Tucked into the mountains near Brevard is one of the most scenic spots in Pisgah National Forest, and it comes with an intriguing history.
The Learning Center at PARI (Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute) occupies one of the first facilities NASA constructed during the infancy of the U.S. space program. It is now a nonprofit science education and research facility, open to the public and about a half-hour drive from downtown Brevard.
The 200-acre campus bristles with telescopes, scientific instruments (including two massive 85-foot radio telescopes), cabins and tent campsites. Visitors are welcome Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. until late and Sundays from 9:30 a.m. to 6 pm, with brunch served from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and dinner available on Saturdays from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the campus restaurant, Smiley’s.
While on campus, visitors are welcome to browse the Exhibit Galleries in the Cline Administration Building. The Minerals and Meteorite Gallery is home to a collection of gems, minerals and rare meteorites, including pieces of Mars, the Moon and fluorescent mineral specimens. The Learning Center’s Space Exhibit Gallery is also one of the few sites in the United States chosen to display NASA Space Shuttle artifacts, many of which have flown in space. Recently added exhibits include a one-third-scale Lunar Lander Module, Redstone rocket engine, satellites and models, donated or on loan from the Smithsonian Institution.
General admission is $10 per person ($30 max per family); $8 for seniors and students (elementary through college); and free admission for military, first responders, and children 5 and under. Pre-arranged special tours and events for groups can be scheduled by calling visitor services at (828) 862-5554. Special rates apply. For additional details, timing and reservations, visit The Learning Center at PARI’s web site at www.pari.edu or call (828) 862-5554.
Directions: Driving from Brevard, go west on U.S. 64 about 9 miles, turn right on N.C. 215 (at Headwaters Outfitters), travel 6 miles and turn left on Macedonia Church Road, proceed about 1.6 miles and turn left into The Learning Center at PARI and proceed to the Cline Administration Building (near the flagpole).