McDonald Observatory

Observatory in Fort Davis & Davis Mountains

Image by Larry Landolfi Getty Images

Far from the light pollution of big cities, West Texas boasts some of North America’s clearest and darkest skies, making it the perfect spot for an observatory. Some of the world's largest telescopes are perched on the peak of Mt Locke (6791ft), so enormous you’ll spot them long before you arrive. A real thrill for science-minded kids, the popular Star Party programs (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday; timings vary seasonally) help visitors see the night sky in a whole new way.

A day pass gets you a guided tour (11am and 2pm; 2½ hours) that includes close-up peeks at (but not through) the 8.75ft Harlan J Smith Telescope and the 36ft Hobby-Eberly Telescope, as well as a solar viewing, where you get to stare at the sun without scorching your eyeballs. Reservations are essential for all programs.

The observatory is 17 miles northwest of Fort Davis. Allow 30 minutes to drive from town.