One of the best shows of summer takes place in August when the Perseid meteor shower hits the Northern Hemisphere with up to 100 shooting stars speeding by per hour. As if you needed an excuse for a summer roadtrip, here's your chance–set aside August 12-13 for an evening of stargazing. Leave the city lights behind and head to one of these 10 spots for spectacular views of the shooting stars.
Kielder Observatory offers prime views from one of Europe's best stargazing spots — Photo courtesy of Jake Cook via Flickr
1. Kielder Forest, England
Just near the Scottish border in Northumberland, England, in Kielder Forest you'll find one of the best spots for stargazing in Europe. The 580-square-mile dark sky zone is the third largest protected Dark Sky reserve in the world, which means zero light pollution plus the potential to see shadows of Jupiter and the Milky Way.
2. Tucson, Arizona
Tucson's mountain peaks boast the largest number of telescopes around the globe, so it's often referred to as the "Astronomy Capital of the World." Cozy up at the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains and catch the stars shooting by from your blanket or through a telescope at one of the many observatories dotting the nearby mountaintops. Spots like The Westin La Paloma also have a cosmic concierge on hand to guide you through stargazing over s'mores.
3. Finger Lakes, New York
Since the Finger Lakes are nestled in an area with low light pollution, they make for the perfect place to sit back and watch the stars. Tucked between Keuka and Seneca Lakes, Los Gatos Bed & Breakfast takes guests on a tour of the sky, setting up telescopes, binoculars and charts to help you sort through the difference between star clusters and nebulae dotting the night sky.
Camp under the stars at La Bulle du Cians near Valberg — Photo courtesy of Pierre Turtaut
4. Mercantour National Park, France
Just an hour-and-a-half away from the glitzy resort towns lining the French Riviera the terrain transforms into mountains leading into the Mercantour National Park, prime stargazing territory. One of 10 national parks in France, the area is teeming with picturesque spots to watch the meteor shower, but one in particular near the ski village of Valberg takes sleeping under the stars to a new level. At La Bulle du Cians you'll be outfitted with everything you need to catch the Perseids from your very own bubble dome–telescope included.
5. Death Valley National Park, California and Nevada
During the New Moon when Death Valley's dunes darken, rangers pull out all the stops when it comes to stargazing, setting up high-powered telescopes so visitors can catch the starry sky at its finest. One of the naturally darkest skies in the country with minimal light pollution, Death Valley has earned a title as the third International Dark Sky Park in the U.S. National Park System.
6. Denali National Park & Preserve, Alaska
Denali National Park's hours of daylight start getting shorter mid-August, just in time for the Perseid meteor shower, with a prime stargazing window taking place from midnight until 2 or 3 a.m. While watching shooting stars, you may even be lucky enough to catch glimpses of the Aurora Borealis as the summer nights get darker.
Stargaze on the dunes in White Sands National Monument — Photo courtesy of Daveynin via Flickr
7. White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
Covered with white gypsum sand, the 275-square-mile desert in New Mexico is quite an impressive site to see as the sun sets and the stars come out. If you happen to be here during a full moon, you can take part in a hike over the lit-up sand dunes or opt to camp out and catch the meteor shower on the world's largest gypsum dune field in one of 10 backcountry campsites.
8. Big Bend National Park, Texas
On a clear night, Big Bend boasts a sky lit up with over 2,000 stars overhead thanks to the limited light pollution–the least amount out of any national park in the lower 48 states. Located in the Chihuahuan Desert on the Mexican border, the International Dark Sky Park offers stargazing parties as well as ranger-led night tours with stellar views of the Milky Way and meteor shower.
9. Big Pine Key, Florida
Just near Big Pine Key, the annual Winter Star Party takes place each February drawing astronomers from around the globe to catch southern constellations like the Southern Cross that can only be seen in the Continental U.S. from this very spot. The location and lack of bright city lights makes this Key a great place for sitting under the stars year-round, so pull up a mat under the palm trees and catch the meteor shower with the sound of the waves in the not-so-far-off distance.
10. Joshua Tree National Park, California
The California coastline is far too light-polluted to catch shooting stars, but if you head a few hours away from San Diego or Los Angeles, you'll come to Joshua Tree National Park, a top pick for camping under the dark open sky. Make your way to Cottonwood Spring Oasis, once a hotspot for gold miners, and get ready for some of the best stargazing in Southern California with the summer Milky Way stealing the show.