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Astronomy tourism whilst down route: Observatories, Planetariums, and Craters etc.
 Canada USA         Rest of World

Canada & USA  (below)

For Rest of the World > [Here]

Alternatively, make discoveries in your hotel room instead of watching TV? Publicly released NASA images are waiting to be analyzed and discovered. Soon, when the new LSST Telescope [more] gets online, there will be a new Sky Survey every few days! Start here: [BBC], [Planet Hunters], [Galaxy Zoo]

Please submit places with photo, info, and links.  [Contact]


Canada    
YYJ - Victoria, CANADA

 

The Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics NRC is the new name for the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO) wiki in Victoria, BC. The 72 inch 1918 "Plaskett Telescope" was planned to be, and controversially was, the largest telescope in the world for a few months, competing with the 100" at Mt Wilson 100 for completion, and ignoring the 1845 dysfunctional 72" at Birr Castle Birr, Ireland. It was however clearly the 2nd largest operational telescope in the world until the 1935 David Dunlap 74" telescope was built near Toronto 74 .

A local "Bald Eagle" soaring overhead the Observatory is not an uncommon sight here on Vancouver Island at the western fringe of Canada.

Victoria is currently the main national center for Canadian astronomical research. Other projects participated or administered include the Canada France Hawaii Telescope CFHT, Gemini N+S Gemini, Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory DRAO, James Clerk Maxwell Telescope JCMT, Atacama Submillimeter Array ALMA, Thirty Meter Telescope TMT, and James Webb Space Telescope JWST.  A visitors center offers paid tours and a mini-planetarium show Visit. Public observing with the 72", via live imaging, occurs 5 days per week seasonally when clear, but best on a Saturdays due to Royal Astronomical Society of Canada RASC volunteers with additional telescopes. A research quality 16" is also available, originally used as a test scope for Mt Kobal MK. Open Tues-Sat, after 3:30pm-10* Hours. The dome sits on a small mountain 7 miles north of the city map, away from public transport. From Vancouver, consider a float plane HarbourAir, helicopter HeliJet, or bus YVR, via the ferry BCFerries. This may be the excuse you need to go whale watching Whales or visit the Royal British Columbia Museum Exhibits. Also UVIC, wed.
YVR - Vancouver, CANADA
  The "Vancouver Planetarium" is actually called the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre link.  It is within long walking distance to the west of the city over the Burrard St Bridge map. There is also public telescope viewing on clear Saturday nights in the co-located Gordon MacMillan Southam Observatory, using a half meter Cassegrain. Consider calling first (link: more). Vancouver also has the Univ of BC UBC and the liquid 6m telescope LZT.
YYZ - Toronto, CANADA

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The David Dunlap Observatory [DDO] [wiki] has a 74 inch (1.88m) telescope built in 1935. This is Canada's largest traditional telescope, and certainly one of the largest in the world that the public is allowed to view though. It is just north of Toronto, and slightly east (walking distance) of Young Street in Richmond Hill.  It is now operated by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada [RASC-Toronto] [wiki] offering public talks and viewing many Saturdays with advance tickets [Buy]. Public transport, take subway to north end, Finch [TTC]. Then express VIVA blue bus [VIVA] north on Young to Weldrick. Then 15 minutes walk east. See [map].
  Looking forward to more contributions.  

USA    
HNL - Hawaii, USA
Submit Award: Nov 2010
The Mauna Kea Observatories link are located at the 13,796 foot summit of the largest northern volcano on the big main island of Hawaii map. The summit is usually visible when flying out of Honolulu, Oahu (HNL) to America. Local airports at Hilo and Kano make day visits to the big island practical. A Visitor's Center on the mountain is easily accessible, with the option to go to the summit during the day until dusk if your vehicle is suitable visitors. You cannot view through the big telescopes, but public viewing is available at the Visitors Center. Nevertheless, there are great views of the summit domes and vicinity. A world-class collection of well know equipment includes the 3.54m "Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope" CFHT and the amazing twin 10m Keck Telescopes Keck. Wiki. (This entry was submitted by B747 SFO Ben Walls of the UK)  
SEA - Seattle, USA
  The Pacific Science Center link is located on the old 1962 World's Fair grounds just a short walk north in the city map. The attached Willard Smith Planetarium offers some astronomical shows more, but the coolest thing under the dome is the amazing laser shows to music laser. There is also two IMAX theatres  IMAX. More: [Facebook]
SFO - San Francisco, USA

USS Hornet [official] [wiki] is a WWII era Essex-class aircraft carrier parked across the harbor from San Francisco near Oakland. It very famously picked up the Apollo 11 [wiki] astronauts Neil Armstrong [wiki], Buzz Aldrin [wiki], and Michael Collins [wiki] after their moon landing and were greeted by President Nixon [wiki] 24 July 1969. They transferred from their helicopter to a quarantine trailer (at [Smithsonian]) underneath the flight deck in the main hanger. Those few steps, although on dust covers, are painted on the floor. The USS Hornet also recovered the Apollo 12 [wiki] capsule. Take the Market Street BART [BART] subway to Oakland City Center, then Oakland 31 [AC-Transit] bus towards the dock. Then 15 minutes walk [map] west.
SFO - San Francisco, USA

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Hunters Point - Polaris Missile Testing Crane when built in 1947 was the largest crane in the world, originally used to remove Battleship gun turrets. In 1959 it was modified to capture the Polaris Missile [wiki] [wiki more]  after dummy launches called Operation Skycatch  [foundsf.org] [flickr]. Earlier tests actually went out into the Bay itself! This ex-Navy yard [wiki] [more] still has restricted access. The Polaris, after cancelled Skybolt [wiki], is interesting because it helped kill the British Vulcan bombers [wiki], their Blue Streak [wiki] missile (which became part of the EU Europa [wiki] rocket), and started their nuclear submarine [wiki] fleet. It also killed American projects like the horrific nuclear ram-jet Project Pluto [wiki]. Map [map].
SFO - San Francisco, USA

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Hiller Aviation Museum [official] was founded by helicopter pioneer Stanley Hiller Jr [.org] and so quite fittingly has some vertical oddities on display. Collection includes the NASA oblique scissor-wing aircraft AD-1[NASA] [wiki], the giant unmanned high altitude Condor [Condor] [wiki], and an ex-BA B747-136 (G-AWNG) front section [747], now painted in Flying Tigers colors. (Until Jan 2013, it also had the old Boeing B-2707 SST [wiki] front section mockup which has now transferred to the Boeing Museum [official] in Seattle.) Go south on the Caltrain [Caltrain] to "San Carlos", then 20 minute walk NE on Holly St. Map [map]. (BART city subway transfers to Caltrain at "Millbrae".)

