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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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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

Read all 92 reviews
Visitor rating
  • 67
  • 20
    Very good
  • 4
  • 1
  • 0
Tour of observatory

Excellent tour and speakers. Knowledgeable about minutia as well as about the science, made tour interesting.

5 of 5 starsReviewed 1 week ago
David Z
Oak Park
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92 Reviews from our TripAdvisor Community

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  • English first
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English first
Oak Park
Level Contributor
7 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 1 week ago

Excellent tour and speakers. Knowledgeable about minutia as well as about the science, made tour interesting.

Thank David Z
Stitzer, Wisconsin
Level Contributor
20 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed 1 week ago

The building is beautiful--reminds me of places I've seen in Europe. The day guide was very informative. I was disappointed we did not get to go to the evening tour. One needs to sign up probably four days in advance.

Thank Elaine K
Wheaton, Illinois
Level Contributor
208 reviews
64 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 55 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 1 week ago

This is our second visit to Yerkes Observatory and the tour is a great experience. The architecture alone would be worth it, but combined with the tour of the telescope it is an outstanding educational attraction. Kids and adults will enjoy this visit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank jacy2
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Level Contributor
3 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 2 weeks ago

My wife and I managed to get into a Sunday night observing session during a weekend getaway in Lake Geneva and it was a fantastic experience. Dan K. was extremely knowledgeable about astronomy and gave us a very thorough demonstration both with naked eye observations and later using one of the observatory's 24" telescopes. We saw planets, planetary nebula, a... More 

Thank Joe R
Wheaton, Illinois
Level Contributor
87 reviews
25 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 18 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed 3 weeks ago

The Observatory is the home of the single largest lens telescope (refractor) in the world, which is a must-see! This is a good place for a rainy day activity though we were unable to walk the grounds which would have been interesting to see the building from the back. The tour guides are outstanding and are excellent subject matter experts... More 

Thank Eileen B
Crystal Lake, Illinois
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 4 weeks ago

Located near Lake Geneva, the Yerkes Observatory reveals creative minds to historical scientific achievements. Visually pleasing with neo-gothic architecture the Yerkes Observatory allows everyday people walk in the same hallways as G. Kuiper, E.E. Barnard, S. Chandrasekhar and Albert Einstein among other famous scientists and astronomers. The Observatory is the home of the single largest lens telescope (refractor) in the... More 

Thank Rosemary M
Chicago Il.
Level Contributor
14 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 15, 2015

I read that when Albert Einstein traveled to the United States for the first time he wanted to see two places, Niagra Falls and the Yerkes Obseratory. We stopped in for a tour, not really knowing what to expect, and we were pleasantly surprised! This place is an historical gem, and you don't have to know anything about astronomy. Our... More 

Thank Dan399
2 reviews
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 12, 2015

Our tour was fascinating and tons of fun. Our contact and docent, Dan was super responsive when planning our trip up to hours before as well as super knowledgable during our tour. You can tell he is very passionate about astronomy and thus he is an excellent teacher. He covered the history of the observatory and its telescopes as well... More 

Thank Mary Greene T
Muskego, Wisconsin
Level Contributor
84 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 22 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed October 6, 2015

We checked out of the Bailey House across the street and decided to see if we could get a look see and were lucky enough to shoe up right before a tour. Very interesting, perhaps a little long on the architecture of the building but to hear of this telescope and it's place in the world of science was very... More 

Thank Ken M
Tinley Park, Illinois
2 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 2, 2015

If you like seeing places where great discoveries were made by men like Edwin Hubble (yes the guy the space telescope is named after), then join the ranks of brilliant people like Albert Einstein (I stood in the exact spot he was standing and I already feel smarter) and visit the Yerkes Observatory. You will not be disappointed with the... More 

1 Thank Chaz R

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