A shooting star is a gift from space, says ABC News’ senior meteorologist Rob Marciano.
The spectacle, created when a meteor burns up as it enters the earth’s atmosphere, can be moving, he says.
“There’s nothing more peaceful and profound than looking out at space, especially at night,” marvels Marciano, a man who tracks hurricanes and other natural events like eclipses for a living.
He tells USA TODAY his 10 favorite spots that are both scenic and offer the possibility of catching a glimpse of a shooting star – or at the very least, some stellar stargazing.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
The combination of dry weather and high elevation makes for ideal stargazing at this Pacific Northwest national park. And when you add a crystal-clear lake to mirror the sky, the setting is unforgettable, Marciano says.
“It’s one of the most special places in America,” he says of Crater Lake.
Get more information at nps.gov/crla.
Mount Washington, New Hampshire
The weather can be menacing atop the Northeast’s highest mountain, which holds the world record for highest wind speed not produced by a tornado or hurricane.
But on a clear night, the views are worth the trip – even if you don’t own a single carabiner. “Climb up, drive up, or take the cog railway,” Marciano says.
It’s even possible to spend the night at the mountaintop Mount Washington Observatory weather station at an elevation of more than 6,000 feet.
Get more information at mountwashington.org.
As glitzy as it is, this ski resort town still can’t rival the scenery of the heavens above, Marciano says. Several resorts and hotels, including The Little Nell (thelittlenell.com), offer star-gazing excursions.
Get more information at aspensnowmass.com.
Gorge Amphitheatre, Quincy, Washington
Not only is this amphitheater overlooking the Columbia River Gorge a wonderful venue for music, but thanks to its dry climate, it also offers a stunning view of the heavens, Marciano points out.
“Why not get the best of both worlds? It’s a great place to take in a show, and if you look above the stage, you might see a shooting star,” he says.
Get more information at gorgeamphitheatre.com.
While Marciano says he’s more of a mountain guy than a beach guy, he is a big fan of the Keys. “Who doesn’t like palm trees, sand and warm water?” he admits.
He suggests finding a spot in the Lower Keys, far away from the neon lights of the Miami area. Winter visitors can even attend a star party hosted by the Southern Cross Astronomical Society.
Get more information at fla-keys.com.
Death Valley National Park, California
Death Valley’s stargazing is sometimes hindered by the heat radiating from the desert floor. But once the weather cools, the views are fantastic – and so are the surroundings at the lowest point in North America.
“You’re pretty much guaranteed no clouds,” says Marciano, who loves the area’s stark beauty.
Get more information at nps.gov/deva.
Asheville, North Carolina
On clear evenings the Asheville area offers great mountaintop vistas of the sky, says Marciano. Prime spots include overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and from the many mountain peaks in the area. “
Make a weekend of it and enjoy the mountain culture,” Marciano advises. “There’s just an amazing landscape.”
Get more information at exploreasheville.com.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota
Like Washington, D.C., this monument to the Presidents is a spot that every American should visit, Marciano says.
But unlike the nation’s capital, the stargazing is wonderful in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and nearby Badlands National Park.
“It’s a dry climate, sort of high desert, and it takes your breath away,” he explains. “This is where to go if you want to feel patriotic and see shooting stars.”
Get more information at nps.gov/moru.
Mountain Village, Telluride, Colorado
Marciano says the craggy mountain peaks surrounding this former mining town in southwest Colorado make the perfect backdrop for stargazing. Visitors can enjoy views even from the downtown village.
“If there’s a place in America where you want to feel like you’re in the Swiss Alps, this is it,” he notes.
Get more information at visittelluride.com.
Big Sur, California
Famed for its oceanfront highway vistas, Marciano says this Pacific Coast region offers its biggest rewards for those who stop and explore.
“You can camp there or hike in, or go to a meditation retreat or a spa resort. It’s all about feeding the soul at Big Sur,” he says of the area, which was featured in the HBO series “Big Little Lies.”
And while fog can sometime mar the view, on clear nights, the stargazing over the Pacific is unforgettable. “You can get spectacular views.”
Get more information at Visitcalifornia.com.
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