 

SFO - San Francisco, USA

Parked in the restricted distance is the retired KAO Kuiper Airborne Observatory [wiki].

The NASA Ames Research Center [nasa], [wiki] is at the south end of the bay, about 32 miles southeast [map] of downtown San Francisco. It can be spotted from afar because it has 3 giant Airship Hangers and several huge NASA Wind Tunnels. Most of the facilities are restricted, but there is a Visitors Center [nasa], which includes actual wind tunnel models of  the Space Shuttle and SOFIA. There is also a fascinating Moffett Field  (Navy Aviation) Museum [moffett] onsite.  Did you know that the giant airship USS Macron was based here. Pilots used it as an airborne aircraft carrier, and a Sparrow Fighter is displayed in Washington DC [Smithsonian]. Go south on the Caltrain [Caltrain] to "Mountain View", then 30+ minute walk NE on Moffet Blvd.  (BART city subway transfers to Caltrain at "Millbrae".)
1/3 scale Space Shuttle wind tunnel model north of Visitors Center (left before gate).
SFO - San Francisco, USA
The Lick Observatory [official] [wiki] is located up Mt Hamilton [map] about 52 miles southeast of downtown San Francisco, or in the hills just east of San Jose. California's first millionaire, James Lick [wiki], built his famous 36" Refractor [36] which was finished in 19--- with his body entombed into the telescope mount. It is the largest traditional refractor (lens) telescope in the world that is still being utilized and it produces beautiful sharp visual images. Despite local light pollution, the mountain also has a large 3m Shane telescope [3m] that produces incredibly sharp images using Adaptive Optics [AO] [wiki] that are being pioneered here. When an artificial guide star is required, a bright laser illuminates sodium gas layer about 90 km up in the upper atmosphere which is bright enough for their purposes. Computers then make very rapid adjustments to create a sharp image. The FAA and NORAD are advised, and spotters are active when the laser is on. Did you know that the sodium layer gets replenished by meteorites? Another large telescope is the new 2.4m Automated Planet Finder [apf] which is actively looking for new planets. The facilities have limited free tours [public] during the day only. For only 12 nights per year there is public observing through the 36 inch [vis]. Traffic can be poor, but the mountain road is always rather poor, so allow at least an hour from San Jose. On the way over you may wish to visit NASA Ames Research Center? Or perhaps, on the way back (no where near) you may wish to visit the Chabot Observatories [official] on the ridge less then 5 miles east of downtown Oakland. They offer public observing and later hours on weekends [late]. Or 3 miles west [map] of San Francisco is Morrison Planetarium [org] when its raining.
LAX - Los Angeles, USA

SpaceX Headquarters official, wiki has no tour, but I can't help but mention it because there is something amazing and mysterious, a bit like an early "Apple" or "Google". It sits in plain sight just 3 miles east of LAX map at the old Northrop Grumman Hawthorne Airport HHR behind locked hanger doors. Inside, ex-PayPal co-founder Elon Musk wiki develops new spacecraft for America's new privatized initiative. Tesla [wiki] [official] electric cars are also his.
LAX - Los Angeles, USA
Sea Launch official, wiki is unique in that you want to see it when there is no launch scheduled! The problem is that when there is a launch, it is not to be found because it floats across the ocean to the equator for launches. Between launches, its moored at the docks 4 km southwest of downtown Long Beach, California map. It is impossible to get there without a car, BUT may be glimpsed within minutes from the $1.50 LADOT "142" commuter bus that goes west on Interstate-710 between Long Beaches "A" post on 1st Street to San Pedro. Once there, you may consider visiting the S.S. Lane Victory merchant navy ship [SS] or Maritime Museum [M]. Incidentally, there is a pedestrian walk on the south side of the large Gerald Desmond Bridge (I710) allowing for telephoto (2km) photos.
LAX - Los Angeles, USA
The Griffith Observatory link is a real treat and is pretty well the perfect destination. The park grounds are free, clean, and great for hiking with amazing views of the whole area. The observatory complex is free, and interesting with many astronomy related exhibits. A 12 inch zeiss refractor is always open for public viewing on clear nights. A solar scope also gives great live views on clear days. An affordable planetarium gives great crisp shows that are a pleasure to watch. Open 10am to 10pm, but closed Mondays and Tuesdays. hours. Getting there isn't very difficult. A $6 Metro Day Pass helps.
As an example, from Long Beach get on the Blue Line Metro Train for one hour and easily connect at the end of the line "7th St/Metro Station" to the Red Line Subway. From there its a quick 15 minutes to "Vermont/Sunset Station" where you can see the Observatory. There is a free bus on weekends, or you can walk up in 45 +/- minutes by simply walking up North Ventura Ave. to the end. map more
LAX - Los Angeles, USA The Jet Propulsion Laboratory "JPL" JPL wiki is just north of Pasadena, 11 miles NE from downtown Los Angeles map. Limited tours must be booked 3 weeks in advance tour for this secure town-sized facility. Public transport to/from LA possible, via Metro Bus 177 or 268. Although its origins were testing early rockets in the late 1930's as a remote area, it currently is NASA's world leading planetary probe center, operated by CalTech edu.
LAX - Los Angeles, USA

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The California Science Center [official]  is also the new permanent home of the Space Shuttle Endeavour [wiki]. Advance tickets are recommended [Ticket]. The capsule from the famous 1975 "Apollo-Soyuz" [wiki] mission, using surplus/cancelled Apollo parts, is also there. Its a nice family museum in a nice relaxing park setting. For example, from Long Beach, take the Metro Blue Line tram north to Los Angeles. Transfer at "Pico" onto the Metro Expo Line (light blue) to "Expo Park/USC" Station [metro]. Then 5 minute walk. Don't forget to see the free titanium A-12 [wiki] trainer outside the main entrance. Map [map].

