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Yerkes Observatory

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Address: 373 W Geneva St, Williams Bay, WI 53191-9603
Phone Number:
+1 262-245-5555

Yerkes Observatory is owned and operated by the University Chicago,...

Yerkes Observatory is owned and operated by the University Chicago, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and located in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. Built between 1895 and 1897 in the classic Romanesque style, Yerkes is home to the largest refracting (lens-type) telescope in the world and two other research-grade reflecting (mirror-type) telescopes. The building is beautifully preserved and ornamented with Roman brick and terra cotta, has three telescope domes (the largest is 90 feet in diameter and 10 stories in height), and is situated on 77 acres in a park-like setting. Tours of the building and the refractor are available Monday through Friday. The cost is $10 per person age 18+ and $8 per person age 6 - 17. Hours vary a bit by season. Consult the website for the most current tour schedule. Saturday tours are held for the public at 10 and 11 am, and 12Noon. Reservations are not required. While free to visitors, the suggested donation on Saturdays is $8 per person. The grounds are open every day, during daylight hours, for self-guided walking tours, free of charge. Photography is permitted. Professional photographers are required to contact the Observatory in advance during weekday hours to obtain permission for any photo shoot. The staff also hosts public observing sessions with the 40-inch refractor and the 24-inch reflecting telescopes many evenings throughout the year. Reservations are required and there is a charge for participation. Call the Observatory during regular weekday hours or visit the Yerkes website for more information. The Observatory contains a lovely museum, many interesting displays concerning its construction, history, architecture and the science of astronomy, and a gift shop with many unique items.

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TripAdvisor Reviewer Highlights

Read all 143 reviews
Visitor rating
  • 101
  • 33
    Very good
  • 4
  • 1
  • 3
Great time

Richard H. Gave a super info packed tour. Never realized how much astronomy was going on throughout history.

5 of 5 bubblesReviewed yesterday
Rick K
via mobile
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143 Reviews from our TripAdvisor Community

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Showing 142: English reviews
1 review
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed yesterday NEW via mobile

Richard H. Gave a super info packed tour. Never realized how much astronomy was going on throughout history.

Thank Rick K
Marion, Indiana
1 review
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 3 days ago NEW

Views through the 40" or, for that matter, any scooe this large are truly an exquisite privilege, the likes of which has heretofore been reserved to extremely few people in the entire world. The 40" Clark refractor is a world class treasure, unparalleled to this day in its class. Observatory staff were very helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable...not just about the... More 

Thank dreynolds422
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Level Contributor
81 reviews
44 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 29 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 1 week ago via mobile

If you like history at all this is a great place to stop. The tour is less than an hour but worth the $10. Our tour guide had a wealth of knowledge to impart and made the tour very interesting. There isn't a lot of walking but plenty to see. The tour times are 11am and 2pm on weekdays which... More 

1 Thank Syxepac
Whitehouse, Ohio
Level Contributor
99 reviews
31 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 50 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 2 weeks ago

Was in Lake Geneva for the weekend and wanted to see some of the local attractions. Since it was the beginning of March there wasn't much we could do outside. Found this place and they had free tours on the weekend so thought we'd try it out. Great architecture to look at and an interesting exhibit. You do get to... More 

Thank tmmock
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Level Contributor
3 reviews
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 19 February 2017

We were fortunate to have an exceptionally clear and beautiful night, so the sky was full of stars. With the help of Dan, our guide to deep space, we were able to view several objects wit the magnificent 40 " telescope. Definitely an impressive experience. It was a plus to hear about the history of the 100+ year old scope... More 

Thank Jules P
Bloomington, Illinois, United States
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 19 February 2017 via mobile

We called on our way up to Lake geneva and could get in that night. It was absolutely amazing. The tour guide/director was extremely knowledgeable and explained things in a very user friendly manner. He definitely displayed his passion for astronomy. We also got to have a lot of time to look through the telescope. It was a once in... More 

Thank Rachel J
Level Contributor
11 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 18 February 2017 via mobile

We were lucky enough to have a rare clear night. We got a tour of/were able to use the 40 in telescope. Well worth the money...romantic and fun. Dress warmly!

Thank Ashley C
Deerfield, IL
Level Contributor
217 reviews
50 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 104 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 14 February 2017

We stopped here on a Sat night- they were having a "Star Party", but sadly the night was cloudy. There were still lots of fun activities and tours. A lot of great volunteers teaching about Yerkes and astronomy. Check the website to see when they are open, and then go- it's very worthwhile.

Thank irisarbor
Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
33 reviews
19 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 18 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 5 February 2017

This was a stop we always wanted to make and finally did. We all learned a great deal on the tour and about the telescope. We also learned about the history and star gazing. A good stop for people of all ages.

Thank Erin B
Level Contributor
3 reviews
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 10 December 2016

Learned a lot about the Observatory. Learned what is and is not accurate in movies about astronomy. They answered all m questions.

Thank Jon T

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