Astronomy Field Trips FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions


If you don’t find the answer you’re looking for, please contact us.

How far ahead of time should I reserve my program?
We require all groups to register for Astronomy Field Trips at least six weeks in advance.  

How many students can I bring?
Our programs can accommodate up to 70 students, with any groups over 35 being split. For groups taking part in the Astronomy Field Trip, we charge for a minimum of 12 students, although you may bring fewer.  If your group is only taking part in the evening Star Party and not the daytime Astronomy Field Trip, we charge for a minimum of 25 students.

How many adults should I bring?
We require at least one adult for every 10 students. We offer free admission to up to one adult per five students. Additional adults will be charged $9 for the daytime program and $20 for the Star Party program. All adults attending the program are expected to serve as chaperones, directly supervising student behavior.

Can we eat at the Observatory?
The Frank N. Bash Visitors Center does not have a cafe but box lunches can be requested from the Astronomer's lodge ($10-15/person). Your group is also welcomed to bring a sack lunch. We have outdoor seating, but no indoor eating spaces. In the case of bad weather, students will need to eat on the bus. You will have an opportunity to indicate your meal plans when submitting your application. Please note the closest fast food options are in Alpine, TX, about 1 hour away.

How do we get to the Observatory?
Most groups bring a bus or teachers/parents drive private vehicles. Please remember that your vehicles must be available during your entire visit. Directions to McDonald Observatory

Where do we stay?  Where do we eat?  What else is there to do in the area?
There are a number of places to stay, eat and learn in this part of Texas! If you are planning to explore some of the area surrounding the Observatory, we recommend visiting the Fort Davis Chamber of Commerce website. Please note that, although there are food options in Fort Davis, the closest fast food options are in Alpine, TX, about 1 hour away.

What happens if we need to bring more or fewer students at the last minute?
We understand that sometimes your group shrinks or grows at the last minute. Please let us know about changes to your group size as soon as you can. If your group is taking part in evening programs and your number increases, be aware that public programs have limited capacity and additional tickets may not be available for those evening programs. If your group is taking part in evening programs and your number decreases, please let us know as soon as you can, so we can make your unused reserved spots in those programs available to others who might want to join.


Some of my students’ parents would like to take part in this field trip.  Can we bring extra parents?

Yes, we would love to have them here! All adults who join the group visit are asked to serve as chaperones, actively helping with student management. We require one adult chaperone for every ten students, and we offer free admission to one adult for every five students. Additional chaperones will be charged $9 for the daytime program and $20 for the Star Party program.

If you have parents who want to experience McDonald Observatory public programs during your school visit, they can learn about, reserve, and pay for public programs here. Please note that it is not possible for a parent to serve as a group chaperone and participate in daytime public programs at the same time.

If your student group is participating in our Star Party and you have additional parents or families who would like to join, please have those families make their own reservations here.


I have a home school group of mixed student ages and their parents.  Would this program work for us?
Of course! Our education staff are able to adjust to different age ranges and abilities. Please fill out the registration form here. If you have any additional questions please contact us, and we’ll see what we can do that will work for your unique group of teachers and learners.

What financial assistance is available?
Title I schools in Texas are eligible for a discounted price. For our local schools, located in Jeff Davis, Presidio and Brewster counties, we have full scholarships available. We gratefully acknowledge the National Science Foundation, Education & Outreach Endowments, the Abell-Hanger Foundation, Harry W. Bass Jr. Foundation, Fash Foundation, Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, the Semmes Foundation, the Stillwater Foundation, and Friends of the McDonald Observatory & Orion Circle.