telescopes and share their knowledge with the public at their free In-Town Star Parties and special events like the Mercury Transit. All ages welcome. If you have your own telescope, arrive early to set it up. An hour before the star party, there is an astronomy talk which is also open to the public.

Various locations in and near San Jose
Online: sjaa.net

Halley Hill Observatory
The Halls Valley Astronomical Group hosts monthly star parties at Joseph D. Grant County Park in the hills east of San Jose. Telescope docents are present to point out stars, planets and more to kids and parents alike. Book a nearby campsite for the weekend to get the full experience and avoid having to drive down the windy road at night. Looking for more nearby stargazing adventures? Check out the Lick Observatory on top of Mt. Hamilton for their stargazing events.

Joseph D. Grant Park
18405 Mt. Hamilton Road
San Jose, Ca
Online: hallsvalley.org/starparties

Mt. Tamalpais star party

Photo: John Belew via San Francisco Amateur Astronomers


Astronomy Nights on Mt. Tamalpais
Mt. Tam is the site of a gathering of the San Francisco Amateur Astronomers group where the public can hear a lecture on topics like how black holes can blow bubbles or how astronomers measure distances to far-away galaxies. Lectures are followed by public viewing through the telescopes. The group meets monthly from April through October.

Mt. Tamalpais
3801 Panoramic Highway
Mill Valley, Ca
Online: sfaa-astronomy.org

Photo: SFSU Observatory

San Francisco

City Star Party and Telescope Night
Join the San Francisco Amateur Astronomers group and other star-lovers at this monthly gathering in San Francisco. Monthly location varies so check the schedule for this month’s spot. New members who bring their telescopes will have access to the collective wisdom of more-experienced members to answer scope questions. Or wait in line to see if you can see the rings of Saturn in one of the group’s telescopes that are set up for public viewing.

Online: sfaa-astronomy.org

San Francisco State University Observatory
During the fall and spring semesters, the public is invited to join students and professors for viewings on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights at the SFSU Observatory. The observatory houses four telescopes and knowledgeable folks are always present to answer questions.

1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, Ca
Online: physics.sfsu.edu

Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Sciences
The 75-foot dome at the Morrison Planetarium provides a virtual view of the cosmos that precisely mirrors its real-world counterpart. See traditional star programs, special films and even live broadcasts from Academy scientists in the field. Tickets to the planetarium are included with admission.

California Academy of Sciences
Golden Gate Park
55 Music Concourse Drive
San Francisco, CA
Online: calacademy.org

fremont peak state park

Photo: Kate Loweth

Worth the Drive

Fremont Peak Observatory
Looking for a stargazing road trip? Head down to San Juan Bautista and then drive up to the Fremont Peak Observatory. Every Saturday from April through October when there is not a full moon, the observatory is open to the public with a discussion followed by viewing through the 30-inch diameter “Challenger” Newtonian telescope. Daytime solar programs are held on certain days from 2-5 p.m. where special filters are used to see details on the surface of the sun. Make a night of it with camping at Fremont Peak State Park and walk over to the observatory for the show.

San Juan Bautista, Ca
Online: fpoa.net

Where do you take your stargazers for some telescope time? Let us know below!

-Kate Loweth