Stargaze At The World's Largest Urban Night Sky Spot At This Midwest Destination

The night sky has fascinated human beings across the globe since prehistoric times. Gazing up at the endless cosmos never ceases to leave us awe-struck and inspired. It helps us put our lives into perspective so we can see the big picture of our place with the grand expanse of space and appreciate our beautiful blue planet.

Examples of our fascination with space can be seen in art and music dating back thousands of years. Some of the very first cave paintings exhibit images that researchers believe represent constellations of stars in the night sky, indicating that the early humans used the night sky to mark the passage of time. Many of the most famous ancient ruins around the world are astronomically aligned. Early Europeans built structures like Stonehenge, which some researchers believe to be an early astronomical observatory. In North America, ancient sites of astronomical significance include Chichen Itza, Chaco Canyon, and one of the newest UNESCO World Heritage Sites, The Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks.

Sadly, for many modern-day humans, catching glimpses of the sparkling stars is a rare occurrence. Most people who live in urban areas are unable to see the wonder and beauty of a clear night sky due to light pollution. In order to protect and preserve the night sky in urban areas, the International Dark Sky Association established the Urban Night Sky Place Program. Chicago residents can enjoy epic night skies at Palos Preserves, which is the world's largest Urban Night Sky Place.

Palos Preserves partners with the International Dark Sky Association to protect the night sky

In 2016, a team of researchers discovered that more than 80% of people in North America are unable to see the Milky Way due to light pollution, and 99% live with some amount of light pollution, according to a study published by Science Advances. For many people living and vacationing in the United States, seeing a truly dark sky means traveling to remote places like Big Bend National Park, Bryce Canyon, or Arches National Park. Cross-country road trips can be inaccessible to some, so it's a good thing that the International Dark Sky Association is focusing on reducing light pollution in urban areas.

Palos Preserves published a Dark Sky Friendly Policy in 2020 and was officially dubbed an Urban Night Sky Place by the International Dark Sky Association in 2021. There is 1,000 times less light pollution in Palos Preserve compared to downtown Chicago, according to satellite radiance data. That means visitors will be able to see about four times as many stars.

The park closes at sunset, so the best way to enjoy the night sky is to visit during an astronomy event. Check out the event calendar online to see dates for events like nighttime star walks. For some family-friendly fun, attend a Star Party, which includes refreshments and family-friendly activities. It's a spectacular place to camp under the stars, without straying far from the city. 

Palos Preserves partners with the International Dark Sky Association to protect the night sky 

Palos Preserves offers camping year-round at Camp Bullfrog Lake, which is the best way to enjoy the beautiful starlit night skies outside of visiting during an astronomical event since the park closes at sunset. Options include tent camping, RV sites, and private cabins for travelers looking for comfort and convenience. Prices are higher during the peak summer season, and discounts are available for Cook County residents, veterans, and people visiting with non-profit organizations.

A visit to Palos Preserves is an excellent way to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city if you're traveling around Chicago, Illinois. Located just about 40 minutes from the city, it's perfect for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in nature. The flora and fauna of Illinois thrive in the expansive forest preserves of Cook County. Within the preserved land, you'll find diverse landscapes that include prairies, lush woods, savannas, and wetlands that support a variety of plant and animal life. Palos Preserves is the largest of the forest preserves at 15,000 acres.

The park is a popular spot for family-friendly outdoor adventures. There are more than 50 miles of hiking trails as well as some great routes for mountain biking. If you're interested in paddlesports, you can rent canoes and kayaks at some of the shallow lakes located throughout the preserves.