A new vertical display will be a few years under construction.

LAX - Los Angeles, USA
  The Mount Wilson Observatory official, wiki is an amazing historical oasis overlooking from high above Los Angeles, California map. Atop this 5715 foot mountain, less then an hours mountain drive from downtown is the 60 inch and 100 inch telescopes, both once the largest telescopes in the world, and used by astronomers like Edwin Hubble. There are also two renowned historical solar towers once visited by Albert Einstein history, and two modern optical interferometers which have incredible resolution CHARA. The 100 inch was an early pioneer of interferometry and an alternative head is on display. Open daily 10am-4pm, but road closed in winter. A "Parks" parking permit is required to park at the observatory, and tours are on the weekends at 1pm. Food and souvenirs are available on weekends only, otherwise it is free. Keep in mind that the once world's largest 60 inch can be privately rented for the night Gift?.
LAX - Los Angeles, USA The Big Bear Solar Observatory BBSO has the world's most powerful solar telescope. Although originally operational in 1969 wiki, it was refurbished recently with first light in 2010. The 1.6 m NST adaptive optics mirror can out perform any satellite and is revolutionizing solar research. See our Sun page link. Unfortunately tours are no longer provided at the facility, however it can be clearly seen from town or literally touched by rented jet ski on this beautiful lake. From the air, it is easily recognized at the end of its causeway, when approaching LAX from the east. Big Bear map is 80 miles east of Los Angeles, or about 2.5 hours drive, up high in the mountains at 6570 feet.  It makes a great day out and has downhill skiing in the winter.
LAX - Los Angeles, USA

 

 

 

 

The Mount Palomar Observatory official, wiki includes the 1948 mighty 200 inch Hale Telescope, for many years the largest (fully functioning) telescope in the world. It truly was at the engineering limit for its day and was only surpassed by Hawaii's Keck (above) in 1991, with new designs. There is also a famous 48 inch Schmidt camera which twice has done full sky surveys. The planet Pluto was killed here by the discovery of the larger dwarf planet Eris wiki. The Shoemaker-Levy-9 Comet that hit Jupiter was also discovered here using a smaller 18 inch Schmidt.

It is under 3 hours drive S.E. of LAX, or 2 hours north of San Diego map.  Daily 9am - 3pm, but tours (11, 1, 2:30) summer weekends only*

LAX - Palmdale area, CA, USA

[SOFIA -feature]

Edwards AFB [wiki] is a very special, but private military place that you do not have access to, with the exception of pre-booked restricted tours [tour]. Inside is the home of the USAF Test Pilot School [wiki] and many historic memories. For example, in 1947 Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier in the X-1 and later in 1963 Joe Walker flew the X-15 [wiki] into space. It is also the home of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center [wiki]. At the "North Gate" there is NASA's "008" B-52, and at the "West Gate" there are the F-100/1/2/4/5/6 series aircraft and a prototype YC-15. To the south, at Palmdale [wiki] is the Plant 42 [wiki] area where many aircraft including the SR-71, B-1B, F-117A and Space Shuttle were built. It is also the location of the secondary Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility [nasa] where the B747 SOFIA IR Telescope is based. This southern area is also very secure and you will not be able to go into the hanger. However, do visit "Blackbird Park" and its accompanying "Joe Davies Heritage Air Park" [airpark], both open only Fri-Sun 11-4 (Closed Mon-Thurs). This is the only place in the world where an SR-71 and a YF-12 are parked side by side, along with an F-117A. A chat with the volunteers may also prove interesting? [map]
LAX - Mojave, CA, USA
Mojave map is a very small and special place, just outside the northwest corner of Edwards AFB. It is the center for a renaissance in private space technology. Here, brilliant aerospace engineers walk casually in this sort of early "Silicon Valley" for new space companies. A casual meal or cold beer at the airport's Voyager Restaurant [food] may have you sitting beside the owner of a real rocket ship! Here is the home of Scaled Composites, The Space Ship Company, SpaceShipOne/WhiteKniteOne, Roton Rocket, Orbital Sciences [.com] Stargazer L-1011 [wiki], Pegasus [wiki] and X-34 [wiki], Virgin Galactic Space Tourism, XCOR [wiki] Lynx Space Plane [wiki], Masten Aerospace [wiki], the National (civil) Test Pilot School [wiki], and the new Stratolaunch System [more]. There is no official museum, but the SS1 model and Roton Rocket can be seen.
LAS - Las Vegas, Nevada

Did you know that Uranium, Neptunium (unstable), and Plutonium are named after those planets? 

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The National Atomic Testing Museum [org] [wiki] is affiliated with the Smithsonian and shows a wealth of information most people are not familiar with. It is an easy walking distance on the south side of Flamingo Road, only 2 km east of the "strip" in downtown Las Vegas map. Open most days. The further USA testing range is otherwise off limits near Area-51 in central Nevada. Extremely limited tours [tour] including Sedona Crater. Displays include a Hydrogen Bomb, and a Project Rover [wiki] Phoebus A-1 Nuclear Thermal Rocket Engine [wiki]. Did you know that Pres Kennedy visited this program expected to eventually power spacecraft to Mars. Cancelled due to radiation issues, as was Project Pluto [wiki], the Nuclear Powered Ram Jet.

Nuclear Rocket Engine mentioned by Kennedy in his 1961 Apollo Moon speech. Too dirty, and killed by cheaper Polaris Missile.

LAS - Las Vegas, Nevada

 

Area 51 [wiki] is a secret Military Base base which is rumored to store aliens. Regardless, its where interesting things happen in secret [more]. You will probably not "see" anything but you are welcome to try. The Area 51 runway is on Groom Lake [map] approximately 85 miles NNW of Las Vegas. The very small town of Rachel [map] is only 9 miles away from a gate and 27 miles from the runway. There is no gas, but there is an inn, cafe, and souvenir shop [A'Le'Inn].  I took the warning signs rather seriously closer to Area51 and the locals say DO NOT cross the entrance as you are being watched and you will get arrested. Otherwise the Extraterrestrial Highway [ET] Route 375 [wiki] is pretty remote.
LAS - Las Vegas, Nevada

Lunar Crater National Natural Landmark [Parks] is a volcanic "maar" crater which can be visited and explored. First, beware your petrol as there are no gas stations nearby. You are nowhere. Carry on about 95 miles (each way) north beyond Rachel (see above) on Route-375, then right on US-6. Study the route and look right for a small signed turnoff. Enter from atop the mesa from the north [map]. Here you can explore the same area walked [link] by two Apollo 17 [wiki] astronauts, Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan. Most other Apollo training [gov-pdf] grounds are on the same Atomic Test Site and restricted property as Area-51. (Not to be confused with Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho wiki.)
PHX - Flagstaff, AZ, USA

 

Lowell Observatory Lowell, wiki is a great place to visit. It is packed with history and is a magical place. The famous 24 inch Alvan Clark refractor looks like an antique in an incredible wooden dome that moves on car tires! This is where Percival Lowell wiki made so many detailed Mars drawings that fueled our fascination with Martians. Obviously there are markings on Mars, first described by an Italian astronomer using the word "canale" meaning  (to him) "channels" or "gullies", but creatively mistranslated and promoted as man-made "canals" wiki. Additionally Lowell's attempted search for the 9th planet was later successfully accomplished by Clyde Tombaugh wiki who discovered Pluto right here in 1930 using photographic plates. The original observatory, telescope, and blink comparator are all here to see via tours. The museum library also has unique items such as original drawings by Lowell of Mars. Lowell Observatory is on the western edge of the town of Flagstaff, literally almost still in the town itself map, about 130 miles north of Phoenix. The same historic refractor is available for public viewing on most clear nights hours.

Nearby, but at a different private location 10 miles southeast map is Lowell's professional dark sky "Anderson Mesa Site" wiki where a 72" Perkins, 42" Hall, 31" NURO, and the joint US Navy Prototype Optical Interferometer NPOI is located.

Even further away, 35 miles southeast, near "Happy Jack" map is the uncompleted (2013) amazing new 4.3m Discovery Channel Telescope DCT, dct. And if you become hooked and fascinated with Clyde Tombaugh, then consider visiting Pluto Park PP as well.

PHX - Flagstaff, AZ, USA The US Naval Observatory -Flagstaff Station USNO-F, wiki is only 5 miles west of Flagstaff, or 130 miles north of Phoenix map. The 1.55m "Kaj Strand" Telescope is designed to produce extremely accurate star positions, allowing parallax distance measurements of many stars. The Navy still produces measurements for select stars based on confidential requirements for unknown equipment using astronavigation. Did you know that the originally top-secret A12 wiki and SR-71 had a fully independent stellar navigation system that could be used in cruise at extremely high altitudes? Events, like large earthquakes, which affect the rotation of the earth may also be measured! There is also a 1.3m, 1m and smaller scopes onsite, and shared involvement with Lowell Observatory (above) of the nearby Navy Interferometer NPOI.

Above, the 1.55m Dome with Navy anchor (right). Not to be confused with the original USNO in Washington, DC, where the Vice President lives tours-DC, wiki.

PHX - Phoenix, USA
  The world's most famous meteor crater is called "Meteor Crater" link, east of Flagstaff, Arizona. It is 140 miles north-east of Phoenix map. Other names for this 50,000 year old crater include Canyon Diablo Crater and Barringer Crater. This is privately owned property with a paid admission charge and opening hours attraction. There is an observing platform to see the 4000 feet across to the other side and a bit of a walking tour along part of the rim, but you can no longer go the 570 feet to the bottom of the crater. You are also not allowed to walk around searching for meteorite fragments, although you can buy some in the gift shop. More: Wikipedia, PASSC-crater. Note, if driving from Flagstaff, do not confuse road signs of Sunset Crater, which is an unrelated volcanic cinder cone.
PHX - Phoenix, USA

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The nationally distributed Challenger Centers' [wiki]  Phoenix Center [official] is the only solely dedicated facility in the USA.  Founded after the 1986 Challenger disaster [wiki], they have a collection of photos and bits & pieces, and are set up for school visits. Of significants to this facility is a 6-story space mural by famous space artist Robert McCall [official] [wiki]. Also, on the ceiling of the "snack room" is also a true scale model of an Iridium Satellite [wiki], surprisingly tiny to create "Iridium Flares" [wiki] [see]. Public telescope viewing some nights [public]. Isolated in the far NW corner of Phoenix, near the 101 Ring Road, map [map].
PHX - Phoenix, AZ, USA Dorrance Planetarium official is right in downtown Phoenix map at the Arizona Science Center and IMAX. It is  near the light rail rail tram station at 3rd/Jefferson which also passes the airport and the Arizona State University (below). It may get you in the mood to start appreciating the dark desert skies nearby.
PHX - Phoenix, AZ, USA
Arizona State University (ASU) has the SESE School of Earth and Space Exploration SESE which is at the forefront of planetary studies. (Not to be confused with Tucson's U of A, below). It is south of the river, just 4 miles east of the Phoenix PHX Airport map along the east-west light rail route rail. It has an amazing Astronomy Program with many related departments and interesting relationships. They have the Center for Meteorite Studies Museum CMS with many more locked away in a vault. They are currently processing the highest detailed images ever of the moon from the LROC Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera LROC, wiki probe. They also have older lunar images with the Apollo Image Archive AIA. ASU's Mars Space Flight Facility includes the Mars Global Survey, Mars Odyssey, and Mars Exploration Rover Mars-Ed, THEMIS, MSIP, RATW, MESDT. They even helped Google make "Google Mars" Mars-Map.
TUS - Tucson, USA

