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Yerkes Observatory

Certificate of Excellence
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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 138 reviews
Visitor rating
  • 96
  • 33
    Very good
  • 4
  • 1
  • 3
Starry night

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... read more

5 of 5 bubblesReviewed yesterday
Rachel J
Bloomington, Illinois, United States
via mobile
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138 Reviews from our TripAdvisor Community

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Showing 137: English reviews
Bloomington, Illinois, United States
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed yesterday NEW 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 2 days ago NEW 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
213 reviews
50 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 103 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 6 days ago NEW

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 2 weeks ago

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
Level Contributor
239 reviews
44 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 104 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 17 November 2016

We enjoyed visiting here. I would recommend staying for the tour and learning about the largest refracting telescope. The tour last about an hour, hour and a half. They also explain the history of the observatory and things you may overlook on your own while visiting. Donations are excepted.

Thank alwaysfun2travel
Haines, Alaska
Level Contributor
12 reviews
7 attraction reviews
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 13 November 2016 via mobile

Beautiful fall day, historic architecture and bountiful stellar information! History about the building, the telescope, the star gazing.

Thank Terri B
Richardson, Texas
Level Contributor
147 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 26 September 2016 via mobile

I would not recommend this tour for everyone, particularly younger kids. But if you have an appreciation for science and history you will appreciate the perspective both scientifically, architecturally, and historically that tour guide Richard offers. Because the day we visited was clear we were treated to a reflective view of sun spots. It is amazing that this telescope was... More 

Thank Lee F
Level Contributor
7 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 19 September 2016

What a terrific find. To see such an amazing piece of History. We will be going back to do some of the things that allow you to use the telescope. The tour is very educational but could be shortened on the History of Yerkes and his Chicago connection.

Thank 858cathyp
McHenry, Illinois
Level Contributor
21 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
1 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 19 September 2016

Not what we thought it would be like, Probably will not recommend this place to friends or family, not impressed at all.

Thank Georgann S
Dan K, Manager at Yerkes Observatory, responded to this review

Georgann, thank you for taking time to tell us about your experience at Yerkes. I am concerned, though, about your comments. First, did you participate on a daytime tour or a nighttime observing experience? Then, what about your visit did not meet or exceed your expectations? You state in your review that your visit was "Not what we thought it... More 

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over a year ago
Orland Park IL
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