Located in the heart of the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles and just east of Hollywood, the Griffith Observatory sits nestled high on a cliff on Mt. Hollywood over looking all of Los Feliz, Silverlake, Hollywood and beyond. The observatory is home to a wide array of space exhibits, a planetarium and several huge telescopes. During the evening amateur astronomers set up telescopes on the grounds in front of the Observatory that allow for anyone passing buy to get a glimpse of a planet, distant star system or comet. The grounds of the observatory are well kept and the property is adjacent to the Hollywood sign. In addition to the amazing photo opportunity to get pictures of the sign, the observatory has breathtaking views of Downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, West Hollywood and out to the Ocean and down to LAX.
The Griffith Observatory first opened its doors on May 14, 1935. From its inception, the observatory was intended for public astronomy rather than research. The observatory offered public telescopes, astronomy exhibits and the third planetarium theater ever built in the US.
Today the Observatory has hosted over 70 million visitors since it first opened in 1935. By being at the top of the mountain, the observatory offers unparalleled views of the entire Los Angeles Basin. On a clear day, the deep blue color of the Pacific Ocean strikes a cool contrast against the back drop of the brown and rugged southern California mountains. Adjacent to the observatory is the Hollywood sign, allowing visitors an up close and personal view as well as photo opportunity.
The Observatory offers a variety of activities and things to do for all ages. Home to the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, the Observatory presents shows every hour. Visitors lie on seats so that you stare straight into the dome theater movie screen. From there the presentation takes you from the earth through the Milky Way Galaxy and beyond. The show is changed several times a year and depending on which presentation is attended visitors may get full history on astronomy, an overview of our solar system or be taken on a trip highlighting recent discoveries in the entire universe. Narrated buy a live presenter the 45 minute presentation is very entertaining and engaging. Tickets are $3 for children $5 seniors and $7 for adults.
As part of the Griffith Observatory's remodel, the entire structure had a basement added beneath the main lawn and entrance level that is actually in the side of the Hollywood Hills. This addition has allowed the observatory to build out an entire floor space of new exhibits below the observatory. These exhibits include scaled hanging planets that allow visitors to get a grasp of what the size of the planets are in relation to one another as well as give an idea of how far they are from each other. There are many exhibits where visitors can see real life met or it es that have crashed into the earth as well as maps plotting where in California as well as around the world these rocks have been found. There is a theater on this level as well that offers guests hourly shows hosted by Leonard Nemoy that give a detailed view of how this lower level was constructed into the side of the Hollywood Hills.
The Zeiss telescope on the East Observation Terrace, that is open every evening between 7pm and 10pm. The telescope is usually locked on an aspect of the universe, from a planet in our solar system to a star nebula deep in the Milky Way. The images from this telescope are spectacular and often surreal. In addition, every evening at sundown, weather permitting, several astronomers set up telescopes in the law area in front of the observatory. These telescopes, like the massive Zeiess, also give a detailed view of the planets and faraway sky. These telescopes will have a presenting astronomer from the observatory that will guide visitors to what they are seeing. Depending on the time of year these telescopes focus on different aspects of space including nearby planets, nebulas and constellations that are barely if not possible to see with the naked eye.
The gift shop at the Griffith Observatory offers a wide choice of entertaining and educational material relating to space and the planetarium for all ages. This gift shop includes space suits for sale and many books written by astronauts.
For those visitors the Observatory not looking to observe the stars, they will be in for another treat. As the observatory is on a hill, visitors will have spectacular 180 views of Los Angeles from all areas of the Griffith Observatory. These views include breathtaking views of the Hollywood sign (just 1/4 of a mile to the west and parallel to the Observatory) to Downtown Los Angeles, all of Hollywood, the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles and beyond. On really clear days (usually when the Santa Ana winds blow or after a rain storm) the views extend to the Pacific Ocean and down to LAX. In the evening time as the stars come out and the lights illuminate the city below, one can see the lights of airliners stretching across the night sky like a pearl necklace as they make their arrivals into LAX.
The Griffith Observatory also offers a cafe offering healthy and hearty meals. There is an outdoor deck where visitors can enjoy their meals while over looking all of greater Los Angeles.
The Griffith Observatory is an amazing venue to take adult guests and kids visiting Los Angeles alike. The whole experience can be done under 3 hours and for those visitors staying in Hollywood they will find, even in traffic, the observatory to be easy to get to and a perfect way to end the day.
The Griffith Observatory is located at the top of Mt. Hollywood at 2800 East Observatory Road, Los Angeles, CA 90027.
If you are coming from Hollywood, West Hollywood or Beverly Hills/west side, you can take either 1) Hollywood Blvd, Sunset Blvd or Santa Monica Blvd East to Western. At Western make a left and take it to the sharp curve to the right. Immediately following this curve you will find the entrance to Griffith Park on your left hand side. Make a left here. The drive is about a 2 mile steep climb to the top. The Griffith Observatory is easily observable perched on the side of the mountain top from most areas south of the Santa Monica Mountains in the Los Angeles basin.
Parking is free, however often times, especially as evening approaches, the lot becomes full and you may find yourself parking on the road leading into the Observatory.