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Biosphere2 [official] [wiki], completed in 1991, is not like the UK's Eden Project or a "greenhouse". It was trying to sustain itself as a closed system, completely closed, like a space colony. The facility is particularly massive and a tour [tour] is quite comprehensive. Low tropical jungle to high dry desert climates are surprisingly close together. Just 25 miles north of Tucson (north of Mt Lemmon) on Highway 77, and easy trip south from Phoenix. Map [map].
TUS - Tucson, USA

 

Looking for another reason to visit? Public lectures [AS]?

Perhaps a visit to Biosphere-2 B2, wiki is the excuse you are looking for, 27 miles north map. It turns out that a sealed ecosystem in a future space colony is pretty difficult!

Or perhaps you might be interested in the ex-Cold War Titan-II Missile Museum silo tour Titan, 22 miles south of Tucson map.

University of Arizona, (UA) UA is just 1 mile northeast of downtown Tucson. (Not to be confused with Phoenix's ASU, above). On campus you have the old Steward Observatory with numerous offices, including HiRISE High-Resolution Imaging on Mars HiRISE under the Department of Planetary Sciences LPL Lunar and Planetary Laboratory LPL and support for the JWST James Webb Space Telescope with NIRCam NIRCam, Vatican Observatory VATT , Kitt Peak 1.8m and others. They have the College of Optical Science optics. The Steward Mirror Lab SOML SOML, sits underneath the football stadium and is making the largest single mirrors (max 8.4m/330") in the world, offering informative tours by request tour (see also CAAO). Recently, I observed the LSST 8.4m LSST Large Synoptic Survey Telescope mirror LSST, one of the seven 8.4m GMT Giant Magellan Telescope mirrors GMTO, and the 6.5m SPMT San Pedro Martir Telescope mirror SASIR going to the Mexican National Observatory on the Baja Peninsula. The Flandrau Planetarium hours offers great shows and public observing through a 16" Wed-Sat nights 16". In the basement is the impressive UA Mineral Museum MM. The UA is truly an amazing place to study Astronomy campus.

Offsite, UA has numerous interests including the Mount Lemmon Observatory SkyCenter, wiki sits 19 miles northeast of Tucson up a long 1.5 hour scenic mountain road rising to 9157 feet map. There are several domes including two 1.5m telescopes that do active research, so visits are by reservations only.

The university runs the 6.5m MMT MMTO (ex-Multiple Mirror Telescope wiki) 35 miles south at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory on Mount Hopkins map, jointly with the Smithsonian. Its original revolutionary design of six 1.8m mirrors was replaced in 2000 by their own equally revolutionary single giant 6.5m mirror from the SOML. An adaptive optics secondary mirror was also added. Private Road. Limited seasonal long tours visit originate from the lower Visitors Center.

They also operate the 2x 8.4m LBT LBTO Large Binocular Telescope wiki on Mount Graham, 90 miles to the northeast map. This telescope can clearly out perform the Hubble Space Telescope, illustrating the importance of different wavelengths as the criteria for future space telescopes. Private Road. Very limited tours  are seasonally offered by the Discovery Park in Safford tour.

TUS - Tucson, USA

(PHX) 

  Pima Air and Space Museum official has an amazing collection of aircraft and takes several hours to see properly because of its size. A unique display includes the B-52 that dropped the X-15, a B-36, the Super Guppy used to carry Apollo rocket parts, an SR-71, hypersonic drones, and countless other aircraft, including a Space Exhibition Building. It is located just 8 miles southeast of downtown Tucson, about 2 hours south of Phoenix. map.

The famous "Boneyard" AMARG tour, associated with the adjacent Davis-Monthan USAFB, also leaves from the Museum Mon-Fri only. Call for limited times. Essentially, it is a storage yard for countless surplus military aircraft that also conforms to international treaties that can be verified from satellite imagery. Tickets are first come and passports are required. Not to be confused with the private Pinal Air Park info storing civilian aircraft, northwest of Tucson.

PHX - Phoenix, USA

(TUS)

  "Kitt Peak" is the National Optical Astronomy Observatory Official and is 6880 feet above sea level. It is located 40 miles southwest of Tucson or 110 miles south of Phoenix map. The mountain is open to the public during the day between 9am- 4pm. There are tours available, but you may also walk around yourself to key areas. An observing room allows you to see the impressive Mayall 4.0 meter telescope. There are also views of the 300 foot focal length McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope. The visitor's center is rather informing and solar observing is available on certain days. There are pre-booked evening viewing sessions Observing available from smaller 20 or 16 inch telescopes on most nights. This is an active research area and you will have to go to Tucson to get most amenities. Wikipedia. Obviously, you can not visit here without also seeing the famous Pima Air and Space Museum, below.
PHX - Phoenix, USA

(TUS)

 

  The "MMT" Telescope Official, wiki at the Smithsonian's Fred Whipple Observatory Official, wiki at the top of Mount Hopkins, is 60 km south of Tucson on the I-19, exit 56 map. The MMT used to be the "Multi Mirror Telescope" made up of six 72 inch (1.8m) pieces which revolutionized large telescope design. However, it was upgraded in 2000 by a single giant 6.5m mirror thanks to further advances in mirror technology at the Steward Mirror Lab in Tucson (U of A). Seasonal bookable long tours tour may take you to the summit. A visitor Center visit, drive sits on the west side of the mountain which makes a good picnic site, but there is only the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System VERITAS Official , wiki there. The array will open the door for your understanding of Gamma-Ray Astronomy wiki, which in itself may be reason enough to visit.
TUS - Tucson, USA

