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“Not For Star Gazers Only!”

Kitt Peak National Observatory
Ranked #1 of 1 things to do in Sells
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
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
Reviewed 11 May 2014

This place is awesome. We went for the night tour. We left Tucson at 3:30 and arrived by 5:00 pm. We sat outside until 6 PM when the tour started. I wish I had gone inside earlier to walk through the gift store. There are wonderful things there, but I didn't have another opportunity to spend time there. The tour guides are volunteers and students and really made learning fun. The dinner, which is part of the $45 tour price was fairly good turkey sandwiches with all the fixings (chips, dried fruit, an oreo cookie and water). I recommend that you bring your own thermos if you want a hot drink and you probably will want one after coming back inside periodically. I brought a big canvas bag with my coat, scarf, gloves (a must have) and hat. I'm glad that I brought it in with me too.

You'll go in and out during the evening. I didn't know that it ended at 10:00 - 10:30....and I was getting tired....way past my bedtime...so be prepared.

Some of the information was a little "science" oriented and went right over my head, but the best part for me was learning how to focus binoculars and looking at Mars, Saturn and Jupiter and the Moon through the telescope. It was also fun looking at the sky through the binoculars too.

Definitely recommend this visit at least once in a lifetime. Worth the drive. But please, please, please don't speed on the road down at the end of the night. There are live animals crossing and they are attracted to your car head lights. Please watch and drive slowly.

7  Thank travelera826
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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"solar telescope"
in 36 reviews
"night sky"
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in 22 reviews
"night tour"
in 18 reviews
"star charts"
in 13 reviews
"naked eye"
in 19 reviews
"visitor center"
in 29 reviews
in 9 reviews
"mountain top"
in 12 reviews
"light pollution"
in 12 reviews
"huge telescopes"
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"star gazing"
in 16 reviews
"turkey sandwich"
in 6 reviews
"andromeda galaxy"
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in 5 reviews
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in 26 reviews
"light dinner"
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182 - 186 of 339 reviews

Reviewed 21 April 2014

Took family for their evening observing program. Despite the COLD and very gusty winds, it was awesome! Bring gloves, scarves, hats and layers cause the telescopes aren't heated. Guides are working astronomers and made learning about the sky fun. Spent at least an hour looking through telescope to see Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and an almost full moon. Then, had a chance to use binoculars and a star chart to see the same-very cool.

1  Thank Jenn B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 17 April 2014

Had the great pleasure of visiting the Kitt Peak National Observatory in late March. If you are interested in astronomy or just curious about the subject you will find this a fascinating place to visit. Plan on getting there early so you can take in all three guided tours as they are excellent and full of interesting information. The main store/office also has some fantastic information in the visitor area where they have displays, exhibits and continuously running DVD programs. Lots of interesting stuff to purchase for all price ranges. The drive up is a thrill in itself, just don't let the driver take their eyes off the road. There are some guardrails but you don't want to stray off the paved road. This is a fun place for all ages as long as you are curious. Not expensive, you only pay for the tours and each of the three tours does a different telescope and is about an hour to hour and half long. Bring a picnic hamper as no real food for sale at the top. They could offer more snack food but bring your own, cheaper that way anyway and a nice picnic area right beside the main store/visitor center. You will be talking about this visit long after you have left!

7  Thank Eagle1623
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 13 April 2014

We stopped at the observatory on our way from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to Saguaro National Park. The observatory has three guided tours. Each tour features a different telescope. Tours begin at 10:00, 11:30 and 1:30 in the visitor center. We arrived too late for the first tour so we took the opportunity to tour of the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope on our own while we waited for the 11:30 tour to begin. It was a cloudy day so no one was working at the telescope. This was still an interesting self guided tour as there are very good static displays explaining the science behind the telescope and its construction and operation. Even though there was no one on-site, you could still see how things might work if the sun was out.

Our 11:30 tour of the 2.1 meter telescope started at the visitor center. There is a fee for the tours, a single tour is $7.75 for adults, 13 years and above, children ages 7 to 12 pay $3.00 and children 0 to 6 years can tour for free. The three tour package is a bargain. Adults pay $9.75 and children pay $3.35.

Our docent, Andy, gave an excellent overview of the observatory, its history and mission to the six of us who signed up for the tour. As we walked from the visitor center to the telescope Andy pointed out several of the 22 telescopes and discussed some the projects the researchers are working on. We were also cautioned to be quiet as we toured the grounds. The bulk of the people who work here are sleeping. Once inside the Telescope's dome, Andy used a model to show how it works to explore deep space. You do not have to be an astronomer or a fan of astronomy to appreciate this place and its significance.

When the tour was over there was still time to check out the big Mayhill 4-meter telescope. From the telescope's visitor gallery you get a 360 degree view of the observatory and a good portion of southern Arizona.

The visitor center is operated by the Tohono O'odham tribe as the observatory is on reservation land. This makes for an interesting gift shop, seeing deep space and Native American traditions share shelf space. You can picnic here but there are only a few snacks and drinks available for sale. 

This is a not to be missed experience and we highly recommend spending a half to a full day here.

3  Thank Davis K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Astro85719, Manager at Kitt Peak National Observatory, responded to this reviewResponded 14 April 2014

Clarification, the Kitt Peak Visitor Center is not run by the Tohono O'odham Tribe. It is run by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and the National Science Foundation. The Observatory however is on Tohono O'odham lands.

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 11 April 2014 via mobile

We visited Kitt peak's 4 meter telescope onservatory after the last tour had been completed.

The remoteness of the site makes it important to plan to either bring food or eat prior to going.

Be prepared for cold temperatures, though it was 82 when we were there. There were also impressive wind gusts.

I loved the tremendous views from the observation area. My partner enjoyed the impressive technology.

There is a picnic area, open until 3. While we didn't get there in time to see it, I'm sure views are impressive.

First tour was about 9 and the last at 1:30, and the road is closed at 4.

1  Thank Claudia E
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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