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Cincinnati Observatory Center

Get a privileged view of the stars while learning about astronomy and science in this celestial viewing center

The 19th-century Cincinnati Observatory Center is a charming place to learn about the sky with high-powered telescopes and weekly stargazing sessions run by astronomy experts. Take in the rings of Saturn and the craters of the moon through one of the oldest continuously used telescopes in the United States. Daily tours provide a glimpse of the inner workings of the old building.

Astronomical enthusiast Ormsby McKnight Mitchel raised the funds to build the Cincinnati Observatory in 1842. The cornerstone was laid on top of Mount Ida (now Mount Adams). In 1873, the observatory moved to its current location atop Mount Lookout and in 1997 it was listed as a National Historical Landmark.

Weekly Astronomy Nights feature a 30- to 40-minute presentation, followed by a stargazing session through one of the antique telescopes. The smaller 11-inch (28-centimeter) telescope, known as the Merz and Mahler (its makers), was first used in 1845. The newer of the two telescopes dates from 1904 and features a slightly bigger lens. Both are refracting telescopes, with a lens focusing light through a hollow tube. Find the moon, planets, nebulas and double stars, and even the occasional comet.

Try stargazing at Stonelick Lake, 23 miles (37 kilometers) east of Mount Lookout. Every clear-skied Saturday around the night of a new moon, the Friends of the Observatory hosts a free event during which you can look through a range of different telescopes.

The Cincinnati Observatory Center is a short drive east of downtown Cincinnati and there’s free parking. There’s an uphill walk from the nearest bus stop to the observatory, which is open on most Thursday and Fridays nights throughout the year.

On cloudy nights, expect a historical tour of the observatory instead of stargazing. This is an interesting tour of the building that offers an explanation of  how the telescopes work. Even on clear nights, building tours are available on the second and fourth Sunday of every month.

Reservations are required for Astronomy Nights. On Thursdays a donation is suggested, while on Fridays you are required to pay a small fee.


Guide to Exploring around Cincinnati Observatory Center


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Best Lodging Options Near Cincinnati Observatory Center

See all 274 Properties near Cincinnati Observatory Center
Charming Home in Upscale Hyde Park/cincinnati
Charming Home in Upscale Hyde Park/cincinnati

Charming Home in Upscale Hyde Park/cincinnati

Cincinnati, OH
     
    0.0 out of 5.0 Stars

    This family-friendly Cincinnati vacation home is located on a river, within 2 mi (3 km) of Cincinnati Observatory Center, Rookwood Commons, and Ault Park. Riverside Centre Antique Mall and Cincinnati Aviation Heritage Society Museum are also within 3 mi (5 km).

    The Summit, A Dolce Hotel $135
    The Summit, A Dolce Hotel

    The Summit, A Dolce Hotel

    5345 Medpace Way, Cincinnati, OH
       
      4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

      Situated in the suburbs, this hotel is within 3 mi (5 km) of Cincinnati Observatory Center, Ault Park, and Rookwood Commons. Kenwood Towne Centre and Indian Valley Golf Course are also within 6 mi (10 km).

      Courtyard Cincinnati Midtown/Rookwood $159
      Courtyard Cincinnati Midtown/Rookwood

      Courtyard Cincinnati Midtown/Rookwood

      3813 Edwards Road, Cincinnati, OH
         
        3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

        Situated in Cincinnati, this hotel is 0.2 mi (0.3 km) from Rookwood Commons and 2.4 mi (3.9 km) from Xavier University. Drake Planetarium and Cincinnati Observatory Center are also within 3 mi (5 km).

        Residence Inn by Marriott Cincinnati Midtown/Rookwood $169
        Residence Inn by Marriott Cincinnati Midtown/Rookwood

        Residence Inn by Marriott Cincinnati Midtown/Rookwood

        3815 Edwards Road, Cincinnati, OH
           
          3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

          Situated in Cincinnati, this aparthotel is 0.2 mi (0.3 km) from Rookwood Commons and 2.4 mi (3.9 km) from Xavier University. Drake Planetarium and Cincinnati Observatory Center are also within 3 mi (5 km).

          Holiday Inn Express and Suites-Cincinnati NE - Red Bank Road $95
          Holiday Inn Express and Suites-Cincinnati NE - Red Bank Road

          Holiday Inn Express and Suites-Cincinnati NE - Red Bank Road

          5311 HETZELL STREET, Cincinnati, OH
             
            2.5 out of 5.0 Stars

            Situated in the suburbs, this hotel is within 3 mi (5 km) of Cincinnati Observatory Center, Ault Park, and Rookwood Commons. Kenwood Towne Centre and Indian Valley Golf Course are also within 6 mi (10 km).

            Homewood Suites by Hilton Cincinnati-Midtown, OH $139
            Homewood Suites by Hilton Cincinnati-Midtown, OH

            Homewood Suites by Hilton Cincinnati-Midtown, OH

            4605 Factory Colony Lane, Cincinnati, OH
               
              3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

              Located in Oakley, this hotel is within 3 mi (5 km) of Rookwood Commons, Cincinnati Observatory Center, and Drake Planetarium. Ault Park is 2.7 mi (4.3 km) away.

              Hilton Garden Inn Cincinnati/Midtown, OH $105
              Hilton Garden Inn Cincinnati/Midtown, OH

              Hilton Garden Inn Cincinnati/Midtown, OH

              2145 Dana Avenue, Cincinnati, OH
                 
                3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                Situated in Cincinnati, this hotel is 1.1 mi (1.7 km) from Xavier University and 2.7 mi (4.3 km) from Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. Rookwood Commons and Drake Planetarium are also within 2 mi (3 km).

                Motel 6 Cincinnati Central - Norwood $64
                Motel 6 Cincinnati Central - Norwood

                Motel 6 Cincinnati Central - Norwood

                5300 Kennedy Ave, I-71 At Exit #8, Ridge Avenue North, Cincinnati, OH
                   
                  1.5 out of 5.0 Stars

                  Situated in Cincinnati, this motel is within 3 mi (5 km) of Rookwood Commons, Cincinnati Observatory Center, and Drake Planetarium. Cincinnati Railway Company Dinner Train is 2.8 mi (4.5 km) away.