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Our guided tours are available to guests of all ages and interests.  

Tour our historical campus, initially developed by NASA in 1962, and learn about the role it played in the race to space. 

Explore our impressive—and massive—radio telescopes, along with a variety of instruments used to examine space.  

Visit PARI’s Exhibit Gallery displaying a collection of rare meteorites and minerals as well as NASA Space Shuttle artifacts, many of which have flown in space.

PARI Tour Options


2 hours ($150 minimum for up to 10 guests, $15 each additional person. By reservation only.)*

The Gallery Tour starts with a look at the Electromagnetic Spectrum, where we discuss how light is used to reveal qualities of objects in space. We’ll use examples and hands-on activities of how we collect and use this information to learn about the universe around us.

Next, we’ll visit the Operations Center, where our telescopes, antennas, and earth science instruments are controlled. How they point, move, and what their data looks like will be revealed.  Visitors will learn how 3D Printers use data to create tactile models of the terrain of other planets and examine what a crater on the Moon or a volcano on Mars feels like. We’ll also discuss how robots, like rovers and orbiters, help gather the data used to explore the places humans can’t safely go.

In the NASA gallery, visitors will tour a selection of objects from throughout the history of space exploration–including a NASA-built model of the Apollo Lunar lander; the ATS6 satellite, responsible for the first satellite television; and an actual Redstone rocket engine that was one of the first to carry humans to space.

We’ll then move on to our galleries which feature meteorites from all over the world, including some from the Moon and Mars—and one that is thought to be the rarest meteorite in existence. Our impressive collection of gems, fossils and minerals from different parts of North Carolina are also on display, including a 15.3 carat emerald, a sample of radioactive uranium ore, rubies and amethyst, garnets, quartz and mica. You can even touch a dinosaur egg!

To complete the tour, we enter a dark domain to discover the hidden secrets of fluorescent minerals. These rocks look normal under light from the sun or a bulb, but reveal something entirely different when illuminated with varying frequencies of ultraviolet light.


4 hours ($500 minimum for up to 10 guests; $40 each additional person. By reservation only.)*

This deeper look at the PARI site gets up close and personal with the instruments, archives and eras of our history in space. The VIP tour includes the Gallery tour and… 

Get a closer, hands-on look at one of our large radio telescopes! Visitors will learn how it operates and is controlled—and may even be able to capture data of an exploded star or rotating ball of gas. We’ll take a look at our tunnel system, which connects the original NASA buildings and provides safe and secure access to the data, power and water systems that keep the site operational for its essential role in space exploration.

Next visitors will visit one of the largest archives of astronomical data in the world, the Astronomical Photographic Data Archive (APDA). This 100 year-old collection contains data that is still relevant and in use today. Visitors will learn how the frontiers of astrophysics research can be pushed forward with something as simple as glass plates.

Finally, we’ll visit the optical ridge where our research-grade telescopes are housed and use the historic Russian spy binoculars that can see as far as the distant Blue Ridge Parkway.


2 hours
for public viewings: pricing varies based on event
for private viewings: a month notice is recommended and availability of astronomers to lead is limited, typically scheduled for large groups*

Come just before dark and partner with a PARI astronomer for a guided journey through the sky.  Tell us what you want to see, or allow us to show you the best the sky has to offer.

An assortment of telescopes will be waiting for you, each suited for viewing different types of objects.  Reflectors and refractors with mirrors from 5 inches to 25 inches will ensure that whether you’re aimed at the Moon or distant galaxies, you’ll get the telescope that captures it best.

Ask for our astrophotography package if you want a lesson on photographing what you see.  Lunar craters, star trails, and deep space objects can all be turned into lasting photos under the guidance of our professional staff.  Make sure to talk to us first about what type of camera you plan to bring so we can prepare.

Viewings take place adjacent to a building with restrooms and climate control.

Outdoor Site & History Tour

2 hours ($150 minimum for up to 10 guests; $15 each additional person. By reservation only.  Tour may vary with weather conditions)*

PARI’s 200+ acre site is full of natural beauty, breathtaking views, and historical buildings and instruments.  A staff member will guide you through a tour of the sights and stories of our home in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Take in 360 degree views from our observation deck including Devil’s Courthouse and the Blue Ridge Parkway and try out our giant binoculars.  While you’re there, you’ll learn about our optical telescopes and research instruments like our meteorite detector, and antenna that tracks migratory birds.

Our campus is a host to many plants and wildlife, with each season offering something unique.  Which will you spot on your visit?

You may choose to walk our roads and trails for this tour, or take our shuttle.


Are the options above not quite right?

For longer tours or different topics, take a look at our program menu.  Add some time or swap out some activities to find the visit that suits you and your party.  If a planetarium show followed by learning how to identify meteorites and a finale of rocket launching sounds right, we’ll make it happen.  (Additional costs may apply for longer visits or activities requiring certain supplies).

We can also pair tours and evening viewings.

* Please note that a $6.00 registration fee is added to most transactions to cover processing fees.

Plan your visit to PARI

Take a look at some of PARI's out of this world designs!

Each is available on a huge variety of items, like apparel, art prints, phone and laptop cases, backpacks, mugs, blankets, and more! Click one to customize it at our store on Redbubble. All proceeds benefit PARI's education mission.