Travelers seeking experiences beyond beach views and mountain vistas, may find a trip across galaxies holds more appeal. For a destination that’s out of this world, look no further than these incredible planetariums across the United States. The exhibits and displays are sure to satiate a variety of interests, and have something for everyone, from the resident techie to budding astronomer to occasional stargazer alike. Whether you decide to plan your trip around a planetarium visit, or make it a stop along the way, you’ll find no shortage of vacation rentals near these seven top notch establishments.
The Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Illinois, is noteworthy for being America’s first planetarium. But it’s come a long way from when it first opened in 1930. The public museum is home to not one, but three different theaters, equipped with new projectors and sound systems. Visitors can watch featured shows about the solar system and the cosmos, in addition to viewing the various exhibits. The planetarium also offers dozens of opportunities specifically catered to young explorers. Events range from drop-in programs for guests to extended workshops or camps for kids and teens. For grownup guests with childlike spirit, the museum has a world of programs and events to explore. After taking a peek through the largest public aperture telescope in the Chicago area at the Doane Observatory, experience the 1913 Chicago night sky in the Atwood Sphere. After taking a lunch break in Galileo’s Cafe while drinking in views of Lake Michigan, take your pick from the 60,000 square feet of exhibitions. The Adler Planetarium is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. General admission tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for kids over the age of 3.
As if New York City didn’t already have a wealth of museums to explore, the American Museum of Natural History presents yet another option for entertainment. The Hayden Planetarium, which is part of the museum’s Department of Astrophysics, is where visitors can take interactive tours of the solar system and learn more about the birth of the universe. The planetarium boasts the world’s largest cosmic atlas, one that reaches from the Earth to the edges of the universe as we know it. The constantly changing views of the night sky are perfectly captured in the full-dome, high resolution system in the Hayden Sphere Star Theater. In addition, the planetarium hosts lectures and events for the public to learn more about the universe. And because the planetarium is part of the larger Museum of Natural History, visitors can pop out of space to learn more about earth’s creatures, historical figures, mummies and more through the museum’s other exhibitions. General admission tickets are $23 for adults and $13 for children ages 2 to 12. Pay-what-you-will admission is available in person at ticket counters. Museum hours are from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.
Part of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Burke Baker Planetarium offers some of the most high-tech virtual trips through the galaxies. Visitors can virtually travel to stars, black holes, the planets and more on a 3D flight through space. The planetarium uses one of the most advanced projectors in the world alongside a digital stereo sound system to give guests an immersive experience. Science fans will find the museum a dream come true, because alongside the space place, there are exhibits on energy, chemistry, geology and more. Another perk of this planetarium is its prime location near many of Houston’s best attractions. Visitors can take a stroll through Rice University’s campus, schedule a stop at the Children’s Museum or check out art in several museums nearby. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for kids. The museum is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the planetarium is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
At one of the most iconic landmarks in southern California, visitors will find the Samuel Oschin Planetarium located at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. One of the most beloved destinations for tourists and locals alike, the Griffith Observatory sits on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood, just above an equally renowned park of the same name. The observatory, the third of its kind to open in the United States, is free to the public. The planetarium offers live presentations and shows at modest prices of around $3 to $7. An ideal destination to spend the day, visitors can pack a picnic for an afternoon in the park followed by a trek up the slope to see the famous Hollywood sign. Enjoy the sunset over the Los Angeles skyline, and then marvel at the cosmos extending its reach to this picture perfect California destination.
Travel to the dark side of the moon with a visit to the ExploraDome in Minneapolis. Each show put forth by the University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum is different, because the audience gets to decide where the tour goes. The theater only seats 15 people, so museum officials recommend reserving tickets ahead of time. Even kids as young as prekindergarteners can enjoy the tour, and ask questions to the planetarium educator who presents the show. Also a big plus for kids is the highly interactive Touch and See Discovery Room, and “Saturday with a Scientist” event. If you’re looking for food, or brain food, you can grab some nosh at Cafe Scientifique and participate in one of the lively talks led by guest speakers from the University. The university also offers folm and art collections, as well as exhibits on various animals and plants.
Part of what makes the Albert Einstein Planetarium so special is that it’s a part of the sprawling Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in the nation’s capital. The planetarium boasts of being one of the most technologically advanced in the country, with a brand new full dome system project with ultra high definition visuals. Think your HD TV offers a quality picture? The visuals in Einstein’s dome are 16 times the resolution of your high definition television set! After getting your fill of the massive models of planes, aircraft and other flying objects inside the Air and Space Museum, spend some time under the stars. Visitors can choose from a variety of different shows, which are about 25 minutes long. Guests can also appreciate the daytime sky from the Phoebe Waterman Haas public observatory, which also has hands on and interactive activities. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
When it comes to all things tech, few places can rival San Francisco. That’s why it should come as no surprise that the Morrison Planetarium, located inside the California Academy of Sciences, is one of the leading all-digital planetariums in the world. The 75-foot domed planetarium is just one of two domes that top the California Academy of Sciences building. It’s part of a 2.5-acre “living roof” for the green building, created from sustainable materials. In addition to all the nature and incredible views of the universe offered at Morrison, the Academy also has an aquarium and all natural history history museum. Add in after-hours and sleepover events, and party with the stars all night long. General admission hours are Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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