Operated by the University of Texas and free from urban light pollution, McDonald Observatory is one of the word's leading astronomical research facilities. Start at the visitor center and take in the 12-minute orientation video: It will provide you with perspective both historical and interstellar. Guided tours depart the center several times daily and last about an hour. Twice daily, the visitor center hosts solar-viewing activities, where guests can get a glimpse of sunspots, flares, and other solar activity. If your schedule allows, visit during a nighttime "Star Party" ($10 adults, $8 children) held Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday at times determined by the season. These events allow guests to view celestial objects and constellations through the observatory's high-powered telescopes. Serious stargazers can join as members ($50 and up) in order to stay in the Astronomer's Lodge on-site ($70 per person per night, meals included).