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“Extraordinary experience”

McDonald Observatory
Ranked #1 of 13 things to do in Fort Davis
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 2-3 hours
Owner description: The McDonald Observatory Visitors Center staff appreciate all of the positive reviews (and even some of the negative ones, too!) that well-meaning and well-intentioned visitors have left over the years. However, we feel that TripAdvisor does not provide anywhere close to the level of management tools needed to combat the misinformation that routinely is provided by, again, well-intentioned visitors to others visiting its pages. With no way other than the "management response" feature to cull and corral the sometimes wildly misleading information posted on these pages, we feel that using TripAdvisor for anything beyond getting the general feel of the establishment is pointless.
Useful Information: Activities for older children, Wheelchair access, Food available for purchase
Reviewed July 23, 2013

Do not miss the Star Party, we LOVED it and got to see Saturn, the Moon and many other star formations... Extremely interesting and amusing, a totally different experience. We also did the Solar experience and got to see the telescopes inside the buildings. Really impressive!

Thank MARILUZ G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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"solar viewing"
in 78 reviews
"twilight program"
in 58 reviews
"laser pointer"
in 39 reviews
"large telescopes"
in 34 reviews
"new moon"
in 24 reviews
"cloud cover"
in 19 reviews
"naked eye"
in 17 reviews
"clear night"
in 27 reviews
"clear skies"
in 17 reviews
"green laser"
in 13 reviews
"star clusters"
in 39 reviews
"day tour"
in 28 reviews
"solar system"
in 29 reviews
"dark sky"
in 12 reviews
"milky way"
in 43 reviews
"light pollution"
in 22 reviews
"outdoor amphitheater"
in 17 reviews
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904 - 908 of 1,138 reviews

Reviewed July 22, 2013

I would have loved to have experienced the observatory under more favorable conditions. I was in Fort Davis during an unseasonably rainy week, though, and thought I'd check out the observatory anyway during the daytime. Although the telescopes were worth seeing, there really was not much else of real interest during the two hour presentation. I had expected a more technologically advanced rainy- day- presentation. Our young presenter and guide was personable and knowledgeable, but she didn't have much to work with.

Thank SKoll
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 22, 2013

Enjoyed the mountaintop at the observatory. It was cool and did require using the jackets! The telescopes was very interesting to look at and enjoyed listening to Mark share the information with the visitors. We all enjoyed learning about the telescopes on our day trip. Will try to schedule a night visit if the opportunity ever comes available.

Thank Ronda W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 17, 2013

We attended a star party on our one night in ft Davis. We ended up with a cloudy night, but we still got o see Saturn and quite a few stars. If you can, plan to go when it's clear the tickets aren't cheap, and they don't give refunds. But, it's a great experience!

Thank Randy R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
McDonald_Obs, Manager at McDonald Observatory, responded to this reviewResponded July 19, 2013

Thanks for the compliments on the cloudy night program. Even though we need the rain, all of us would much prefer that every Star Party night is clear not just for our own sake but yours, as well. Sometimes, though, as you appear to have experienced, the clouds relent enough to at least view a featured object .. and Saturn is certainly one of the best! When it's completely cloudy, we do offer various talks and demos that many find to be quite entertaining as well as educational. We realize that these talks aren't necessarily for everyone, though, so .. in fact .. we do offer rain-checks for those who ask. Keep in mind that the Visitors Center is not funded by the Observatory or UT .. we have to make it through ticket sales and supplemented by gift shop sales. We can't afford to just refund every pass when we're still offering engaging talks & demos. Besides that, as you discovered, sometimes cloudy nights can great experiences anyway!

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed July 16, 2013

After the long drive up to the observatory we went inside to discover that only one lady was there. THe restaurant was closed and there were no tours. Nothing to do. THey had a stars party that night but they were sold out. The other viewing was at 9:45 and we were told that they set up a few telescopes outside for everyone to look through. We were advised that tickets were available for that but they were expecting a large crowd and only had about eight telescopes. She was not very friendly or helpful. We chose not to go back to the evening viewing. It is a long, winding drive that took about 45 minutes.

1  Thank sunni014
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
McDonald_Obs, Manager at McDonald Observatory, responded to this reviewResponded July 19, 2013

It's a shame that you apparently neglected to get any sort of information before visiting to plan your "long" trip. If you had visited our website, given us a call, called our toll-free info line, or even just talked to the hotel/motel desk clerk where you were staying, you would have discovered that we offer 2 Solar Viewing Programs everyday, 2 Guided Tours everyday, Twilight Programs and Star Parties every Tu, Fr, & Sa with additional Special Viewing Night programs on a number of dates each month! I'd say that's quite far from "nothing to do". Additionally, you would have discovered that, while the daytime programs and the Twilight Programs do sell out (the Star Parties do NOT sell out, btw), you can make advance reservations via our website for all of our programs to ensure availability (and discovered that we strongly encourage reservations). If you had participated in a Star Party, you would have also seen how they work and that 8 telescopes is usually more than adequate for all but the most extreme crowds. Regarding the Cafe, while the counter isn't open every hour, pre-made sandwiches, various snacks, as well as cold drinks and coffee are always available for purchase via the Information Desk. Unfortunately, we can publish a website, post toll-free information lines, put rack-cards in locations throughout the trans-Pecos with our phone numbers and web addresses but we can't know to give you a call to fill you in before you leave for your trip .. we do have to rely on you making at least some effort to access the information we freely make available.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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