In a major metropolis, it’s sometimes a challenge to see through the smog and grit in order to catch a glimpse of a twinkling star or harvest moon. Fortunately, though Pittsburgh was heavily polluted in its steel heyday, it’s not so much in modern times. Much of the city provides apt places for the star or moon-gazer — you just need to know where to look.
Deer Lakes Park
1090 Bailey Run Road
Tarentum, PA 15084
Situated at an impressive 1,340-foot incline, Deer Lakes Park is an ideal area for astral body-gazing. Put a blanket down and lie back to take in all that Mother Nature has to offer — maybe even with a delicious picnic dinner — or head over to Wagman Observatory for some up-close-and-personal star watching. To use the facility, one must be a member of the AAAP, which requires no technical qualifications. To join or renew your membership, click here.
Buhl Planetarium Observatory
Carnegie Science Center
Astronomy aficionados rejoice: for a paltry $2.00, you’ll be granted access to one of the most high-tech stargazing observatories in the Western Hemisphere. Carnegie Science Center brings the wonder of space a little closer through Observatory SkyWatch on Friday and Saturday nights in the months of March through November. The Planetarium’s 16-inch Meade LX200 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope shows participants stunning details of the lunar surface and facets of the Milky Way, to name just a few things, all expertly guided by the knowledgable Carngie Science Center staff. Pro tip: if you fancy yourself something of an astronomy expert, bring your own telescope to share with others, and your admission fee is waived. It’s an out-of-this-world win for all.
Mingo Creek County Park
Finleyville, PA 15332
Grab your freshly-minted AAAP membership card again and head out to the Mingo Creek observatory that plays host to star parties approximately 10 weekends a year. These free events, organized by the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh, are held on one or two weekends per month from April to October. Look for the first quarter moon of the month, check sky conditions and grab your telescope, folding chairs and tons of snacks (though you might want to first call 724-348-6150 to confirm that the party is still on) and tuck in for a cozy evening brimming with glittering stars.
Pittsburgh, PA 15211
If you’re a city-dweller at heart and want to stay near your beloved area for a piece of stargazing action, check out Grandview Park on Pittsburgh’s iconic Mt. Washington. Close to city limits, with accessible parking and tons of space to spread your telescope, blanket and accouterments out, this clean and friendly city park has a gorgeous view of the city skyline, and sits at an impressive 1157 feet above the rivers. Now, amateur beware, even on the clearest, most cloudless night, the lights from downtown will interfere somewhat with your sky view. But if you don’t want to make a trek through two tunnels, dozens of suburban neighborhoods, and a trip down the turnpike to reach fields of green, this is your best bet.
The highest point above sea level is Brashear Reservoir in Observatory Hill, standing tall at a staggering 1,370 feet above sea level (well, staggering to Pittsburghers, to say the least). While you’re there, see the astral bodies you’ve been yearning for (but please bring a telescope!), but bear in mind that Observatory Hill’s views are panoramic of the whole area. Go up to Radium Street or Brashear Reservoir Parklet; from there, you can look from the Cathedral of Learning to McKees Rocks, and maybe even see three or four of Jupiter’s moons.
Related: Best Day Trips From Pittsburgh
Nikki Tiani-Moroney is a full time mom of two boys, wife of a professional poker player/photographer/amateur pencil-sharpening competitor and writer from Pittsburgh, PA. When she isn’t studiously neglecting her housework in favor of a good book, she’s out simultaneously fighting crime and picking up sidewalk litter while savoring an occasional cigarette. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.