Kenner Planetarium

The Kenner Planetarium holds a celebration July 20 of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. 

Sometimes you just need to escape the city lights and the blazing summer sun — and take the time to gaze up in wonder at galaxies far, far away. Here are five star-watching spots in New Orleans and surrounding areas for when your backyard just isn’t cutting it.

The Gretna Observatory

1 Copernicus St., Gretna, (504) 363-1597;

The largest public observatory in the area is open to the public every Monday and Wednesday night when the sky is clear and is run by the City of Gretna with volunteers from the Pontchartrain Astronomy Society as moderators. Admission is free. Organizations and school groups can schedule special star observation sessions and star parties.

The Lakefront

Whether you’re on the Northshore or the South Shore, both ends of the Lakefront are getaways from light pollution, making them great places to watch the stars. Grab a bench or a blanket when the sun goes down and see for yourself. If you’re on the Mandeville side, just make sure to clear out by 2 a.m.

Audubon Park

6500 Magazine St.

Parks can be perfect for sky watching because they’re free and often secluded from the rest of the city. Just find a clearing away from the park’s iconic oak trees and get to viewing. The park closes at 10 p.m.

Highland Road Park Observatory

13800 Highland Road, Baton Rouge, (225) 768-9948;

If you’re feeling up for a day trip, the Baton Rouge observatory periodically hosts free special night viewing events. On June 28 from 8:30 p.m.-10 p.m. the public can view the waning crescent moon below the horizon. Check the website for more events.

Kenner Planetarium

2020 Fourth St., Kenner, (504) 468-7231

Those who want to ditch the outdoors altogether can still satisfy their inner space nerd with a trip to this 50-foot domed screen that shows astronomy and laser light show presentations. On July 20 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., the Planetarium will kickoff its celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with a new show, a talk by University of New Orleans (UNO) astrophysicist C. Greg Seab and a solar viewing at noon. The planetarium is to the public 10:45 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturdays and is open Tuesday through Friday by appointment. 

Don’t have a telescope? You can see the moon’s craters with just a pair of binoculars, says Pontchartrain Astronomy Society Secretary Nanette Johnson.

Wherever you are, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the Perseids meteor shower, which can be seen July 14 through Aug. 24 and is at its peak the night of Aug. 12. No special viewing equipment is required.

Follow Kaylee Poche on Twitter: @kaylee_poche