(PHX)

This Titan ICBM Missile Silo has been converted into a Museum [Titan Missile Museum]. It is only 20 miles south [map] from Tucson, Arizona on Interstate I-19 leading towards Mexico. The military Arms Race [wiki] pushed all the rocket technology that put man into space. Frankly, it also pushed pretty well every technology including computers, imagery, aviation, telescopes, etc. It allows you to see a real Titan Missile [wiki] like they used for the manned Gemini Missions (1965-66) [wiki] and allows you to imagine the serious side of the "Space Race" [wiki], [Nuclear].
TUS - Tucson, USA

 

Discovery Park official is a bit isolated, BUT  provides limited summer weekend tours visit of the Mt Graham Observatory which is otherwise inaccessible. This includes the giant 2 x 8.4 m binocular telescope LBTO, wiki and the Vatican's Observatory VATT, wiki. Discovery park is in southern Safford map, Arizona, 90 miles northeast of Tucson. Their 20 inch telescope is used for public observing. Sat until 9:30pm
TUS - Tucson, USA (ELP)
  Pluto Park Pluto Park centerpieces the personal 16" telescope of Clyde Tombaugh Bio, the discoverer of Pluto. Adjacent is a growing collection of observatories which includes telescopes for Astronomy Magazine, Celestron, and a 1m telescope from University of Hawaii at Rancho Hidalgo Rancho Hidalgo. This is the center of a high-tech internationally remote astronomy renaissance occurring within the nearby communities, including dozens (and expanding) new observatories at Granite Gap Granite Gap, over 20 home-domes in the Arizona Sky Village ASV, and future mountain expansion at Norrick Peak . Amateurs like you, and professionals, together. Local world-class birding, blog.
PHX - Phoenix, USA

(ABQ, ELP)

(Note: Renamed the "Karl G Jansky Very Large Array" 10 Jan 2012) The Very Large Array "VLA" VLA is part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory NRAO. It is rather isolated in the middle of New Mexico map and is 90 miles southwest of Albuquerque, 170 miles northwest of El Paso, and 260 miles east of Phoenix! Twenty seven Radio dishes that are 82 feet across can move on a "Y" shaped rail network that provides a single resolution of .05 arc-seconds, equivalent to a single dish some 36 km across! Gift shop open 9-4, and the site closes at sunset visits. Many good views from the public roads.  Wikipedia. Incidentally, extra dishes were digitally added for the 1997 movie "Contact" IMDb.
ELP - El Paso, USA
The new facilities for Spaceport America link are being built now in real time. The contractors are actively at work gallery. Spaceport America is a reality! To see anything, you need to book a Hard Hat Tour tour, otherwise the empty views miles away in the desert are poor. At the moment, a huge infrastructure for a giant runway is underway and paving is ongoing. It is very exciting to stand on the runway and know you are watching history in the making. Virgin Galactic is expecting to take regular people into space within a few years Virgin. The spaceport is in the middle of nowhere in the middle of New Mexico. It is on the western edge of the White Sands Missile Range, about 20 miles east of "Truth-or-Consequences" or 90 miles north of El Paso, Texas. map. Wikipedia
ELP - El Paso, USA

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The White Sands Missile Range Museum [official] [wiki] has an extensive collection of missiles. The Museum itself has a refurbished V2 [V-2] and the exterior missile park includes a Redstone [wiki]. This active military range is off limits and you cannot gain access. In fact some public roads are closed when live firing is occurring. Your only access is this museum, which itself has some restrictions. Did you know that German Wernher von Braun [wiki] designed the Redstone, after his time here at White Sands, which later took the first American Alan Shepard to space 1961[wiki]. The Space shuttle Columbia also made a landing near here in 1982 [wiki]. The range gets its name from the white (not-sand) dunes found nearby which you can visit [wiki] [park].
ELP - El Paso, USA

The New Mexico Museum of Space History [official] [wiki] is overlooking the small town of Alamogordo on the eastern side of White Sands Missile Range. It started as an International Space Hall of Fame but has since expanded as a museum and includes a used piece of old V2, a Little Joe rocket, some actual rocket sled [wiki] parts from those 1950 human acceleration trials, and the Clyde Tombaugh Imax Theatre [IMAX].

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IAH - Houston, USA

The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center Official, Wiki operates NASA's manned spaceflight program. Mission Control happens here map, some 20 miles southeast of downtown Houston, Texas shortly after they are launched from Florida. Currently, the International Space Station (ISS) talks to Houston, as did Apollo-13 when they infamously had their problem in 1970. There is a great museum Visit, tour Tour and detailed tour Level-9 of the facility which includes the mock-up room filled with ISS and Shuttle components. There is also a Saturn-V rocket on display on its side. The world's largest swimming pool Pool designed to be the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory wiki for astronauts simulating near-weightlessness is also nearby JSC. If you are VERY interested in astronomy and have a few days without the family, try to attend the amazing Lunar and Planetary Institute's annual conference presenting leading research papers. LPSC2013. LPSC2014
ORD - Chicago, USA

