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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, Wheelchair access, Food available for purchase
Reviewed July 22, 2014

This is a fabulous place because you can see so many stars! Plus, you get to see the huge telescope. It's massive.

Thank Kim B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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641 - 645 of 1,027 reviews

Reviewed July 20, 2014 via mobile

My first trip to the McDonald observatory was supposed to be a short time killer as I had very little interest in astronomy as an adult. However I spent the entire day and late into the night there. Somewhere along way attending lectures, tours, and the Star Party I found the joy I experienced as kid in the backyard with a telescope. Since then I find myself looking skyward at night whenever I get out of town and free from the light pollution.

The star party was it's own surreal experience and began with an expert and very entertaining lecture about the constellations and various bright objects in the sky.

I'd also highly recommend going early and experiencing the day time live feeds from the telescopes observing the sun.

1  Thank Randall S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 18, 2014

We spent a day here with our son & two grandkids - one 9 and one 12-year-old. It was a GREAT experience - yes, very educational and fun!!! The kids were interested and my wife & I LOVED it!!
You can do the three tours in one day, which we did, but next time we want to spend more time in the area visiting the town of Ft. Davis & Marfa, and spend some time at Big Bend National Park - about 100 miles South. Our son & grandkids visited Carlsbad Caverns and Roswell NM, which are close by (relatively close by West Texas driving standards)

The Star party is awesome!! An astronomer does a 45 minute presentation in the outdoor amphitheater with a laser pointer - shows stars, planets, constellations, and even pointed out a passing satellite. Then you are able to view through about 8-10 telescopes setup on various stars, planets, or galaxies, each with a scientist, or volunteer to answer your questions.

Also worth a mention is the food available at the Star Date Café - it was excellent!!! Not food you expect at a park or attraction - great sandwiches - don't me misled by the bland/boring food photos on the McDonald Observatory web site!!

Definitely something for your Bucket list!!!!

Here is an explanation of the three tours:

1) Daytime Pass and Guided Tour - Starts at 11am and 2pm

The Daytime Pass includes our Solar Viewing program (live, safe view of the Sun, weather permitting) and a Guided Tour of the research areas. Plan on, at least, roughly 2 hours and 30 minutes to join both programs.

2) Twilight Program - Starts at 8:15 pm and is about 1 hour

The early evening Twilight Program is a 1-hour educational program intended to enrich the Star Party experience (without being a requirement for the Star Party). Alternate schedules during end-of-the-year Holidays and Spring Break.

3) Star Party - Starts at 9:45pm and is about 2-3 hours

Evening viewing programs held at the Visitors Center - typically includes constellation touring, telescope viewing, and other presentations. Alternate indoor activities held on cloudy evenings

1  Thank Milestonecruises
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 17, 2014

This observatory operated by the University of Texas is well worth a trip. They have a number of large telescopes, as well as several smaller ones. There are star parties and educational lectures for visitors. Also tours of some of the telescopes. For anyone interested in astronomy this is a great attraction. Nearby Fort Davis is also worth a trip. It is small and has an old-fashioned small town feel to it, with small hotels, restaurants and shops.

Thank jjc34
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 16, 2014

We took our 10 year old granddaughter to the Observatory for both a Twilight and a Star Party. The Twilight Party was indoors and was very educational. The Star Party was a big hit. They pointed out the visible planets and stars, then showed us how to find many of the constellations. The night sky is amazing...everything is seen so clearly, including the Milky Way. We saw satellites passing overhead, and meteorites. After the main presentations, we wandered through the various small telescopes to view Saturn, Mars, and various stars. One warning, regardless of the time of year, be prepared for cool temperatures.

1  Thank Bill S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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