Hands-on exhibits are the name of the game at the Chabot Space and Science Center, the largest public telescope facility in the country, perched in the redwood-cloaked Oakland Hills. Originally called the Oakland Observatory, it’s been wowing visitors since 1883, first with its world-class telescopes, and more recently, with immersive exhibits to both spark the imagination and inform.
At the interactive science center, give a moon landing a try, get cool insights into climate change, and learn about cutting-edge technologies, including solar-powered cars and what it’s like to be on a mission to Mars. Then head to Chabot’s pièce de resistance—a trio of spectacularly powerful telescopes (named Nellie, Leah, and Rachel), all aimed skyward to peer at stars and track celestial objects such as asteroids and comets. You and your kids can gaze and track as well—not through Nellie and her sister scopes but through smaller, on-site telescopes—a real plus if you time your visit for evening hours. The observation deck offers sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay region.
Get a great look at the stars—even if you visit during daylight—by catching a show in the center’s 70-foot full-dome planetarium, outfitted with a cutting-edge digital projection system. (Or go retro and catch one of Chabot’s old-school laser shows.)
Insider tip: Check Chabot’s calendar for special astral events, such partial eclipses and meteor showers; join astronomers to look at and learn about these amazing natural light shows.