The region’s best place to stargaze is in Placerville

Observatory docents lead star tours with a little help from lasers.

Observatory docents lead star tours with a little help from lasers.

Photo courtesy of the community observatory

Admission is free; $2 parking fee. (530) 344-5707; Open 8:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m Friday, Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting; 6699 Campus Drive in Placerville; Check open/closed status by visiting

Take in the beauty of the night sky and the galaxies hundreds of millions of light-years away by visiting the Community Observatory in Placerville. It’s the perfect place for families and date nights, with daytime solar viewing on the first Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon. There’s also a Planet Walk where you can saunter through the outdoors of the observatory and read about Mars, Jupiter, Neptune and beyond at signage stations.

The observatory opened in 2006 and is located on the El Dorado County Learning Center’s campus. Inside the newly upgraded sky theater at night, recline in comfy seats that look up at a blanket of stars. Through the use of two research-grade telescopes, the sky tours show a variety of stars and their unique colors, and the moon and planets unseen by the naked eye.

“The telescope lets you see beyond those stars to other things in our galaxy that you just didn’t know were there,” says former chief docent Jim Gabler. “When you pull them up and they’re in color, it’s amazing. It’s also amazing with how little we are. For visitors, I think it really puts everything into perspective that we’re so tiny in comparison to everything that’s out there.”

Gabler says the “oohs” and “aahs” from adults and kids who look through the telescopes for the first time is still the best part about volunteering at the observatory.

“There aren’t too many places that families, or even for people to go on dates, that are free anymore,” he says. “People bring a blanket in the summer and just sit out in the sky theater for hours, hang around and look at different objects through the telescopes. It’s an enjoyable family place to go.”