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McDonald Observatory, Fort Davis

4.6
One of the country's major astronomical research institutions, McDonald Observatory has four impressive telescopes. The largest--the 9.2 m (30 ft) Hobby-Eberly telescope--ranks amongst the largest in the world. Stop by the observatory visitor center to see the staff in action and learn more about their projects and programs, as well as the science of space. Join a guided tour for inside access, or even watch live telescopic images of the sun during a solar viewing session. Be sure to book ahead online, however, as tickets can sell out very quickly. Set at an elevation of 2,070 m (6,790 ft) in the mountains of West Texas, the observatory is part of the University of Texas at Austin, and works closely with its science departments. Plan my trip to Fort Davis with suggested itineraries provided by Inspirock.
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McDonald Observatory Reviews
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.5
1,021 reviews
Google
4.7
TripAdvisor
  • Fascinating, great afternoon lecture with images of the sun and tour of telescopes. Well worth doing. Tour guide was great with young kids as well as adults.  more »
  • If you haven’t visited make your reservations NOW. Be sure to sign up for all of the events the day you’re there. Every time we go the program is a little different. The Daytime, Twilight, and Star Pa...  more »
  • We did the Solar Viewing, Twilight, and Star Party tours. All were excellent and greatly added to the McDonald Experience. If you can get Kelly as your guide, you have won the tour guide lottery.  more »
Google
  • The solar viewing & tour was a great way to spend the better part of my day! You actually take a couple short drives (or ride the shuttle bus) to a few locations along the tour and that way you get to see several of the big telescopes on the mountain. Great views the whole time! Seemed okay but not great for younger children who were occasionally engaged by the tour guide but one ~5yo made a fuss whenever his interest wasn't piqued. The older kids seemed to have a decent time though! Saul the summer intern did a nice job despite it being his first week and Rachel was good at helping to answer questions without taking away his spotlight as a tour guide! After the tour I ate my packed lunch on the patio and then I had some good conversation with Judy and Eileen (two staffers who were not on the tour) in the visitor center. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and friendly! Thank you so much for the fantastic day!!
  • If only this place wasn't so far from me.. it was a great experience and very interesting. Be sure to reserve for the twilight and star parties! The prices are reasonable, but they fill up fast. You don't want to drive for hours for nothing. Overall, I loved it and the views. Bring a light jacket and/or blanket as it gets cold at night. Be aware of the lunar cycle as a more illuminated moon makes it hard to see much else. Highly recommended and great even for kids. The cafe has snack type foods, but be sure you get there with time to eat it before your event. I had to inhale mine!
  • Overall we enjoyed the tour of the telescopes. However, we weren't impressed with the facility. Several of the exhibits inside the visitor center were broken or not working. The staff was there, but that's about all I can say about them. They were bodies doing a job. No real personal skills. If you have small children like we do, I would recommend just showing up for the tour. The 30 min video followed by a 45 min presentation of someone talking at you was a little difficult for our kids.
  • I had a not so great time when I visited and I think it was because of my lack of prier knowledge of space but I would definitely recommend if you are interested in or knowledgeable of space.
  • Went to the twilight program and star party here. It was educational AND stunning. All the people were really nice and answered everyone's questions. Got a grilled cheese at the cafe, it was pretty good.

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