No matter how old we are, what we do or where we’re from, many of us have one thing in common: a childlike excitement for seeing a night sky full of shining, twinkling stars. So, it comes as no surprise that, all around the world, there are places made for stargazing—with skies so dark, you can see constellations, galaxies, stars and planets that you can’t see in most areas of the world.

Here are seven places to “ooh” and “aah” at the stars during your next vacation, so you can experience the wonder for yourself:

1. Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah

This national monument was the first Dark Sky Park certified by the International Dark-Sky Association. One of three natural bridges in the park, the Owachomo—named in honor of the Hopi people who once resided there—is said to create a window to more than 15,000 stars. (You can see fewer than 500 in most cities!) This park also offers guided events during the summer and a custom 16.5-inch Newton telescope to view everything from galaxies to planets.

Get the best view of: the Milky Way

Where to stay: Planning an overnight stay at Natural Bridges will take some preparation as there’s no running water, electricity or hookups. However, the campground is located next to the monument’s visitor center off the main park road, and each campsite comes with a grill, picnic table and tent pad—perfect for a night of stargazing.

2. The Headlands in Michigan

Sitting along the shoreline of Lake Michigan, Headlands International Dark Sky Park is one of the most sought-after destinations for stargazing in the country. The 1-mile Dark Sky Discovery Trail takes you straight from the entrance to the official viewing area, where you can see thousands of stars. Pro tip: Visit the Headlands during a meteor shower to watch the falling stars’ reflection dance on the waters of the Great Lake.

Get the best view of: the northern lights

Where to stay: Book a night on site at the Guest House at the Headlands or head downtown to AAA Three Diamond Bridge Vista Beach Hotel for a float down the lazy river and more family fun at the indoor water park.

3. Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska

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When looking for the best places to stargaze, Alaska is at the top of the list. The 6-million-acre Denali National Park and Preserve houses North America’s tallest peak, which is surrounded by forests and wildlife—and, of course, has hardly any light pollution. Visit after the second week of August to get a better chance of seeing phenomenal views of the northern lights, as the amount of darkness in the sky increases as Denali turns further away from the sun.

Get the best view of: the northern lights

Where to stay: AAA Three Diamond Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge is the closest place to stay, only a mile away from the park, with views of the park and the Nenana River.

4. Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park in Florida

One hundred miles south of Orlando lies the 54,000-acre grassland that doubles as a home to many rare and endangered species—a perfect place for photographers, birdwatchers and animal lovers to visit. And, in 2016, this state park also became Florida’s first Dark Sky Park thanks to its low light pollution, where the sky turns “inky black.” It even has astronomy viewing pads available to reserve online for gazing at the stars.

Get the best view of: Jupiter, Saturn and the Milky Way

Where to stay: Plan a night at the on-site, full-facility campsites available for tents and RVs—perfect for pairing your stargazing with other daytime activities like hiking, biking and horseback riding.

5. Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania

As one of the darkest places on the East Coast (that’s also open year-round), this 82-acre Dark Sky Park, which sits inside the 262,000-acre Susquehannock State Forest, hosts laser-guided night sky tours. Enjoy learning all about the area’s legends and myths while exploring the stars, planets and other deep space matters through the park’s telescopes. There’s even the Overnight Astronomy Observation Field that stays open to the public—all night, every night.

Get the best view of: the Milky Way and the Sagittarius and Cassiopeia constellations

Where to stay: The nearby AAA Approved Westgate Inn along the Allegheny River is perfect for a comfortable night in or opt for the outdoors at one of the park’s own campsites.

6. Death Valley National Park in California

Death Valley is known as a “land of extremes” for many reasons: It’s the hottest, driest and lowest national park in the U.S. It’s also the largest Dark Sky Park (more than 5,000 square miles) with one of the darkest views of the stars the country has to offer—in spite of its proximity to both Las Vegas and Los Angeles. During the summer, park rangers host talks and tours, and telescopes are available for your night sky viewing pleasure.

Get the best view of: the Milky Way

Where to stay: If you’re traveling with a high-clearance vehicle (SUV or truck), plan to stay at the Mahogany Flat Campground. The road to the campsite is steep and rocky—but worth it, as it’s the highest point in the park where you can stay overnight.

7. Mauna Kea in Hawaii

The summit of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island, is a staggering 13,803 feet above sea level, making it an ideal location for the world’s largest astronomical observatory. Its atmosphere is so dry it’s almost cloud-free—meaning the likelihood of a clear night is extremely high. And, with an island-wide ordinance that regulates outdoor lighting, the chance for an extremely dark sky is high, too. Mauna Kea has many options for tours up to its peak to enjoy stargazing and to witness panoramic views unlike anywhere else.

Get the best view of: the Crux and Southern Cross constellations

Where to stay: Visiting Mauna Kea means driving a bit from lodging, but the hour-and-a-half-away town of Hilo has you covered with AAA Three Diamond Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, equipped with ocean views that make the drive worth it.

Plan Your Stay to See the Stars

From Alaska to Hawaii and places in between, a local AAA Travel Advisor can help you plan and book a trip.

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