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Yerkes Observatory

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Address: 373 W. Geneva Street, Williams Bay, WI 53191
Phone Number: 12622455555
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Description: Yerkes Observatory is owned and operated by the University Chicago...
Yerkes Observatory is owned and operated by the University Chicago, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and located in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. Built between 1895 and 1897 in the classic Romanesque style, Yerkes is home to the largest refracting (lens-type) telescope in the world and two other research-grade reflecting (mirror-type) telescopes. The building is beautifully preserved and ornamented with Roman brick and terra cotta, has three telescope domes (the largest is 90 feet in diameter and 10 stories in height), and is situated on 77 acres in a park-like setting. Tours of the building and the refractor are available Monday through Friday ( the cost is $25 for a brief overview tour, or $100 for a longer, extensive tour) all year. Call the Observatory in advance or stop by between 9:30 am until 4:00 pm. Saturday tours are held for the public at 10:15 am, 11:15 am, and 12:15 pm. Reservations are not required. While free to visitors, the suggested donation on Saturdays is $5 per person. The grounds are open every day, during daylight hours, for self-guided walking tours, free of charge. Photography is permitted. The staff also hosts public observing sessions with the 24-inch reflecting telescope many evenings throughout the year. Reservations are required and there is a charge for participation. Call the Observatory during regular weekday hours or visit the Yerkes website for more information. The Observatory contains a lovely museum, many interesting displays concerning its construction, history, architecture and the science of astronomy, and a gift shop with many unique items.
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TripAdvisor Reviewer Highlights

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Amazing!

My nighttime tour of the Yerkes Observatory was one of the most amazing experiences of my adult life! The tour guide or host was extremely knowledgeable and patient and well... read more

5 of 5 starsReviewed August 24, 2015
Jeanne V
,
Oak Creek, Wisconsin, United States
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76 Reviews from our TripAdvisor Community

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English first
Oak Creek, Wisconsin, United States
Level Contributor
59 reviews
12 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 24, 2015 NEW

My nighttime tour of the Yerkes Observatory was one of the most amazing experiences of my adult life! The tour guide or host was extremely knowledgeable and patient and well organized , we got to tour the 40 inch roof refractor our viewing was done on the 24-inch reflector. The group was half the size that he could handle so... More 

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Barto, Pennsylvania
Level Contributor
7 reviews
3 attraction reviews
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 21, 2015

We visited Yerkes during the day time. A beautiful example of American architecture. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and entertaining. Our schedule didn't allow for an evening tour. Maybe next time.

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Chicago, IL
Level Contributor
97 reviews
29 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 40 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 5, 2015

Wow, what great experiences. The tour guides live and breathe astronomy. They know so much and make it so interesting and understandable. We did the afternoon tour and were wowed by the knowledge of the tour guide. A few fun demos. We learned a lot about the history of the building and the people who made it possible. We saw... More 

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Illinois
Level Contributor
11 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 26, 2015

I had night tour of the Yerkes observatory with my wife and it was very interesting. Dan gave a great tour, he explained things really well and we got great views of the moon, Saturn, nebulas, clusters of stars through the 24 inch reflector. We then saw the original large refactor which was incredible, Dan explained the history and even... More 

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Alamogordo, New Mexico
Level Contributor
187 reviews
114 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 122 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 22, 2015

while I didn't have time to take a tour this trip, I did take some pix of the outside of the amazing building. tours may only be on Saturdays, check? I'm not much into astromany, but you can't help but be impressed, by the tour.

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Illinois
Level Contributor
25 reviews
11 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 17, 2015

Our family visited the Yerkes Observatory with a picnic on the Fourth of July, expecting to just enjoy the beautiful grounds and building. We were thrilled to find the building open and jump in to a tour! What a cool place! The guides were super knowledgable and the building and telescope inside are amazing. Our guide even raised and lowered... More 

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Gurnee, Illinois
Level Contributor
10 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 13, 2015

I surprised my husband with a night tour of the 24 in telescope and it was incredible! Dan is extremely knowledge and personable. Viewing stars and Saturn through the telescope is an experience I'll never forget. The observatory itself is also stunning. How many times in your life are you going to stand in the same spot as Albert Einstein?!... More 

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Los Gatos, California
Level Contributor
130 reviews
36 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 37 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 11, 2015

The history of this observatory was fascinating as told by the tour guide. The huge floor of the observatory that moves up and down hydraulically was new to me. The fact that this was at one time the largest refractory lens on observatory telescopes was also new.

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West Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
9 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 9, 2015

This observatory is amazing! My kids had a great time on our tour. Our tour guide was very informative and answered all of our questions. The building and history is amazing. We had a great time and would definitely come back again. We would love to visit on a night where the telescope will be available to look through. My... More 

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Huntley, IL
Level Contributor
106 reviews
11 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 43 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 6, 2015

There were 4 of us and we set up a private tour for $25 each. The architecture of this building from 1896 is significant and fascinating. Our docent, Richard D. shared a lot about the history of the building as well as about the people who started it. Of course, there was plenty of info about the telescope and the... More 

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Shannon, Illinois
7 months ago
Orland Park IL

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