Chicago's Best Date Night is...a Planetarium? A Spotlight on Adler After Dark

BY: Andy Seifert |Oct 19, 2022

Woman looking through telescope at Adler Planetarium

As far as the best date night ideas go, nothing tops floating through space, with a spectacular close-up view of the Butterfly Nebula filling up your capsule's bay windows. But since intergalactic travel is a few decades away, the next best thing is an evening at Adler After Dark, the Adler Planetarium's adults-only event on the third Thursday of every month.

In the last few years, Adler After Dark has become one of Chicago's hottest tickets, typically selling out. Every month, a new theme is planned, and the planterium offers activites, demonstrations, and screenings centered around that theme. It's easy to see the draw: attendees can enjoy a drink, marvel at sensational skyline views, and see the planetarium in a new light. Plus, they can tour the Doane Observatory, Chicagoland's largest aperture telescope that's available to the public.

We reached out to Kyle Sater, Adler After Dark's program manager, to find out about the event's best themes, its special guests, and what makes a planetarium so cool to visit at night. (While we're on the subject, get $5 off Adler After Dark admission by taking advantage of this Adler membership deal).


People chatting outside at the Adler Planetarium

Q&A with Adler After Dark's Kyle Sater

What have been some particularly memorable AAD themes?

The most memorable event for me was in December 2015. The event fell on the night Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released, so we decided to go big and theme the event to Star Wars ("Adler After Dark Side"). We created a ticket package where guests could attend the event and then go to an 11 p.m. showing of the film with a partner theater. It was amazing!

The other that sticks out was our "Cosmic Clue" theme. We created a building-wide murder mystery where guests uncovered clues, with costumed characters playing suspects, and a big "reveal" at the end. It was supposed to take place in the 1930s, so guests got into the spirit and dressed up.

What can the Planetarium offer at night that it can't during the day?

The space itself is transformed, which is something you won't experience during the day. The addition of live music, ambient lighting, multiple bars, and special programming–including night-time observing–creates an atmosphere you won't find during the day.

Are there live telescope demonstrations? What are some celestial wonders that've been spotted?

Yes! If it's clear, we typically have telescopes available for guests to look through (in addition to Doane Observatory tours). Common targets include the moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, various bright stars, and sometimes more distant objects like nebulae, though Chicago skies can make this tricky.


People doing a science experiment at the planetarium

Who have been some of your favorite special AAD guests?

That is a tough one. Besides Darth Vader, we've had numerous guests. Last year, we hosted Sarah Horst, a planetary scientist from Johns Hopkins University who talked about the end of the Cassini mission and Saturn's weird but awesome moon, Titan. I also enjoyed a talk by Hugo Award-winning author Mary Robinette Kowal, who spoke on the intersections of sci-fi, technology, and fashion at our "Geek Chic" event.

Can you give a little teaser to upcoming AADs that haven't been announced yet?

Sure! We're excited about our upcoming July event, Superhero Science, that will incorporate your favorite superheroes with actual "super" feats in a variety of scientific fields, including astronomy and space science. And in August, we're celebrating the great outdoors and will be stargazing both indoors and outdoors at "Camp Adler."


Adler Planetarium

Adler After Dark: At a Glance

Started in: 2005, when it was called "Far Out Fridays" and was more family oriented (and, as the name implies, on Fridays instead of Thursdays)

Doane Observatory's telescope size: 20-inch diameter on its mirror, allowing in 5,000 times more light than the naked eye. Add a Doane Observatory tour for $8.

Average number of Adler After Dark attendees: Between 1,200 and 1,500 guests

How old to get in: 21+

How much? $20 in advance ($15 in advance for Adler members)/$25 at the door ($20 in advance for Adler members)



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