Best time to visit California

Lick Observatory in California

Visit the first permanent mountain top observatory in the world

Lick Observatory
Lick Observatory
Lick Observatory

Lick Observatory is located atop California’s Mount Hamilton, about a one hour drive from San Jose. It's one of the few institutions that never stops observations, due to the team of live-in scientists. Lick Observatory was founded by astronomer James Lick and built from 1876-1887. Unfortunately, Lick didn't get to see the completion of his idea. He was buried under the site of the first telescope. The largest telescope in the world was installed at the site in 1888. Today about dozen scientists continue to live permanently at Lick Observatory.

Lick Observatory is closed to visitors Monday to Wednesday. Night visits are permitted during the Summer Series from June through September.

Visitors can see exhibits in the main building, constructed in 1888, with original oak and marble interior. They can then take a look at the Great Lick Refractor in the 36-inch telescope dome, walk to the Shane Dome to view the 120-inch Reflector from the Visitors’ Gallery, one of the major telescopes used to discover extrasolar planets.

Practical info

When is the ideal time to check out the Lick Observatory?

The Summer Series from June to September is the best time to tour Lick Observatory, permit evening explorations, and an opportunity for visitors to see the best view of the night sky. Before visiting the observatory, tourists are encouraged to check the weather forecast and dress suitably since it is in a colder region being situated on Mount Hamilton in California's Santa Clara County. Show more

What is the location of Lick Observatory?

Located in Santa Clara County, California, Lick Observatory can be found atop Mount Hamilton, and it's approximately an hour's drive from San Jose. It offers a panoramic viewpoint during the drive. At 4200-feet altitude, the observatory boasts unobstructed and clear views of the night sky due to its distant from city lights effect. Show more

Lick Observatory has what kind of history?

Lick Observatory was founded in 1888 by James Lick, with his resting place beneath the first telescope at the observatory. The observatory was the first mountain top observatory in the world and housed the world's largest telescope at the time. It has contributed remarkably to the exploration of extraterrestrial objects, including the discovery of extrasolar planets. The observatory remains home to nearly 12 scientists to this day. Show more

Is it possible to tour the observatory during weekdays?

Lick Observatory is closed during weekdays (Monday to Wednesday). Visitors can only tour the observatory on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Notably, there's a Summer Series from June to September where nighttime observation is possible on other days. Visitors need to refer to the observatory's official website for relevant details and book their entrance tickets preferable in advance. Show more

What are the attractive spots to visit besides telescopes at Lick Observatory?

Besides the interesting telescopes, Lick Observatory has spectacular views of the outlying mountain range and outside scenery, including the San Francisco Bay area. Exploring the main building at the observatory where exhibits exhibit its construction, research, and history. The Great Lick Refractor dome and the Visitors’ Gallery in the 120-inch Reflector dome are popular destinations. Furthermore, stargazing events and educational lectures are organized during the summer season. Show more

Ask a question

Find hotels and airbnbs near Lick Observatory (Map)

Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin