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Griffith Observatory Visit: Los Angeles City, Park, Hiking, and Travel

Updated on February 2, 2011
Griffith Observatory
Griffith Observatory | Source

Short History

It all started from a wonderful man, Griffith J. Griffith. If you have notice, this guy has the same last name and first name. The park idea was started through his thought, “A Great City Needs A Great Park”, he donated 3,015 acres of Rancho Los Felis to the City of Los Angeles in order to create a public park. Griffith was amazed after looking through the 60-inch and largest-in-the-world telescope at Mount Wilson, and he said. “If all mankind could look through that telescope, it would change the world!" Then he provided $100,000 to the City of Los Angeles for an observatory to be built on the top of Mount Hollywood and will be owned and operated fully by the City of Los Angeles. California USA. His dream came true, as many people around Los Angeles and other states is free to visit the observatory and park. The place started to operate in May 1935. It had more than 13,000 visitors visited the observatory during its first five days of operation. And now, the Griffith Observatory is opened again since 2006 after it was closed in 2002 for renovation and expansion.

Visiting the Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory is open for public and is free of charge. The parking area is free, although it is small and limited. There is no reservation needed to visit the park or observatory. The operating hours is as follows: For weekdays (Wednesday to Friday), it opens at noon up to 10.00 pm, and opens earlier during weekends (Saturday and Sunday) at 10.00 am to 10.00 pm. And the Observatory is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

What’s inside the Observatory

As soon as you arrive, you will notice the following stunning views filled with an Astronomers Monument, a soothing green lawn and Griffith Park trails. These great features will welcome you at the entrance of the Observatory. View of the “HOLLYWOOD” sign is also clearly seen from the entrance.

Each part in the Griffith Observatory is named to recognize the contribution of its donators. Important things to look at when you are inside the Observatory:

Observatory's Exhibits

1. The Foucault Pendulum is located right in the center of the lobby when you entered the main building.

2. Hall of the Eye and Hall of the Sky Exhibits are located at the left and right side of the lobby. The building also consists of easy-to-understand explanation. There is also a live display of how human nature observes the sky and the entire primary objects in the sky such as moon, comet, sun, planets and many more.

3. Samuel Oschin Planetarium, this is the main attraction of the Griffith observatory. You will need to pay $7 for an adult ($5 for senior citizen 69 and up; $5 for student-with ID and FOTO member-with card; $3 for children 5-12). Children under 5 can only be admitted to first show of the day and must sit on adults’ lap. A 20-30 minutes experience inside the planetarium will let you feel being so close to the sky. Currently, there are three shows available such as Water is Life, Light of the Valkyries, and Centered in the Universe. The first two shows are only played twice in weekends, while Centered in the Universe has 6 shows during the weekends.

Note: FOTO = Friends of The Observatory

"If all mankind could look through that telescope, it would change the world!" Griffith J. Griffith
"If all mankind could look through that telescope, it would change the world!" Griffith J. Griffith

4. Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theatre at the new lower level offers free show. It provides a great documentary explaining the history and mission of the Observatory. This show is free and runs about 23 minutes. You will also see Leonard Nimoy himself will host this short documentary. If you know the Star trek Enterprise original series, you will know Leonard Nimoy as Mr Spock.

5. Depth of Space and Edge of Space Exhibits are the museum that shows us the Milky Way Galaxy, the Planets, Our Earth and Solar System, Pieces of the Sky and much more.

6. View of the Los Angeles city from the roof top or the outside terrace is sure an experience you won’t want to miss.

the view of Hollywood sign
the view of Hollywood sign

Personal Experience

I went there on Saturday morning around 10 am. I was a bit surprised to find cars parked at the adjacent roads. This Griffith Park is very famous for hiking and picnic. I observe various people went for hiking or doing some sports in this park. You will need to drive around 2 more miles from the park entrance to reach the observatory. The parking space is limited, but don’t worry, if you are patient enough waiting for another 5 to 10 minutes, you will find a parking space for your car or SUV.

Standing in front of the observatory in the morning, I can view the stunning Los Angeles panorama very clearly. I can also notice the big Hollywood sign. I pleasantly surprised to find only a few people in the observatory. By walking around the exhibitions, I can learn some new understanding about our planet or earth, moon interaction, sun and other planets. I also feel I should have visited this place when I was in primary school while studying the astronomy class. I would definitely recommend this observatory for family with children. The child can learn many different objects about planet system as well chemistry. There is a big periodic table which describes the chemical elements in our planet. I can also find small telescope, signs, games that will provide a study materials for children. All the things are so easily understood by the clear explanation and detailed display.

The Cafe at the End of the Universe

If you need to grab some foods, you can visit the only cafetaria in observatory. The Cafe is operated by world-famous chef Wolfgang Puck.The Cafe is located at the new lower level between the Gunther Depths of Space exhibit hall and the Gottlieb Transit Corridor. The cafe is located right in front of the gift shop. The price is a bit pricy, it ranges from $5.00-$8.00. Some of the menu includes:

  • Caesar Chicken Sandwich
  • Ham & Cheese Sandwich
  • Traditional Caesar Salad

and more.

The periodic table
The periodic table

Interesting Parts

The following is some of the interesting features I found such as:

  • The Giant Periodic Table in the Hall of the Sky Exhibits. Yes, the periodic table. The ones that we normally sees in textbook only. They built it in every display rack with the color and as well a sample of which item described in the table.
  • The Milky Way exhibition. By the corridor’s wall on the way to the Leonard Nimoy Theater, I saw some ladies accessories in the shape of stars and moon. They are built in such a way in the so-long corridor to explain what had happened in the Milky Way Galaxy 13 million years ago.
  • The Planets and the Solar System are built with the comparison of its actual size with the weight measurements for each planet. I do love being in Pluto, where my weight is only 2lb. Guess what my weight will be in our lovely planet.
  • The Meteoric Impact Panel. You are allowed to set several features to analyze the impact to the object such as how big is the comet, what object (earth, moon) will take the comet hit, how fast the comet travel, what angle will it hit the object, how close will it be to the object, on which surface will it hit the object, then press enter. BOOM! You will see how is your-creation-meteor impacted the earth.


The 23 minutes free show at the Leonard Nimoy Theatre gave me a clearer description about the Observatory history and its objective.

I tried one of Samuel OschinPlanetarium shows, Centered in the Universe. Make sure you are not late to the show, as there will be no refund on it. It was quite a 3D experience to the space. Even though the almost-30-minutes show time was considered to short (for me), but I think it is still worthwhile. There is a narrator which will provide the narrative part of the show.

There is a free telescope on the roof top in the dome for public viewing, but as I was there during daytime, it is close. Of course, it is, nothing can be seen at day time. So, I will plan my future visit at night time.

Overall the visit to Griffith Observatory should be part of your travel plan if you visit Los Angeles city. If you live in LA, you should try to visit this observatory and park either during your weekend or vacation time. You can plan the visit either with friends or family member. The visitation will provide you better understanding and enrich your knowledge about the planets and our solar system or beyond. It can also provide an entertainment for kid or adult. The trip will be totally worth it.

Various photos from observatory

Click thumbnail to view full-size
James Dean StatueThe ObservatoryExhibitsWeight ConversionGriffith J. Griffith
James Dean Statue
James Dean Statue | Source
The Observatory
The Observatory | Source
Exhibits | Source
Weight Conversion
Weight Conversion | Source
Griffith J. Griffith
Griffith J. Griffith | Source


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    • playtime2013 profile image

      Michael Zhang 

      5 years ago from Beijing, China

      When I study as an exchange in LA, I'd like to visit there with your hub's help!

    • chan0512 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Camarillo, CA


      You are right, there are a lot of hidden gems.

    • doodlebugs profile image


      7 years ago from Southwest

      Nice Hub about an interesting part of LA. There are so many "hidden treasures" in and around the city.

    • chan0512 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Camarillo, CA

      I bet you enjoy those days. :).. I really like the observatory and park. I will visit the park again in near future. You should visit this park again especially after the city renovated the observatory. Thanks for stopping by.

    • LillyGrillzit profile image

      Lori J Latimer 

      8 years ago from Central Oregon

      Oh Chano512, you uncovered memories of years ago, when me and my bad little friends would go to Griffith Park, in the day. We would drink and make-out. Griffith Park was ours. We occasionally visited the giant telescope...many years ago. I will have to go back, the next time I am in Cali!


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