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“Great tour, but disappointed with a cloudy night...” 4 of 5 stars
Review of McDonald Observatory

McDonald Observatory
3640 Dark Sky Drive, Fort Davis, TX 79734-1337
+1 432-426-3640
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Certificate of Excellence 2014
Activities: Dining, Shopping
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Attraction details
Owner description: University of Texas' observatory on Mount Locke.
Ladson
Contributor
14 reviews 14 reviews
7 attraction reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
“Great tour, but disappointed with a cloudy night...”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 15, 2014

But - the day tour was interesting. Be prepared to do a good bit of standing. The staff is knowledgeable, professional, friendly ... a very informative tour. The movie was well done, and the facility on the whole was well presented. You will learn a lot!

Visited June 2014
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San Antonio
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
“The star attraction!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 14, 2014

We did a Star Party, a solar viewing with tour and a Special Viewing Night program.
The Star Party was a solid 4 stars. It started with a very basic astronomy and constellation lesson. then we moved to the viewing area. Numerous telescopes were staged, with each pointing at a different celestial object. An astronomer was posted at the stations to assist the viewers and answer their many questions.
The solar viewing and tour were very enjoyable. The solar viewing I would rate 3 stars, while the tour is better at 4 stars. The sun was viewed live on a large HD screen, while an astronomer pointed out various features and taught about the sun. The guided tour took us by bus around the facility. A self guided tour is available, but you miss out on a lot of information. You also miss out on seeing and learning, up close, how the 107 inch telescope and dome operate.
The highlight of our Observatory trip was the Special Viewing Night program. The 36" telescope SVN was 5 stars. A small group, ours had 14, get 3+ hours of viewing numerous celestial objects. We had the good fortune of having Jupiter, Saturn and Mars up for viewing. It was well worth the price of admission. We're already planning our next trip to view through one of the larger telescopes.

Visited May 2014
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Midlothian
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
5 attraction reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
“Get your science on!”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 13, 2014

We enjoyed the tour, and the self-guided walk through the museum. The personnel were very knowledgeable. Seeing saturn through the large telescope was incredible. We saw features on the moon including shadows that were mind-blowing. It is cool up there even in July so bring a jacket! A big highlight was when one of the presenters gave my daugher some information on the astronomy program at UT Austin as she had tried to answer some questions he had posed during his presentation. It is more expensive than I had thought, but science research is not cheap and funding is difficult to obtain so I didn't mind paying.

Visited July 2014
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Houston, Texas
Contributor
11 reviews 11 reviews
6 attraction reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
13 helpful votes 13 helpful votes
“Enjoyed the observatory, again!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 8, 2014

It's been many years since we traveled to the Fort Davis area so when we decided to visit again, we definitely made plans to visit the Observatory. Registered online for the tours a few days before we left on our trip. The speakers made each of the presentations entertaining as well as educational. The new (to us) visitors center, amphitheater and viewing area, have made handling the crowds so much better than before. We did the solar viewing, the facility tour, the twilight presentation as well as the Star Party. I highly recommend planning a stop here if you are spending any time in the Big Bend/Fort Davis area.

Visited July 2014
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Grand Prairie, Texas
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
“Fort Davis not complete without a trip to the McDonald Observatory”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 1, 2014

My wife and I enjoyed the sites of Fort Davis and it's spectacular scenery but the trip to the McDonald Observatory was the icing on the cake. We attended the Star Party on a clear crisp evening when the stars lit up the sky. Our journey began with a presentation in the indoor auditorium that touched on the history of the observatory and what to expect to see after the sun disappeared over the horizon. After the indoor presentation, but before nightfall, we grabbed a bite to eat at the cafe before the outdoor portion of the Star Party began. As evening approached we adjourned to the outdoor amphitheater where our "Star Guide", with laser pointer in hand, pointed out the planets, stars and galaxies describing their significance and history. After the tour of the universe we broke into groups to visit some of the telescopes that were trained on various objects in the sky that couldn't be seen with the naked eye alone. It was a fascinating experience and glad we took the time to enjoy the Star Party presentation. As an aside, my wife lost her jacket that evening and the good folks at McDonald's found it and had it shipped to our home. This is the "Reader's Digest" version of our experience at McDonald's as there was so much more to see and hear than I can fit into this forum.

Visited September 2013
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