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Yerkes Observatory

373 W Geneva St, Williams Bay, WI 53191-9603
+1 262-245-5555
Review Highlights
Great visit and Saturday tour

Very cool visit today to Yerkes Observatory near Lake Geneva. Constructed in 1890s, at the time the... read more

Reviewed 1 week ago
Carolyn O
via mobile
An architectural surprise!

Our guide, Richard, was terrific and brought the history of the people and the science to life... read more

Reviewed 4 weeks ago
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Read all 235 reviews
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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 Saturday. The cost is $10 per person age 18+ and $8 per person age 6 - 17. Weekday and Saturday hours vary 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 (11 am and 12Noon only from January 1 to mid-March). Reservations are not required. Saturday visitors are asked for a donation of $10 per person for adults and $8 per person for ages 6 - 17. 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. 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 beautiful new gift shop with many unique items.
  • Excellent77%
  • Very good19%
  • Average1%
  • Poor1%
  • Terrible2%
Travellers talk about
“tour guide” (24 reviews)
“lake geneva” (31 reviews)
“saturday tour” (7 reviews)
373 W Geneva St, Williams Bay, WI 53191-9603
+1 262-245-5555
Write a ReviewReviews (235)
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1 - 10 of 234 reviews

Reviewed 1 week ago via mobile

Very cool visit today to Yerkes Observatory near Lake Geneva. Constructed in 1890s, at the time the largest lens telescope in the world. Telescope still moves with its original direct current motor, AND THE WHOLE PLATFORM LIFTS instead of having people use ladders to get...More

Thank Carolyn O
Reviewed 4 weeks ago

Our guide, Richard, was terrific and brought the history of the people and the science to life. Very friendly, small group tour. We have driven by hundreds of times. If you have too, go on in-it's really worth it. Can't wait to go back for...More

Thank Martha25
Reviewed 4 weeks ago

My wife and I had wanted to take a tour of the Yerkes Observatory in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for several years. Somehow the trek just kept getting put off. But recent discussions with good friends led to a plan to go there just this past...More

Thank Richard R
A TripAdvisor Member
Palatine, Illinois
Reviewed 4 weeks ago via mobile

It was a cold snowy day when my wife and I drove up to the observatory for their daily tour but the hospitality by the staff was warm and friendly. We were greeted by Dan who would be our tour guide. It was amazing to...More

Thank A TripAdvisor Member
Reviewed 13 January 2018 via mobile

Fascinating, beautiful and so very interesting. If space or the universe interests you even a tiny bit, thus is a must see!! The tour leaders are knowledgeable and just the architecture information is amazing. To know so many discoveries & great scholars were here, and...More

Thank Meli_B4
Reviewed 7 January 2018 via mobile

This is one of those places we’ve driven past dozens of times over the years and finally (on a very cold January Saturday) decided we needed to check out! My kids (11 and 8) were a little undecided before we got there but once inside...More

Thank JW5788
Reviewed 3 January 2018 via mobile

Took the tour with my family and really enjoyed it. The history of the building and the building itself was fascinating!

Thank Jill R
Reviewed 28 December 2017 via mobile

We are UChicago family and we are happy we accidentally find this place. It’s cold here today in winter we would love to come again in summer.

Thank Tao S
Reviewed 26 December 2017

Fantastic tour that should be at the top of the list for anyone new (or old!) to the area, or, who has family/friends in town looking for something interesting to see. Tour guides are top notch and willing to answer any/all questions. On Saturday tours...More

Thank eof025
Reviewed 26 December 2017 via mobile

I have lived in the area for 30 years and haven’t taken the time to visit Yerke’s Observatory. Richard our tour guide was informative and funny. In about 40 minutes we learned about the building, telescope, people, and a bit of astrology. We were there...More

Thank JMH H
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Ask a question
Questions & Answers
Mary D
22 August 2017|
AnswerShow all 4 answers
Response from SteveT6029677454 | Reviewed this property |
Thanks for your comment Mary. Important for other folks to know.
Bridget G
27 June 2016|
AnswerShow all 5 answers
Response from Dan K | Property representative |
Bridget, our tours are most appropriate for ages 6 and up. Weekday tours are structured and visitors must stay with the tour guide at all times. Yerkes is a working facility and our offices are open on the main floor and... More
26 August 2015|
Response from Dan K | Property representative | Reviewed this property |
Hi, and thanks for asking about Yerkes. I am one of the tour guides and am happy to give you directions. The Observatory is located at 373 W Geneva St (Hwy 67), Williams Bay, WI 53191. Travel west from the central area of... More