These Destinations are Out of this World!
Does your family love learning about our universe? Visit these awesome space centers, planetariums, and observatories for an out-of-this-world learning experience.
If you plan on attending these places, be sure to check their website or contact them directly for hours, times, and dates of tours. Many are only open seasonally or offer very specific tour dates.
Columbia Memorial Space Center, Downey
Hands-on learning center that is dedicated to bringing the wonder and excitement of space science to children of all ages. It also serves as the national memorial for the Space Shuttle Columbia’s seven crew members, lost in 2003. The 20,000-square-foot visitor center is equipped with not only amazing technology and visual teaching exhibits, it also holds engaging classes and workshops. The Space Center hosts the only Challenger Learning Center in the greater Los Angeles area, where you can: Return to the Moon, or go on a Voyage to Mars, and experience the real-life excitement of working in Mission Control or in the Spacecraft; available for field trips, team-building exercises and parties of 16 or more. Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Closed Sundays and Mondays. $5 per person (4+).
Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles
Visitors can look through telescopes, explore exhibits, see live shows, and enjoy spectacular views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign. Admission to the building and grounds is free.
Free public telescopes are available each evening the Observatory is open and skies are clear.
One Saturday a month, the Observatory hosts a public star party from 2-9:45 p.m. It’s a chance for the whole family to look at the sun, moon, visible planets and other objects, try out a variety of telescopes, and talk to knowledgeable amateur astronomers.
Each month, the Observatory also offers a sunset hike led by a park ranger and a museum guide. The distance covered is about half a mile over the course of an hour at a very moderate pace with stops along the way to discuss the highlights and history of Griffith Park and objects visible in the evening sky.
Space Shuttle Endeavor at California Science Center, Los Angeles
Guests who come to see Endeavour will begin their experience in Endeavour Together: Parts & People, a companion exhibit featuring artifacts from the shuttle and the external tank. Following their visit to Endeavour Together, guests will be directed to the Samuel Oschin Pavilion to see Endeavour. The California Science Center has many Air & Space Exhibits featuring models of the Gemini 11 capsule, Apollo spacesuit, Sputnik, Explorer 1, Hubble Space Telescope and lots more.
Mount Wilson Observatory, Pasadena
Weekend public tours led by docents are available every weekend from March 30 – December 1, 2019 at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tours allow visitors to enter the area directly beneath the 100-inch telescope and entrance into the 60-inch dome. On most tours, their solar astronomer will have the 150-foot solar tower telescope open as well.
Visitors are also welcome to do self-guided tours using the visitor’s guide. Private tours can be scheduled and includes a walk around the grounds, a talk on the story of the institution, and visits to the major telescopes.
Mt. SAC – Randall Planetarium, Walnut
Visit the planetarium for lots of family-friendly events and seasonal shows. Free telescope observing is available one night a month. Admission, $1-6.
Palomar Observatory, Palomar Mountain
Go see the famous 200-inch Hale Telescope, visit the museum, or go on a guided or self-guided tour from April – October. Visit their website for a virtual tour.
Tessmann Planetarium at Santa Ana College, Santa Ana
Visit the planetarium for shows that highlight the latest in astronomical discoveries. Weekday shows let visitors tour the Solar System. Saturday evening shows are followed with Night Sky Live, a guided orientation of the celestial objects visible that evening. Admission, $6-7.
The John Drescher Planetarium at Santa Monica College, Santa Monica
This computerized planetarium theater is open to the public every Friday night for family-friendly shows. The Night Sky Show is an interactive weekly update on the night sky, with the latest news in space exploration and astronomy.
UCLA Planetarium and Telescope Shows, Los Angeles
Public planetarium shows are free, suitable for all ages, and are given by current astronomy graduate students. Show includes discussion about the current night sky, constellations, astronomical phenomena, and more.
On clear nights, visitors are invited to look through one of the department telescopes after the planetarium show. Get a chance to view a variety of celestial objects, including planets, nebulae, and star clusters. Telescope viewings are not offered during the summer.
Summer workshops for high school students are also available.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena
Public tours* are offered free of charge for groups and individuals on an advance reservation basis. Visitor parking is also available free of charge. All tours commonly include a multimedia presentation on JPL titled, Journey to the Planets and Beyond, which provides an overview of the Laboratory’s activities and accomplishments. Guests may also visit the von Karman Visitor Center, Space Flight Operations Facility, and the Spacecraft Assembly Facility.
* Until the government shutdown is resolved, JPL will not be scheduling any additional tours. Existing tours will continue as scheduled. Please check back soon.
Mission Control Exhibit at Discovery Cube, Santa Ana
Step inside a replica of the Jet Propulsion Lab’s control room for the ultimate hands-on space mission! This immersive exhibit allows the next generation of innovators to learn about the wonders of aerospace and the science behind launching rovers and satellites.
Orange Coast College Planetarium, Costa Mesa
New $23-million-dollar facility. Public shows offered weekends in the state-of-the-art dome theater. Tickets can be purchased at www.occtickets.com. The OCC Planetarium will have a state-of-the-art Dome Theatre, Foucault Pendulum, interactive science exhibit hall, NOAA Science on a Sphere globe and more!
Vandenberg Air Force Base, Santa Barbara County
Vandenberg Air Force Base is first and foremost an active-duty military installation, as well as the preeminent west-coast spaceport and test range. It provides indispensable launch, landing, and range capabilities to the nation.
30th Space Wing Public Affairs hosts a monthly windshield tour of portions of Vandenberg Air Force Base, highlighting its missions and military life. Monthly tours are on the third Tuesday of each month at 1 p.m.
30th Space Wing Public Affairs also provides a quarterly tour of the Space and Missile Heritage Center which preserves and displays artifacts and memorabilia of missile and spacelift activity at Vandenberg from the beginning of the Cold War through current space endeavors. The center also serves as the base museum. Visit their website for specific instructions on how to attend the tours.
This post was written by Liz Davis