We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

“Awe Inspiring”

McDonald Observatory
Ranked #1 of 12 things to do in Fort Davis
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
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
Laredo, Texas
Level 4 Contributor
42 reviews
22 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 32 helpful votes
“Awe Inspiring”
Reviewed 30 July 2011

I had never seen that many stars. It was gorgeous beyond belief. The drive is very long but so worth it. It really, really is an incredible view that stays with you. No photograph could really do justice to inspiration of this place. It is very calming and brings your issues into perspective :) I actually got to see the milky way and more stars than you can possibly name in a lifetime. Not Kidding!
As a side note: I was worried that since the observatory is setup there specifically to avoid light pollution that the drive in a mountain / hill area in the middle of the night would be very dangerous but the highway is very properly marked with dozens of reflectors at every curve so you never feel like you are in danger of loosing control or sight of the highway. (Which does happen when you are driving in a very dark area)

Visited August 2010
Thank MargGlz
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Write a Review

1,003 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
dallas, texas
Level 6 Contributor
110 reviews
44 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 61 helpful votes
“It was out of this world.”
Reviewed 21 July 2011

I had heard about this place since I was a student at UT in Austin about a hundred years ago (it seems), and I had always wanted to go. A recent trip to Big Bend National Park gave me the opportunity to visit. Even though I had read up on the Observatory, I was still amazed at the experience of touring it. The solar viewing guided tour is definitely worth the ticket price. The highlight of the visit, however, is the star party. I'm not sure what I expected, but it was an outstanding experience at the top of a mountain on a clear Texas night. I don't know much about astronomy, but the staff members were informative, entertaining, and very welcoming. After I had seen all the views there were to see, I didn't want to leave. I just wish it were closer to home, so that I could do it again soon.

Visited July 2011
1 Thank dallasbobtex
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Lubbock, Texas
Level 3 Contributor
21 reviews
10 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 28 helpful votes
“See the stars as you've never seen them before.”
Reviewed 11 July 2011

My wife and I went to the Star Party in July of 2011. It was pretty neat. We got to see several stars through telescopes as well as Saturn and several of it's moons. We live near a big city and don't get to see as much of the night sky as we'd like. The sky is so clear at the observatory you can see more stars than you could ever imagine. Constellations, planets, it was really amazing. But bring a jacket, even in the summer months it gets pretty chilly at night. Not really something that small children would enjoy but great for adults.

Visited July 2011
1 Thank Texborn82
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Irving, TX
Level 5 Contributor
74 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 77 helpful votes
“Visited several years ago but it merits a review”
Reviewed 14 May 2011

My visit to the Mc Donald Observatory was several years ago but the visit merits a review.
I went in September and the weather was ideal for the day tour which included a conducted bus trip to all the large telescopes with very knowledgeable guides conducting the tour. That evening I returned for the Star Party. Although there was bright moonlight, more stars that you would not see otherwise were visible and again the tour leader was very knowledge in pointing out various constellations and other points of interest in the sky. There were other telescopes pointed at Saturn (the rings stood out)
and to one of the nebulas. There were also video displays of close ups of the moon.
I stayed overnight at the Indian Lodge at the Davis Mountains State Park, which is about 15 miles and 20 minutes south of the Observatory. The lodging and food at the Black Bear Restaurant is highly recommended. Combined with a visit to the Fort Davis National Historic Site, about 5 miles and 10 minutes from the Indian Lodge made for a very interesting and instructive trip. No trip to West Texas should be without it.

Visited September 2010
1 Thank jJNB
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Houston, Texas
Level 3 Contributor
9 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
“Incredible trip to the stars (free and low cost options)”
Reviewed 22 March 2011

If you get the chance, McDonald Observatory is really worth a visit. There are two ways to see the telescopes. You can drive up to them and take a look from the visitor’s gallery, or spend few dollars on the daytime Solar Viewing & Tour Program that includes a great overview on the sun (including live images from a sun telescope) and a guided tour of two of the large telescopes. You’ll get to go behind the public viewing area on one of them, right up next to the scope. I’ve done both self guided (on a previous visit) and the Tour and there is no comparison. The Solar Viewing & Tour Program is the way to go. They also offer the Solar Viewing Program by itself, but the tour is the best part! All are offered daily.

In the evening two or three times a week (more during peak visitor periods) there are two great programs. The first is a Twilight Program – fun for all but especially fun for kids. There is some audience interaction and volunteers participate in the show! About a half hour later, once the sky is good and dark, they have a Star Party, which is loaded with information to help you navigate the night sky, find planets and constellations, and get up close with some smaller telescopes to view planets, the moon, and stars.

As I’ve said, these evening/night programs don’t take place every evening, and reservations are a good idea, especially during the busiest times of the year (school vacations, holidays…) All three programs I did on my visit were worth every penny and I am really glad I did them.

I shot a short timelapse during the star party. While I listened in to a great presentation, my camera was busy clicking away, pointed up the mountain to 2 of the observatories. You can watch all 5 seconds of it here: http://timelapse.org/2010/mcdonald-observatory/

Visited October 2010
3 Thank keylight
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

Been to McDonald Observatory? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Owners: What's your side of the story?

Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.

Claim Your Listing