How to Get Here
The VLA is located 50 miles
west of Socorro on U.S. Highway 60. From U.S. 60, turn South on NM 52, then
West on the VLA access road, which is well marked. Signs will point you to
the Visitor Center.
First Saturday Tours
The VLA hosts FREE, 30 minute, Guided Tours on the first Saturday of each month at 11:00a.m., 1:00p.m., and 3:00p.m. No reservations required, simply show up at the VLA Visitor Center 15 or so minutes before the desired tour time. These FREE tours last 30 minutes and take the Visitor to areas behind the scenes at the VLA. In addition, family friendly, hands-on activities are offered from 11:00a.m. thru 3:00p.m. VLA Staff and Volunteers lead these activities and are on hand to answer questions.
The First Saturday Tour event culminates in an evening of FREE Guided Night Sky Telescope Viewing at the Etscorn Observatory on the Campus of NM Tech located in Socorro. The night time event begins at dark and lasts two hours, despite weather conditions, no reservations required.
April and October First Saturday Tours are "expanded tours" to accommodate crowds coming from the Trinity Site tours. The VLA calls these special First Saturday Tours, Open House Events. We host free, guided tours beginning at 11:00a.m. with the last tour beginning at 4:00p.m.. These free tours are hosted by NRAO Staff, last about an hour,and take the Visitor through VLA Operations. NRAO Staff are on hand around the VLA Site to answer questions and interact with the public, plus we offer hands-on, family friendly astronomy activities too! Night Sky observing is offered at Etscorn Observatory as described above.
What You Will See
The Visitor Center is open
every day from 8:30 a.m. to dusk. As you enter, a sign will point you toward
the theater, a good place to begin your tour. The 9-minute video presentation
was produced in 2002. It provides an understandable overview of radio
astronomy, interferometry, and the VLA itself. You will then want to explore
our exhibits, to learn more about radio astronomy and the role the Very Large
Array and other NRAO telescopes play in current research. A 5-minute silent
video will show you how we move antennas. Another video slide show describes
the Very Long Baseline Array and how it works.
Near the back door you will
find a brochure to guide you in the walking tour that will take you past our
Whisper Gallery to the base of one of the 230-ton antennas. From there you
will climb up to the observation deck for a view of the array itself, as well
as a look at the new prototype antenna we are testing for the ALMA project. The walk returns you to
the Visitor Center where you are welcome to browse through our gift shop to
take home some souvenirs. The gift shop opens almost every day at 9:00 a.m.
and closes at 4:00. If it is closed during your visit you may shop online.
We suggest you make a
right-hand turn as you leave the parking lot and head for the tall building,
following the AAB (Antenna Assembly Building) Tour signs. As you cross the
railroad track there is a parking lot on your left. From there you can view
our 28th antenna that is undergoing routine maintenance. You will also (most
of the time!) get to see one of the transporters that is used to move the
You are welcome to take
photographs of everything you see, but please keep your cell phone turned
off or put in in airplane mode (else it interferes with our observing).
Twice per year we offer
guided tours to the general public. These are timed to coincide with the
opening of the Trinity Site. Click here for the date of
the next scheduled tour. During the summer, our NRAO students provide tours
on selected weekends. The tours are free and no
reservations are needed.
For educational groups, we
provide guided tours (if available!). We need at least three weeks' notice to
arrange a guided tour. If you're thinking about arranging a guided tour, look at our
information on bringing your class to the VLA.
Give our Education and Public Outreach office a call at (575) 835-7243 to
schedule your tour or fill out a form:
Fax: (575)-835-7027 (attention Judy Stanley).
PO Box O
Socorro, NM 87801
Information for Educators (downloadable)
Facilities, Food, Weather, Etc.
The Visitor Center has
restrooms, water fountains, a soft-drink machine, and soft drinks, bottled
water, and candy bars in the gift shop. No other food is available at the VLA
site. The nearest restaurants are in Magdalena,
about 25 miles to the east, and Datil, about 20 miles to the west. Many
restaurants, as well as lodging, are available in Socorro, an hour's drive from the VLA.
Lodging also is available in Magdalena.
Montosa RV Park is about 5 miles east
of the VLA on Highway 60. Camping is also available in Datil at the Datil
Well Campground, and between Magdalena and Socorro at the Water
Canyon campground. There are two picnic tables located near the Whisper
Gallery at the VLA, and several roadside tables along Highway 60 east of the
array. If you are picnicking in your RV, please don't use your microwave oven
as it interferes with our observing.
The VLA is at an elevation
of 7,000 feet. At this elevation, the weather can be considerably colder than
that at lower elevations. Snow is possible at the VLA from September through
May. Check weather reports before your trip. During Fall, Winter and Spring,
jackets or coats usually are needed, and warm hats and gloves are advisable
during the colder periods.
Can't make it to New Mexico?
Take a virtual tour (also
in Spanish) of the Very Large Array, courtesy of students from Socorro
While in the Southwest, you may want to visit some other
astronomical observatories. For information about observatories in this
region, check out the Web page of the Southwestern
Consortium of Observatories for Public Education (SCOPE)
For more information: