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“Phenomenal STAR PARTY”

McDonald Observatory
Ranked #1 of 12 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, Food available for purchase, Wheelchair access
Reviewed January 5, 2014

We attended the December 30 STAR PARTY by purchasing tickets on-line about two weeks prior. It was phenomenal with perfect conditions - clear sky and no moon! Neither hubby or I are into astronomy or telescopes but just enjoy the creation of the night sky so this was perfect. The briefer was very good, not too geeky-technical and threw in some humor throughout his presentation. There were numerous telescopes along with technicians to assist and answer questions and even ladders for those of us height-challenged.
The briefer talked for about 45 minutes in the amphitheater, even though he encouraged attendees to visit the telescopes (situated around the amphitheater) at any time (this helped with line control).
I would strongly recommend:
1. We dressed warmly with heavy winter coats, hats, gloves and scarfs for the cold December temps at 6,000 ft, but hand/feet warmers would of been a really, really good idea. Telescope technicians told us even Summer Star Parties are chilly with lots of mosquitos.
2. Take a stadium cushion or blanket for the cold stone seating in the amphitheater area. We were sitting there for nearly an hour and it was uncomfortable on the bum.
3. Don't bring cell phones/IPADS. First of all, service is very spotty and secondly, the light-emitting screens mess with your fully dark-adapted eyes, ruining your views (and those around you) of the sky with the naked eye and through the telescopes.
4. Eat prior to arriving and bring a thermos with hot beverage. The STARDATE CAFE is extremely small (8 tables), with very limited menu items (sandwiches/salads) and even some of those items where not available, long lines and slow service.
5. Tackle the "starry sky"/ "night scenery" camera settings prior to arriving. There are NO lights in the amphitheater to aid in achieving the correct camera settings.

1  Thank Napunani
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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721 - 725 of 1,016 reviews

Reviewed January 1, 2014

We took the tour of the observatory. The opening lecture was a little dull, but that all turned around once we started up the mountain to the telescopes. Our tourguide was knowledgeable and entertaining. My husband was a little disappointed that some of the exhibits in the visitor's center did not work. But even this did not take away from the overall excellence of the tour. The history of the observatory is fascinating, and there are interactive exercises with the telescopes. Lots of great stuff in the gift shop, we picked up some excellent Christmas gifts after the tour. The staff is super friendly. I highly recommend this destination!

1  Thank Cruisegal2533
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 1, 2014

We visiting Dec 30th and attending the twilight and star parties. I was completely blown away---normally you get either watered down info or dry way technical information. The presenters at both delivered information that was simple enough for my 7 and 5 year olds to get it but had info info that both my husband and I learned a lot. Add that all together with a great sense of humor and you have it.

At night it was freezing but we layered our clothing and it was great. It was a little crowded at the some of the telescopes but overall--fantastic.

1  Thank deb_r22
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 29, 2013

The Hobby telescope was down for renovation during my visit this month and is expected to be down for some time. The visitor center offers star viewings, solar viewings, etc. so check for times and allow some wiggle room so you can fit into their schedule. Incredible facility and well worth the visit. Several observatory structures on site and not all or open to the public.

Thank Jardindemichelle
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 26, 2013

Dress very warmly if going to the sky show in the winter. It is healed outdoors. Worth every minute of it but dress warmly! We also went to the day show and saw the telescopes, etc. No Light pollution here! Amazing!

Thank TexasTravelorR
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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