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“"Sun spots"” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Kitt Peak National Observatory

Kitt Peak National Observatory
Highway 86 to 386 for 12 miles, Sells, AZ 85634
520 318 8726
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Ranked #1 of 1 Attractions in Sells
Type: Observatories/ Planetariums, Reservations, National Parks, Landmarks
Activities: Group tours/walking tour
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Attraction details
Owner description: Located 56 miles southwest of Tucson on the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation, the observatory is a working research station situated high above on Kitt Peak.
Useful Information: Activities for older children
Phoenix, Arizona
Senior Contributor
40 reviews 40 reviews
29 attraction reviews
Reviews in 20 cities Reviews in 20 cities
15 helpful votes 15 helpful votes
“"Sun spots"”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed April 8, 2013

We were traveling with our daughter's young family from the East Coast, so we stopped for a short daytime visit. We enjoyed walking around the area, but also were able to look at the sun through the giant telescope with the help of a patient docent. Very educational. Next time the adults will take the night tour.

Visited March 2013
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171 reviews from our community

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English first
Bloomington, Minnesota
3 reviews 3 reviews
3 attraction reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
“Kids loved it, parents less impressed”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed April 2, 2013

I was expecting more for the money.

What you get is an OK box dinner to eat while watching a strange TV show not related to astronomy. Group divides into 3 subgroups which get different experiences, and it is hard to know ahead of time which is the better one to volunteer for. Some people clearly had positioned themselves to be selected for the first group which was telescope time only, no binoculars or star chart reading. I would normally have preferred to be in this group, but the guide was quite eccentric and the sense of humor would have gotten old fast, and high clouds rolled in later so each group got about the same amount of time at the telescopes. I ended up with the substitute guide, George, who seemed to be the most "normal" (not eccentric) one of the 3 guides that night.

Evening temps at the end of March were about 50 degrees, not even chilly. Light from Tucson overwhelms the facility and clearly makes it obsolete. New telescopes are being installed in Hawaii, Chile, and truly dark locations with less dust in the air, not here, this place is in decline, probably peaking in the 70s.

You get about 3 minutes total viewing thru not very large telescopes (amateur+ size). But you do get good views of 8 or so major astronomical sights. The pacing of the viewing goes pretty well despite waiting turns for views.

I would not go again since the telescopes were smallish and the night sky not very dark, but it was a hit with the kids so that's what matters.

Visited March 2013
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kotzebue, Alaska
Top Contributor
51 reviews 51 reviews
16 attraction reviews
Reviews in 18 cities Reviews in 18 cities
31 helpful votes 31 helpful votes
“Schedule Early!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 31, 2013

We were unable to visit for the evening tour because we waited until the week of our visit to call. Call a month ahead of time to schedule the night tour. This place is amazing and we wished we were astronomers so we could go back and spend the night! The tour guide for our group used to be a science writer for National Geographic. The information was interesting and well delivered with enough science to keep the eggheads interested and enough humor that the children enjoyed it as well. The observatory is on a sky island, a mountaintop ecosystem different from the valley floor, so the flora and fauna are worth visiting even if there weren't 26 observatories, great views, a museum, and gift shop. I learned so much! The drive is lovely. There is no restaurant or snack shop so if you spend the day bring a picnic.

Visited March 2013
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Glasgow, United Kingdom
Senior Contributor
34 reviews 34 reviews
10 attraction reviews
Reviews in 17 cities Reviews in 17 cities
19 helpful votes 19 helpful votes
“Nightly observing programme”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 24, 2013

This was our second visit to the Observatory. We had checked out others but this seemed the best even though we had been there before. It did not disappoint.
The drive from Tuscon takes about an hour and passes through interesting desert scenery before it then winds up the mountain to Kitt Peak. The views are breathtaking. On arrival you get a talk on astronomy and a boxed meal. And a freebie little red torch key ring!
The staff (Jeronimo and Blythe ) were tremendous. Enthusiastic, knowledgable and fun to be around while still able to impart lots of information on the observatories, the environment and the stars.
We got to look through binoculars and a large telescope in one of the observatories. Good time had by all. And it wasn't that cold!
Would highly recommend a visit even if you're only slightly interested in the stars. We would go back again!

Visited September 2012
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Senior Contributor
24 reviews 24 reviews
3 attraction reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
12 helpful votes 12 helpful votes
“Mixed reactions but overall very good.”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 19, 2013

Single dad took daughter for a star-gazing event. Daughter was very impressed.....me a bit less. Dinner was turkey-croissant with apple, granola bar, water. Quality wasn't bad for a boxed dinner. Drive up was nice but scary at times; no guard rail in many places...people seriously afraid of heights won't like this road at all. It's quite the drive. When we arrived we were greeted and seated in the visitors center for a 30 minute intro video and then demo's and another lecture by a visiting research astronomer. I felt that the overall length of the presentations was too long for a kid and a (bored) adult. The total talk time was almost two full hours and I wasn't into it at all. They did teach us how to use a star-chart and how to correctly adjust and use binoculars as well as how to find constellations and planets. I personally have never seen so many stars visible to the naked eye. It did cool down quite a bit. It was 81 in Tucson when we left in the afternoon (March) and when we were star gazing in the dark it was 46 and quite cool sitting in the telescope viewing rooms. We did see stars, constellations, a galaxy or two and the surface of Earth's moon as plain as day. We also saw 4 of Jupiters moons and the rings on Saturn. It was very educational and enjoyable I just personally thought the lectures were too long and the overall viewing through the telescopes was too short. My daughter loved the whole experience. What they don't tell you is that at night when you are leaving you are required to drive the entire first mile back down the mountain with NO HEADLIGHTS. They provide a lead-van that drives down the mountain at 10 MPH in the dark and they even cover each cars headlights with envelopes taped over them to prevent light-pollution on the mountaintop for the sake of the telescopes. This was rather unnerving to most of us but we all made it safely back to Tucson. The staff here is super friendly, very knowledgable and entertaining too. It's definitely a "once in a lifetime" kind of thing and very memorable for the kids. It was a great father/daughter excursion with memories on par to "Disneyland." My only two criticisms are the lecture length and the scary drive up (and especially back down) the mountain. Very worthwhile but sort of pricey for the limited time actually viewing from the telescope(s). This would definitely not be a good place for wheelchairs or people with visual impairments as it takes place in total darkness and there is a bit of walking involved as well as stairs. I'm glad I went and did enjoy it but wouldn't make a return visit.

Visited March 2013
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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