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“Not worth the trip”

Palomar Observatory
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
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 1 August 2014

I am a physics teacher and decided to visit this famous telescope for my own sense of history and get photos for my students. However, the experience was so poorly designed that I really would not even advise my students to visit.

The good parts are that visits are free, they are open every day and there is a small exhibit showing some of the uses and breakthroughs achieved with the telescopes at Palomar.

The bad part is that it is difficult to see the telescope and impossible to take decent photos. The ironic part is that there is a section at the exhibit that explains light pollution and how it affects viewing from the telescope when trying to view a dark object with light in the background. However, that is exactly the way the visitor gallery is set up. The telesope is poorly lit but it is viewed from a well lit visitor gallery with glass in between. In a place where so much care is taken to ensure good observations it is a joke that they show such little care in setting up the visitor experience.

6  Thank Born_Old
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Write a ReviewReviews (130)
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"guided tour"
in 18 reviews
"gift shop"
in 21 reviews
"beautiful drive"
in 8 reviews
"cal tech"
in 5 reviews
"inch telescope"
in 3 reviews
"worth the trip"
in 8 reviews
"space exploration"
in 3 reviews
"small museum"
in 6 reviews
"day trip"
in 8 reviews
"tour times"
in 2 reviews
"national forest"
in 3 reviews
"picnic area"
in 4 reviews
"visitor center"
in 6 reviews
"windy road"
in 2 reviews
"inside the building"
in 2 reviews
"answering questions"
in 2 reviews
"pack a lunch"
in 2 reviews

86 - 90 of 130 reviews

Reviewed 6 July 2014

We were staying in nearby Julian and decided to drive to Palomar. There is a gift shop and museum there as well as several telescopes. The view is nice. Unless you are a telescope enthusiast, don't expect too much inside the observatory itself; in and out in less than ten minutes. Some of the videos in the museum are interesting. I'm glad I went to "check it off the list" of places to see. It's been there since the 1930s. Expect to spend about an hour total there.

1  Thank imtom55711
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 28 June 2014

The closest i got to heaven! That giant tree was superbly wonderful! Bring jacket though cause it gets pretty chilly in the afternoon.

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

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