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“Great Visiting the Grande Dame”

Palomar Observatory
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Owner description: Palomar Observatory, located atop Palomar Mountain in north San Diego County, California, is a center of astronomical research owned and operated by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). The Observatory is home to three active research telescopes: the 200-inch (5.1-meter) Hale Telescope, the 48-inch (1.2-meter) Samuel Oschin Telescope, and the 60-inch (1.5-meter) telescope. The research is conducted by Caltech faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and students, as well as by researchers at collaborating institutions. Conceived of almost a hundred years ago, Palomar Observatory has been at the forefront of astronomical research since mid-century. Today, the observatory operates every clear night and is an iconic facility for scientific advancement, instrument development, and student training. The Observatory is a popular destination in Southern California and receives tens of thousands of visitors a year from all over the world. Most come to see the famous 200-inch (5.1-meter) Hale Telescope-for decades the largest effective telescope in operation. Whether you are an astronomy, history, or engineering enthusiast, or simply curious about the Observatory, you will enjoy visiting our museum and taking one of our guided tours of the facility. All are welcome at the Palomar, but we ask that all visitors respect our rules and procedures. Public, guided tours of the 200-inch (5.1-meter) Hale Telescope are available to visitors on the weekends (Saturday and Sunday, start times are 11:00 am and 1:30 pm) spring through fall-typically from the first weekend in April to the last weekend October. The tours are roughly one hour long, and limited-availalbility tickets (sold exclusively on a day-of and first-come, first served basis) are required. Please plan accordingly.
Useful Information: Bathroom facilities
Reviewed 17 May 2014

As an accomplished armchair astronomer, seeing the 200" reflector has long been on my bucket list. I was not disappointed! A reasonable drive (less than 90 minutes) from San Diego brought us to the beautiful site. The volunteers who led the tours were exceptional - knowledgeable, friendly and amusing. I would encourage anyone with any interest at all in astronomy to give this wonderful site a visit.

Thank Larry_in_Issaquah
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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88 - 92 of 129 reviews

Reviewed 8 May 2014

We drove from Oceanside, and even before we got to Mount Palomar Observatory, the visit proved worthwhile, given the stunning scenery on the way. The observatory itself is very interesting, given the story behind its construction. It's quite a long drive, but well it. I would recommend it to anyone.

Thank David A
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 March 2014

We were traveling from San Diego to Palm Springs and wanted to visit this along the way. We had checked the website so we were aware that there were no tours mid-week during the winter. Weather was great and there had been no snow so it was a beautiful winding drive up the mountain. Worth the trip itself. The observatory, visitor center and gift shop have limited hours so check the website ahead to avoid a surprise. The visitor center itself was small, but well done. It's worth taking the time to read and watch the displays. The majority being in video format on large wall mounted flat screen TV's. If you are the least bit interested in astronomy, you will enjoy it. A lot of significant firsts and discoveries happened here. There is a short self guided walk to the observatory itself. You climb a long and fairly steep set of stairs to a viewing area where you can see the telescope. There are some limited displays in the glass walled off visitor viewing area. They keep it cool, so dress appropriately. Very enjoyable side trip on our journey. Take the other road down towards Borrego Springs for an additional scenic drive.

2  Thank davenmanja
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 March 2014

Drove from Oceanside to Mount Palomar Observatory east on I-76. Excellent country drive and weather in January 2014. Amazing to read about the 3 Dimensional designs using paper and pencil and the exacting engineering, building, construction techniques, maintenance, and operations required prior to existence of computers. Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation to advance science and the cost to build the roads, 200 inch mirror, transporting the mirror, was very, very, impressive. There is a Gift Shop with a very informed lady that knows a great deal about the history of the National Forest that surrounds the Observatory. Bought a ball cap the a decal of the Palomar Observatory to remember the trip. Picnic tables and restrooms are available for lunch. Other than fuel the cost was free ! Yeah !!
Bye for now.
Robert James Lavelle January 2014

Thank boblavelle
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 21 February 2014

On our first pass, driving from Borrego Springs over the mountains to Escondido, we arrived at the gate too late to enter. I'd forgotten to account for the variable closing time (Standard Time vs. Daylight Savings Time). Be sure you have that factored in.

So I drove back up from La Jolla a couple of days later, and saw the machine I've been enamored with since I was a teenager. If you can, before you go read Ronald Florence's book The Perfect Machine. One of the best science-history volumes I've ever read.

And if you want to do more than peer through the glass of the observation room, you will need to be at the observatory at the right time of year, and the right day of the week, for a guided tour. Check the web site for details.

1  Thank LarryM708
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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