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The Adler Planetarium [official] [wiki] is one of the best in the world and consists of two separate domes, a 3D-theathre, and many exhibits. They also have America's "oldest planetarium", the century-old Atwood Sphere which assisted training navigation for the US Navy in 1941. They have a great display of antique old telescopes and other gadgets, including a lens-less 18" 1864 Alvan Clark wooden refractor. Displays include touchable pieces of Moon, Mars, Ceres and Vesta meteorites. Remember the old Microsoft Flight Simulator for the PC? The default field was the now dismantled Meigs Field [wiki] on a peninsula just 2 miles south of Chicago. That's where it is! Just 2 miles from town, an easy walk past the Millennium Park mirrored Cloud Gate "Bean" sculpture [wiki] and famous Buckingham Fountain [wiki] (shown at the start of TV's "Married with Children") in Grant Park. Walking is better then the trains [cta], but Bus-146 [cta] comes down Michigan Avenue all the way.
ORD - Chicago, USA
  The Yerkes Observatory [official] [wiki] is where you can see the famous 40" Refractor built in 1897 and operated by the University of Chicago. Some of the minds involved with the making of this telescope went on to produce the next record breaking telescopes on Mt Wilson in California. Even Albert Einstein insisted on touring this facility is 1921. Although it is no longer used for observing, it is obviously the central exhibit of the public tours [visit], often only during limited hours on Saturdays. It is 68 miles northwest of Chicago, actually across the state line into Wisconsin on Lake Geneva [map]. There was only one larger refractor ever made as a non-scientific novelty for the 1900 Paris World's Fair. See list of world's largest refractors: [wiki].
MCO, MIA - Orlando, USA

The Kennedy Space Center Official is where you can see real rockets with real astronauts blast off into space, well except there aren't any at the moment since the Shuttle retired! Huge rockets with giant plumes can be seen from over 100 miles away. It is 40 miles east of Orlando and 190 miles north of Miami map. The giant site is a highly restricted nature reserve and military area which prevents you from snooping about. There is a large museum/IMAX Visitor's facility with many activities Visit. Tours are offered which include the older Cape Canaveral launching area Tours. There is also an Apollo Saturn-V rocket on display on its side beyond the Vehicle Assembly Building. If you are lucky enough to get launch tickets, then your viewing bus also leaves from here Launch Tickets, but Causeway tickets are often sold out now within minutes of release! NASA launches are highly scheduled NASA launches, but other launches are independent of NASA completely Patrick AFB, then again some launches are completely secret until they blast off! There are several good viewing areas Viewing, however the engine sound rapidly diminishes with distance. Be aware of traffic grid-lock for several hours after a launch as you will simply be unable to go anywhere until it eases. Wikipedia. The Space Shuttle Atlantis is now on spectacular permanent display here.
MIA - Miami, USA The Miami Planetarium Official is being moved closer to the city in the future, but will remain open where it is for several years. It is approximately 2 miles southwest of the city, at the Vizcaya Subway Station (Metrorail) map. Admission to the Science Museum includes any Planetarium shows for the day. Public observing is available on the roof, in the Weintraub Observatory between 8-10pm on the first Friday of the month only. Admission is free for that night only, including a planetarium show, but optional laser shows are extra. A giant globe can be viewed for free in the lobby. It was originally in the old Pan Am Terminal for the old seaplanes which is now used as Miami City Hall towards Coconut Grove map, more. You may wish to consider visiting "Vizcaya" Estate nearby link.

If you have a car, a local club offers observing on Saturday nights about 14 miles to the southwest scas.

JFK - New York, USA

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(2012 Hurricane Sandy damage)

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum [official] [wiki] is on the Hudson River shore, less then 1 mile west of Times Square [map] on 46th Street, essentially in downtown New York. The Space Shuttle Enterprise [wiki] is now on the main deck for public display [new]. The aircraft carrier USS Intrepid [wiki] was made during WWII, but also picked up a Mercury capsule in 1962 [Aurora-MA7], and a Gemini capsule in 1965 [Gemini-3] from the Atlantic Ocean [splash]. Parked beside is a British Airways Concorde [G-BOAD] and an old diesel powered nuclear Regulus-1 [wiki] armed submarine [USS-Growler]. The dock alone is assessable without paying the admission charge. There are several aircraft on display on the deck including an SR-71 [wiki]. Ask colleagues if discounts apply ;)
JFK - New York, USA
  The American Natural History Museum is on the western edge of Central Park in downtown New York. Obviously, its a must see great museum! They have the "Hayden Planetarium" shows and an astronomy exhibit which includes the giant 15.5 ton iron "Willamette Meteorite" that you can touch. Its a bit pricey to see all the exhibits, but will certainly occupy many hours when the weather is cold or wet. more. more. map.
JFK - New York, USA

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The 1931 Empire State [wiki] Building's Zeppelin Dock was an astronomically amazing idea! Its extra 200 ft [nytimes] attention-getting motivation was to successfully make it the largest building in the world at 1250 feet (1454 ft since 1953 spire)! In a few short months, buildings were breaking records and in 1930 the resulting 1046 ft  Chrysler Building [wiki] surprised everyone with their 125 ft Art Deco extension, beating the competing 927 ft 40 Wall Street Building [wiki], the original 980 ft Eiffel Tower [wiki] height (a newer antenna changed its height in 1957), and was uncomfortably close to the proposed 1050 ft Empire State Building. They retaliated with this Zeppelin Dock, above the higher 102 Floor look-out which is still open for tours [official]. Docking tests were done in 1931, but violent city winds, followed by the Hindenburg disaster in 1937 [wiki] at nearby Lakehurst killed the idea forever. Visit at 5th Ave and W 34th St [map]. (The new WTC [wiki] tower is 1776 ft.)
JFK - New York, USA

The Grand Central Station [wiki] Zodiac Mural on the main ceiling was painted by artist Paul Helleu in 1912 [history] [more]. It depicts the Autumn Zodiac backwards as inspired to him by a medieval manuscript as viewed from outside the celestial sphere, or alternatively he simply incorrectly mixed it up? Restoration of the ceiling in 1998 can be contrasted with an untouched dark patch, hidden near the corner. Another blemish was caused in 1957 above Pisces (fish) by the setup display of an American Redstone rocket, publicly countering Sputnik concerns. Surely, while visiting the Apple Store inside, you will get a chance to study it! At Park Ave and E 42nd St, map [map].

