Free Saturday Tours Throughout the Year
Yerkes Observatory is open for free public tours every Saturday throughout the year. Programs begin at 10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and Noon. The guided portion of the program begins at 10:15 a.m., 11:15 a.m., and 12:15 p.m. and last about forty-five minutes. We don't take reservations. While there is no charge, we appreciate a suggested donation of five dollars per person. If there are more than fifteen in your group, please consider making arrangements for a private program at some other time. If you wish to do so, please call 262 245-5555, extension 880.
During the tours, the tour guide provides a brief talk on the history of Yerkes, astronomical research, and our amazing Universe. He will also take visitors into the 90-foot dome, one of the largest of its kind ever built. Here, visitors look at the famed 40-inch Refractor, the world's biggest lens-type telescope, and its impressive 73-foot diameter elevator floor. Note that the dome interior is unheated, and during late fall and winter temperatures inside are as chilly as out doors. Please dress appropriately.
Before or after the tour, visitors may look at a Timeline display on the main floor that covers Yerkes Observatory's early history and is adorned with dozens of photographs from the 1890s. Other hall displays concentrate on comets, galaxies, nebulae, and the death of stars.
A gift shop offers authentic meteorites, DVDs, color postcards, T-shirts, sweatshirts, scientific kits, books, guides to the stars and planets, and, many other science and astronomy-related items.
Also, visit the Quester Museum, realized by the Explorare Questers, a group of talented volunteers with an interest in preserving local history. Artifacts and personal effects on display here examine the lives of some of Yerkes Observatory’s most famous astronomers, people who had profound effects not only on the scientific community but the people of Williams Bay.
The museum is open during normal public hours (Saturdays, from 10:00 am through 1:00 pm) and is located in the southeast transept of the main floor.
Regular Saturday tours are designed for families and other small groups; we do not take reservations. Information on groups and other customized special programs can be found below.
New Weekday Tours
On weekdays when we have a tour guide available, you may schedule a thirty-minute tour which is similar to the Saturday tours. We charge $25 for the half-hour program for up to five in a group. We charge an additional $5 per person if there are more than five. During tours, the guide provides a brief talk on the amazing architectural detail inside and outside, the history of Yerkes, astronomical research and our amazing Universe. He takes visitors up into the 90-foot dome, one of the largest every built. Here, visitors get to look at, but not through, the Great Refractor. With its 40-inch diameter lenses, it remains the largest telescope of its kind.
Note that the dome interior is unheated. During late Fall, Winter and early Spring, temperatures inside are as chilly as outdoors. Please dress appropriately.
A gift shop offers authentic meteorites, DVDs, color postcards, posters, t-shirts, sweatshirts, scientific kits, book, guides to the stars and planets, and many other science and astronomy-related items.
To schedule a 30-minute weekday tour, contact Cindy Rademaker at 262-245-5555 ext. 810, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cindy can also provide you with information on scheduling a longer, more detailed tour.
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Observe through a Yerkes Observatory Telescope!
From season to season the evening sky changes slowly and reveals many different celestial wonders visible with, and without, optical aid. Every month during the year, on select weekday and weekend evenings, Yerkes Observatory offers observing sessions with our 24-inch diameter reflecting telescope, weather permitting, for participants who are age 10 and up.
For available observing sessions and reservation info click here...
Programs for Families, Schools, Scouts, etc.
Throughout the year Yerkes Observatory hosts general tours during the day or in the evening. We can accommodate up to fifty, depending on the program. The charge per group for a one-hour program is $100.00. To reserve a mutually agreeable date and time, please contact Richard Dreiser at 262 245-5555, ext 880, or, send email to: email@example.com
Throughout the year Yerkes Observatory can host special corporate events. You may make arrangements for outside catering. These programs can include tours, and, weather permitting, observing through telescopes. Call 262 245-5555, extension 810 for a price schedule and other details.
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Take Highway 94 North to Highway 50. Turn left, and go west on highway 50 into the city of Lake Geneva. Proceed about six miles to the intersection of Highway 67. You will see Mercy Clinic on your left. Turn left onto Highway 67 and continue downhill almost exactly one mile (you will pass the "Lighthouse" Restaurant on your right) to where Highway 67 does a t-intersection with Geneva Street (the Williams Bay Fire Department is immediately ahead of you). Turn right, and go uphill, curving to your left on Highway 67/Geneva Street almost exactly one mile up to the unlit brown sign with white lettering that says YERKES OBSERVATORY. (Please note that, because of ongoing research, our sign is NOT lit up.) Turn into the Yerkes Observatory Drive, and park in front of the Observatory. (If you see the illuminated Aurora University sign on your left, you've gone exactly one block too far. Turn around.)
From Milwaukee or Beloit:
Take Highway 43 all the way to the Highway 67 Elkhorn/Williams Bay exit. Turn south onto Highway 67 towards Williams Bay, and drive about six miles to the intersection of Highway 50. Cross Highway 50 (you will see Mercy Clinic immediately on your left) Continue downhill almost exactly one mile (you will pass the “Lighthouse” Restaurant on your right) to where Highway 67 does a t-intersection with Geneva Street (the Williams Bay Fire Department is immediately ahead of you). Turn right, and go uphill, curving to your left on Highway 67/Geneva Street almost exactly one mile up to the unlit brown sign with white lettering that says YERKES OBSERVATORY. (Please note that, because of ongoing research, our sign is NOT lit up.) Turn into the Yerkes Observatory Drive, and park in front of the Observatory. (If you see the illuminated Aurora University sign on your left, you've gone exactly one block too far. Turn around.)