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The 7 Best Planetariums in the U.S.

May 1, 2023 By CityPASS

If you've ever been to one of the many star parties across the country, you know how many people appreciate watching the vast sky at night. But what if you don't own a telescope? Public planetariums are popular places to take your family when you're on vacation and looking for educational fun.

Of course, planetariums are more than just a lesson on space. They offer a chance for you to embark on adventures through the solar system or travel back in time to witness the dinosaurs. Most planetariums are also architecturally impressive. If you're searching for a planetarium to check out the wonders of space, the U.S. is home to some of the most technologically advanced planetariums.

Are you interested in stargazing or learning more about the planets in the sky? Then you need to visit one of these top planetariums. Let's look at seven of the best planetariums in the U.S.

7 Must-See U.S. Planetariums

In some areas of the United States, you can't see all the glorious stars in the night sky. Pollution, city lights, or too many buildings can hinder your view. Fortunately, many different planetariums with projection technology can simulate the precise sky map on a dome so that you can experience stars, planets, and other celestial events. We have narrowed down the top seven U.S. planetariums you must visit.

Adler Planetarium in Chicago

The Adler Planetarium in Chicago was first introduced to the Western hemisphere in 1930. It is the oldest planetarium in the U.S.

You can check out the Doane Observatory, which houses a large telescope that allows you to see stars and other bodies much further than you can see with the human eye. You can also stay for a show in the 70-foot dome theater and observe planets and other solar systems. You'll feel completely immersed in the night sky.

If you're looking for something child-friendly, you can visit the solar system exhibit, where you can touch a part of Mars and a moon rock. You can even make a small crater model with the crater maker.

Gates Planetarium at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science

The Gates Planetarium is located in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and offers a few stellar shows about outer space. This specialty museum offers a variety of exciting exhibits, some of which are even created for families. For example, "One World, One Sky" is a vibrant and fun show following Big Bird and Elmo from Sesame Street and a new friend on an imaginary trip to the moon. Children will get an introduction to the sky and space while taking in the show's colorful visuals.

"Black Holes" takes you through the Milky Way Galaxy where you can experience how stars transform into mysterious black holes. You'll learn about the phenomenon while witnessing the cosmos.

Have you ever wanted to experience the various types of climates on Earth? With “Dynamic Earth,” you can. You will ride through multiple areas of the world that contribute to the climate system. You'll dive into natural phenomena, including hurricanes and volcanoes, and even come face-to-face with giant sharks.

Fels Planetarium at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia

Fels Planetarium at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia features a 60-foot dome that projects the "Sky Tonight" feature show. This presentation gives you a breathtaking view of what the sky looks like above the distractions of the city. Another fantastic show you can catch at Fels is "To Space & Back." This presentation will take you on a trip to the far ends of the universe. With state-of-the-art technology, projections, and surround sound, you'll have a memorable time visiting the Fels Planetarium.

Charles Hayden Planetarium at Boston's Museum of Science

The Charles Hayden Planetarium at Boston's Museum of Science has some of the most advanced technology, including the Starmaster. The Starmaster is a fiber-optic projector that can produce around 10,000 stars. The planetarium at this science museum offers many fun and engaging exhibits. One exhibit is "Destination Mars." Here, you can travel to the Red Planet through the International Space Station.

If you have a music enthusiast in your group, attend one of the planetarium's music experiences with sound and visuals from different artists and genres.

Burke Baker Planetarium at the Houston Museum of Natural Science

The Burke Baker Planetarium, located at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, is home to one of the most popular star projectors, the Digistar 6. It's a unique, advanced simulator that allows you to experience outer space. For example, you can travel back in time to ancient Egypt and learn about how the pyramids and the first solar calendar were found to be connected with the stars up above. One cool part about this planetarium and science center is that NASA sometimes uses this dome to train its astronauts.

Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco

Located at the California Academy of Sciences, the Morrison Planetarium is the largest planetarium in the U.S. and boasts the biggest all-digital planetarium dome in the world. The dome spans 75 feet above your head to plunge you directly into the universe. This planetarium is also fantastic for taking young children. You can explore the "Dark Universe," which delves into dark energy and matter and lets you get a behind-the-scenes feel for how these unseen forces work their magic throughout the universe.

Hayden Planetarium at New York's American Museum of Natural History

The Hayden Planetarium is located at New York's American Museum of Natural History at the Rose Center for the Earth and Space. At this natural history museum, you'll find an 87-foot-sphere where the theater uses an advanced digital projection system for its shows. "The Digital Universe Atlas" is a 3D map that simulates the universe. Updated by scientists from NASA and other experts, the Digital Universe Atlas is also used in the "World Beyond Earth" show. It takes you on an exhilarating journey through the solar system, teaching you about the history of how the solar system developed into what it is today.

Include a Unique Planetarium in Your Next Trip

Planetariums are a fun addition to any trip. Next time you take a vacation, you should plan to visit any of the best planetariums in the U.S. CityPASS® offers discount tickets in major cities nationwide, including some of the various planetariums. Be sure to choose CityPASS® tickets so you can do more, have more fun, and spend much less.

Header Image ©Adler Planetarium; Nick Ulivieri

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