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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 there is no charge for visitors, the suggested donation on Saturdays is $10 per person for adult 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 gift shop with many unique items.

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TripAdvisor Reviewer Highlights

Read all 154 reviews
Visitor rating
  • 112
  • 33
    Very good
  • 4
  • 1
  • 3
Rainy Day- Perfect indoor activity

We were planning to walk the Lake Path but it was pouring rain, so we were recommended to go to Yerkes Observatory. It was a really great way to spend a few hours on a Saturday... read more

Reviewed 1 week ago
Karen S
Plainfield, Illinois, United States
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154 Reviews from our TripAdvisor Community

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Showing 153: English reviews
Plainfield, Illinois, United States
Level Contributor
7 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
Reviewed 1 week ago

We were planning to walk the Lake Path but it was pouring rain, so we were recommended to go to Yerkes Observatory. It was a really great way to spend a few hours on a Saturday. Be sure to go on a guided tour (Saturdays only at 10a, 11a and 12p). The guides who speak are very knowledgeable. And in... More 

Thank Karen S
Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
10 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed 3 weeks ago via mobile

My family and I really enjoy our visit to the observatory, they have amazing tour guides. The tours are very interesting, we learn about history, science and architecture.

Thank Semi H
Whitewater, Wisconsin
Level Contributor
149 reviews
63 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 63 helpful votes
Reviewed 5 weeks ago

We went here with our 9 yr old granddaughter. It was an interesting tour for all of us. Our guide was very knowledgeable. It was awesome to see the huge telescope. Architecture was beautiful. To actually view through the telescope, you have to take a different (more expensive) tour. What we took was the daytime tour.

Thank JustLinky
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Level Contributor
35 reviews
13 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed 17 April 2017

The Yerkes Observatory is a beautiful gem historically, architecturally, and scientifically. The tours are well done, the little gift shop is neatly set-up with a little something for everyone, and the building is curated with great little vignettes of artifacts, pictures and information.

Thank Deanne W
1 review
Reviewed 16 April 2017 via mobile

One of the best observatories I've been to. They have tours and the will move the big telescope, the dome and the floor for you so you can see how it works. You are allowed to use the telescope personally at night as well, so much fun! The speakers are awesome and have so much knowledge. The building has so... More 

Thank WJ M
Chicago, Illinois
2 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed 15 April 2017 via mobile

Very informative and interesting. The tour addressed both the telescopes and how're they are used and the beautiful architecture. Great tour guides.

Thank cmge44
Chicago, Illinois
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed 10 April 2017 via mobile

The Yerkes Observatory is a must-see stop on any Lake Geneva trip. The telescope and the architecture are fascinating; the tour guides do a fantastic job telling the observatory's story. Plus, the photos you can capture here are unlike any others.

1 Thank kcdahlstrom
Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
24 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
Reviewed 3 April 2017 via mobile

We just happened by this lovely observatory while taking a Day Trip to Lake Geneva. We did not go inside because we arrived at the building during non-tour hours. Even though we did not get to go inside, I give this beautiful building 5 stars just for the architecture alone! This is one of the most beautiful buildings I have... More 

Thank WindingLane
Franklin, Wisconsin
Level Contributor
3 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed 2 April 2017

Our tour guide was very interesting mentioning the history of the funding and construction of the observatory, the mechanical operation of the telescope and ending with the explanation of the architecture of the building. We will be bringing other friends and family to see this.

Thank jean_m_rude
Level Contributor
7 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed 31 March 2017

Absolutely take the time to visit this exquisite architectural/science masterpiece off the beaten patch in Williams Bay! The beautiful architecture is the first sight that will take your breath away when you arrive. Get there in time for a tour and you will be amazed at the wealth of knowledge the docent has about the history of this observatory. When... More 

1 Thank Tina W

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