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JFK - New York, USA The Unisphere more, the world's largest globe, is a prominent 120 foot diameter stainless steel remnant of the 1964/65 World's Fair fair in New York. Complete with mountainous relief, it is great to visualize great circle tracks! Nearby, at the family oriented NY Hall of Science [link], you may notice the Mercury and Gemini space rockets originally displayed before the Apollo Moon landings. Visiting the Unisphere is actually very simple and relaxing. The purple (7) Flushing Line takes you from "Grand Central" Station to "Willets Point Blvd - Shea Stadium" Station in only 30 minutes for $2.25. Then its only a 10 minute walk in a park past the US Open's Flushing  Meadows Tennis Stadium. map.

Recognize from Will Smith's 1997 "Men in Black" movie?

BOS - Boston, USA
  The Museum of Science on the bridge has a public viewing opportunity on Friday nights between 8:30pm-10pm weather permitting more. This is using a small telescope on the top of the parking lot to the north of the main museum. more map.
BOS - Cambridge, USA
Wooden wind tunnel models used here for the MMT Observatory.
The Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel is an interesting facility to be seen at MIT, just north of the river from the Hancock Building. This was dedicated in the presence of Orville Wright in 1938 and so is the real thing, despite having nothing to do with their first flight. As an old wooden pioneering facility with a recycled submarine hatch for pressurization, it has seen and continues to see lots of action. To make an astronomical connection, it tested the dome designs for the Smithsonian MMT observatory on Mt Hopkins, Arizona in the 70's. more. more MIT. map. Here is an interesting (unrelated) read about the Wight Brothers link. The facility is not public, but may give you reason to explore MIT.
BOS - Cambridge, USA
  The Harvard-Smithsonian Observatory Complex at Cambridge houses what was once the largest telescope in North America. The 1847 "Great Refractor" (15 inch) was used to pioneer astronomical photography. Its images of the Moon impressed the world in 1851 during the Great Exhibition at London's Crystal Palace. It is only 1 km Northwest of Harvard, or 6 km northwest of Boston. There is limited public viewing on the 3rd Thursday of each month. more. more. map. A photo vault of early archived astronomical plates is also stored here. The Chandra X-ray Space Telescope data gets processed here Chandra.
BOS - Cambridge, USA The Putnam Gallery more has a small, but impressive collection of scientific and astronomical antique instruments. You will spot the building with the observatories on the roof. Both the "Loomis-Michael Observatory" more  and the "Clay Telescope" more are closed to the public, but are accessible for students. An old original room sized AIKEN-IBM Sequence Controlled Calculator Mark 1 sits just down the hall which in itself is pretty interesting! Harvard. map.
IAD - Washington, USA

The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History official, wiki, map is in the center of Washington, DC, along the Mall only a few minutes walk from the Air and Space Museum. They have an amazing mineral section which includes a significant Meteorite collection. Don't miss the famous original Tucson ring, once used as a Anvil in the old wild west!
IAD - Washington, USA

The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum official , wiki , map is in the center of Washington, DC, on the Mall. The free collection of real historical original aircraft includes: X-1, X-15, SpaceShipOne, Apollo-11 Command Capsule, U-2, B747 front, V-2 rocket, Breitling Orbiter-3. Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz, and Hubble Space Telescope mock-ups.  Wright Brothers and Goddard rocket relics. You can also touch a piece of the Moon!
IAD - Washington, USA

 

The Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center official, wiki is at the isolated southeast corner map of the main international Dulles Airport, 24 miles west of the city. The collection is amazing and houses the surplus of artifacts that do not fit into the downtown building. The Space Shuttle "Enterprise" wiki  was on display until April 2012 when it was replaced by "Discovery" wiki. Admission is free, but parking is $15. There is a bus more  with limited hours from the main Terminal. Truly Excellent.
IAD - Washington, USA The USNO -US Naval Observatory official , wiki  sits 3 miles northwest map of the Washington Memorial in a rather posh end of town. This is the historic site of the famous 12 inch Alvan Clark Refractor wiki and the 26 inch Great Equatorial Refractor wiki, but is now also the formal residence of the American Vice President, so security is extremely high. However, limited Monday bookable tours tour  are available. Most USNO work is now done at Flagstaff, AZ more . Surprisingly, the National Cathedral wiki is just 1/2 mile north which may be of interest.

What time is it?  [USNO-clock]

IAD - Washington, USA NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center official , wiki is 13 miles northeast of downtown Washington, DC map . Its grounds are off limits, except for a Visitors Center visit with its own access, and limited hours. This is named after the "father" of liquid fueled rockets, American,  Robert Goddard (1882 - 1945) wiki. There are general free talks all day in a small theatre.
IAD - Virginia, USA
  The Wright Brothers Memorial official , wiki  at Kill Devil Hills wiki near Kitty Hawk wiki, North Carolina map is well worth the effort to get to. It is 210 miles to the southeast from Washington, DC and still 70 miles southeast of Norfolk, requiring several long hours by car. But as the birthplace of powered flight, it is of "Astronomical" importance! One visit here and it all fits into place. You can feel the excitement as all the required conditions came together for the amazing first 4 flights of an airplane on 17 Dec 1903 wiki. Basically, Kill Devil Hills was a giant circular sand dune allowing glides in any direction based on the coastal winds of the day. It was an isolated sandy "desert" that allowed constant experimentation of gliders and prototypes. The two brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright wiki, were also fit cyclists with bicycle engineering knowledge which allowed them to become global visionaries. Very powerful experience. Museum and grounds open most days times. Beginner Hand-gliding lessons more available nearby! You will also have to pass by Jamestown wiki, Williamsburg official, wiki, and Yorktown wiki which are all of great historical interest. Don't rush.
  Looking forward to more contributions.  
 
If you are getting excited about astronomical things to see Down Route and are stuck in your hotel room, then may I suggest further reading lists: Ancient Astronomical Sites, Observatories, Planetariums, Interesting Telescopes
 
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