The Lick Observatory

Update 08/21/2020
The dear Lick Observatory was spared this time by the lightning and fires due to the relentless efforts of our fire crews. Thank the heavens. You can see the harrowing video of how close it came and the fact that there was at least one structure that didn’t escape.

As a local, this place ranks amongst one of the most special places in the Bay Area for me. Its uniqueness and its ability to transport you beyond civilization makes it a place that I visit, typically, every other year. I find this place very inspiring and also very renewing, to recharge me from the fatigues of daily life/reality. However, though it’s been here for over a hundred years, it is not well known to the locals.

This is also one of my favorite places to take summer visitors (if they let me know early enough to nab tickets) and each visitor I’ve taken has come away in awe, telling me that there is no other place quite like this. There may be more powerful observatories out there, but nothing (to my limited knowledge) quite stands out as here rooted within its deep background story and it’s ability to transport you not just to outer space, but to another era.. of the 1800s.

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    Lick Observatory

So… how do you see this place? Is there a *best* way to see this place?

The answer, is Yes.

Below I list the various ways a visitor can see this place…

  • Least Recommended – Random Visit:
    • You won’t get to see much, but the view is beautiful. If you have no choice, then this would be worth the long drive up to watch the sunset and evening at, if you missed the summer ticketed option. You might not be able to enter the observatory buildings and can only view from outside.
    • Don’t forgo the far more rewarding experience you will have, if you can try the *best option* in the future.
  • Less Recommended – Concert Tickets:
    • This is a slightly more decent option as you get to go inside the Observatories and look through the telescopes, but having done this, this is not my preference.
    • This features a live band/musician that performs in the evening and a speaker explaining the latest about astronomy findings, which is very enjoyable. The evening ends with everyone lining up to get a chance to look through two telescopes, iirc.
    • I would recommend this option if you have already done the *best option* and want to save yourself the walk.
  • Best Option – Walking Tour:
    • This is the most expensive option, but I *highly* recommend this option to anyone who hasn’t tried this. I’ve done this walking tour more than three times now and it’s still my favorite way to see the Observatory  (even on repeat visits).
    • A guide will walk you through 2 hour walking tour through the observatory grounds and giving you a brief history behind each of the telescopes. You will have the chance to enter the control rooms (?).
    • You will end up in the main building and by that time the sun has set, allowing you to look through the telescopes.
    • Most of all, you get to learn about the person that made all this possible. James Lick, known to the public as the Generous Miser, was also a man who never got to wed whom he loved, he never loved another till the end of his days, and he never forgot who stood in his way.
    • (On a recent visit to friends, we watched “The Count of Monte Cristo” movie. It was my first time watching a movie version, as I’ve only ever read the book. While I was watching the movie, it brought to my mind the story of James Lick; leading me to joke that James Lick is like a real life take of Edmond Dantes.)

Ok, I’m sold. Where do I get tickets?

(The tickets go on sale in late Spring every year, and usually sell out within a few weeks. Even though it’s not widely known amongst locals, it is very popular for those who have been, and they often bring friends/family. So be sure to check it and get your tickets as soon as you can.)

To whet your appetite… this is what you would get to see more intimately on the Walking Tour over the other options…

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