When exploring large spatial datasets, zooming and panning interactions often lead to the loss of contextual overview. Existing overview-plus-detail approaches allow users to view context while inspecting details, but they often suffer from distortion or overplotting. In this paper, we present an off-screen visualization method called Ambient Grids that strikes the balance between overview and details by preserving the contextual information as color grids within a designated space around the focal area. In addition, we describe methods to generate Ambient Grids for point data using data aggregation and projection. In a use case, we show the usefulness of our technique in exploring the VAST Challenge 2011 microblog dataset.