Star Parties and Twilight Programs

Evening programs routinely sell-out well in advance throughout the year: Reserve your tickets below.

Important: McDonald Observatory is located 450 miles west of Austin and is on Central Time.

Every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday evening (except where noted), the Visitors Center opens for our popular Twilight and Star Party programs. Click here for these popular programs' start-times.

Twilight Program

The Twilight Program is a theater-based program led by our education staff. Depending on the time of year and the moon phase, two different versions of the program are offered. Tickets are required to participate. This program frequently sells out. Passes are available via our online reservation system (see below) until three hours prior to the program. Please include all members of your party in your reservation to ensure appropriate seating. Approximate program length: 50-60 minutes. Scheduled 1.5 hours before the Star Party.

Participation in the Twilight Program is not required for enjoying the Star Party. The Twilight Program is not a prerequisite for participation in the Star Party.

Star Party

Enjoy night sky constellation tours and views of celestial objects through a number of telescopes in the Rebecca Gale Telescope Park at the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday evening. Program is approximately 2 hours in length. Fun for the entire family. Dress warmly, the program takes place outdoors. In the event of rain, significant clouds, or high winds/dust/humidity, a series of indoor presentations will stimulate your interest and curiosity.

Depending on the season, we welcome between 250-1,000 people to Star Parties. Guests receive a guided orientation in the open-air amphitheater and then rotate through various telescopes to view objects targeted by staff. Tickets are required. In order to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for all visitors and protect our sensitive environment, ticket capacity is limited and strictly enforced. Star Parties on Holiday weekends often sell out weeks to even a month or more in advance. We strongly encourage purchasing Star Party program passes online as passes are only rarely available by the day of the program.

During Daylight Saving Time, the Visitors Center is open 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., re-opening before the Twilight Program begins. The Visitors Center is open from 10 a.m. through the end of the Star Party during Standard Time. Star Party start times change with the seasons. Check the calendar for program offerings and start times for the date you plan to visit. Be considerate with your headlights when leaving the Star Party and exit the parking lot to the west.

Looking for a "big telescope", small group experience? Check out our Special Viewing Night programs available on several of our research telescopes!

The system defaults to one adult pass. If you don't need that pass, click the number field and select zero. If you're 65 or over and want the senior discount, choose the "Snr (65+)" pass only. 

Be sure to click on the "Book" button as your final step in making your reservation. Failure to click the "Book" button will result in no reservations being made.

Buy Tickets


Visitors enjoying a star party at the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center at McDonald

Star Party

Know Before You Go

Dress warmly (especially for evening programs) and bring your reservation confirmation with you. The Visitors Center is open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central Time (and additional hours on Star Party nights) every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. The phone number is 432-426-3640.

When to Visit
Special Needs & Concerns
Visiting with young children
Cell Phone Usage
StarDate Café Hours of Operation
Frequently Asked Questions
General Information Printout