How to Make the Most of Your Trip to Lowell Observatory
Travel wisdom of the day:
When arriving in a new place, get the lay of the land.
Whether by foot, car, bike, trolley, or boat – look around.
In the case of Lowell Observatory, show up before dark.
Seven things to do at Lowell Observatory
Steele Visitors Center
Start here to pay your entrance fee, pick up a map and find out what’s on the schedule.
Walk the Campus
Take in the buildings and telescopes.
These are short outdoor exhibits on the north side of the campus.
Enjoy the Slipher Building – Rotunda Museum and Percival Lowell’s Mausoleum
Ask at the entrance desk what other buildings are open for viewing.
Take in a day-time program
Telescope activities include a solar viewing of the sun or McAllister Telescope viewing of objects in the daytime sky.
The Story of Pluto tour and the Lowell Tour are also options.
Take in an evening telescope viewing
McAllister Telescope and Clark Telescope offer viewings after dark. These telescopes are an attraction in their own right.
There were also several portable telescopes set up the night we were there.
Museum docents play host at each telescope, telling stories and explaining what you are about to see.
Note: you will be outside for a good stretch, waiting your turn at each telescope – be prepared for chill at night and sun during the day.
Take in an evening presentation
Depending on the evening you can take in science talks, watch demonstrations or go on a constellation tour.
We attended a Stars and Galaxies talk delivered by an astronomy student from Arizona State University.
It was heady stuff.
I tracked for about 15 minutes and then all the massive numbers he was throwing out started to swim around my head.
My traveling companion (who will remain nameless, although you can see his picture on our about page) surreptitiously watched a football game on his phone.
We are curious people, but I think you really have to be an astronomy fan to appreciate these presentations.
When you check in and get a schedule ask which programs are suited to children – I think those would have been right at our level.
Collect sky objects
This is a great example of souvenirs without dust.
I discovered that people make a hobby of viewing and “collecting” star clusters.
We saw Messier 15 and Andromeda Galaxy, so I’m on my way to becoming an astronomy geek!
In case you want to take up the hobby here is a list of Messier Objects.
Get an education at Lowell Observatory
Visit the website
Explore beginning stargazing
Sparkling Star Clusters on Astronomy.com
Astronomy for Beginners on Sky and Telescope
Take advantage of the junior astronomer program
Become a Junior astronomer at Lowell
Everything you need to know about visiting Lowell Observatory
Where is Lowell Observatory?
When is Lowell Observatory open?
Open Monday – Saturday from 10 a.m. -10 p.m.
Sunday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Be aware that weather conditions affect viewing – no refunds.
How much is admission to Lowell Observatory?
|Who||Daily (except Tue)||Tuesdays|
(close at 5 pm)
|Flagstaff and Coconino Cty|
residents, and their guests
|Children (ages 5-17)||$16.00||$12.00||$10.00|
|Children under 4||Free||Free||Free|
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The LO website has little information on accessibility.
It appeared to me that the facility is wheelchair accessible, but I don’t have any physical limitations so it would be easy to perceive wrong.
If you have questions or concerns about your specific situation I suggest you call them (928) 774-3358.
How long should we plan to visit Lowell Observatory?
Several hours if you take in a tour or programs.
We stayed about 3 hours looking through the telescopes and attending one presentation – this was the tip of the iceberg.
Other tips for visiting Lowell Observatory
Since LO is all about stars and the night sky, I thought it made sense to show up after dark.
Not the best idea.
We missed out on seeing many of the exhibits and spent a lot of time groping around the property in the dark.
If I had to do it over I would arrive at least an hour before sunset and walk the property.
Dress warm! It gets cold at 7200′ and you will be queuing up outside to get your turn at the telescopes.
We were frozen and left sooner than my mind wanted to. But my body was screaming for the hotel hot tub.
I live at 10′ above sea level.
In the Southwest it’s common to be at 6000-8000′ – this is no joke if you aren’t used to it.
Drink water – constantly.
The Observatory has a wonderful gift shop. You won’t see us mention gift shops very often, but this one is special.
Near Lowell Observatory
Where to stay
Flagstaff is a big town, you will find a variety of lodging options.
The Chamber of Commerce has a list.
Where to eat
So many wonderful choices! Not at Lowell itself, but in the town of Flagstaff.
Flagstaff is full of variety – the historic downtown area is a charming walk around.
We went to the Beaver Street Brewery and Whistle Stop Cafe. The food was great.
There’s also a Whole Foods with the gamut of prepared deli items.
Things to do nearby
What other people say about Lowell Observatory
I enjoyed both of these posts. A bonus – they both went during the day and took great photos, so I get to see what we missed!
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