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Griffith Observatory: Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting

griffith observatory

Griffith Observatory is one of the top things to do when you are in LA. Who can resist the allure of that iconic Art Deco building perched high atop Mount Hollywood with panoramic views of LA sprawling below?

Not me. As someone who is fascinated with astronomy, the chance to peek through one of the Observatory’s telescopes was just too tempting to pass up during my trip to Los Angeles. Between the shows at the Planetarium, exploring the exhibits, and stargazing at night, I had an absolute blast discovering all the wonders of the universe at Griffith Observatory. 

If you’re planning a visit, let me share all the essential tips I picked up to make the most of your trip to this celestial paradise. By the end of this article, you’ll be raring to grab your telescope and head to Griffith Observatory, where an astronomical adventure awaits!

The History and Architecture of Griffith Observatory: An Iconic Los Angeles Landmark

This iconic landmark has played an important role in the city’s history and culture, not to mention some pretty epic views of the city skyline and Hollywood sign.

Built in 1935, the observatory’s architecture is a mix of Beaux Arts and Art Deco styles. The grand domed building was designed to inspire people to explore astronomy and science. When it first opened, admission was free (and still is nowadays), and it quickly became a popular attraction. Over 85 million people have visited since then!

One of my favorite things is the Foucault pendulum demonstrating the rotation of the Earth. The pendulum’s path gradually shifts over time due to the Earth’s rotation beneath it. There are also amazing telescopes, planetarium shows, and hands-on exhibits on astronomy, gravity, and electromagnetism.

The observatory’s location in Griffith Park, on the slopes of Mount Hollywood, provides panoramic views of the city below. You can see everything from the skyscrapers of downtown LA to the Pacific Ocean. The best views are from the observatory’s front lawn and terraces. Pack a picnic, bring your camera, and enjoy the scenery!

Whether you’re an astronomy buff, architecture enthusiast, or want to soak in the views, Griffith Observatory should be on your LA bucket list. This cultural landmark offers a glimpse into the city’s history and a sense of timelessness. After over 80 years, its ability to inspire wonder in both kids and adults alike remains unparalleled. A visit here is truly a joyful experience.

griffith observatory in LA

What You Can See and Do at Griffith Observatory

I absolutely loved my visit to the Griffith Observatory! Here are some of the amazing things you can experience at the Observatory:

Tesla Coil Lightning Show

The Observatory has a massive Tesla coil that shoots real lightning bolts into the air during live science shows. The crackling electricity is a sight to behold and the ozone smell takes me right back to my childhood chemistry set. The free 6-min show happens several times during their opening hours and is located at the Wilder Hall of the Eye.

Samuel Oschin Planetarium

The Observatory’s planetarium features state-of-the-art digital projection and live presentations to transport you through space and time. You will be immersed in the wonder and meaning of the universe and our place in it. I highly recommend seeing one of the live star tours, where an astronomer guides you through the current night sky and points out constellations, stars, and planets. Truly magical!

Samuel Oschin Planetarium charges a minimum fee for its shows. You can only purchase your ticket at the observatory on the day of the event up to 10 minutes before the beginning of the event. Below are the prices for Samuel Oschin Planetarium:

Adults (13-54 years old)$10.00
Seniors (55 years and older)$8.00
Students & Teachers (must show ID)$8.00
Children (5-12 years old)$6.00
Small Children (under 5 years old)FREE
(Small children must sit on the lap of a parent or guardian)

Telescopes and Exhibits

The Observatory grounds contain a large bronze armillary sphere, multiple telescopes including historic refractors, and hands-on exhibits covering astronomy, physics, and science. You can peer through telescopes, manipulate interactive models and even touch a real meteorite! The exhibits are fun for both kids and adults.

Stargazing Events

If you’re lucky, you might catch one of the Observatory’s stargazing events, where astronomers set up high-powered telescopes for public viewing of celestial objects like the moon, planets, or distant galaxies. There’s nothing quite like seeing Saturn’s rings or a nebula up close for the first time. An unforgettable experience!

The Griffith Observatory offers a little something for everyone. I hope you’ll get a chance to visit this Los Angeles landmark and rediscover your sense of wonder.

griffith observatory telescope

The Best Views of Los Angeles From Griffith Observatory

The views from Griffith Observatory are simply breathtaking. As an avid traveler who likes to take photos of beautiful sceneries, Griffith Observatory immediately shot to the top of my LA bucket list. The observatory sits high up in the hills, offering panoramic vistas of the city skyline and surrounding area.

The LA Skyline

Looking out from the front lawn, the entire LA skyline unfolds before you. You can see famous landmarks like the Hollywood sign, the Capitol Records building, and the Library Tower. As day turns to night, watch the city sparkle to life, with a sea of lights from buildings and traffic. It’s a view unlike any other in the city.

The Hollywood Hills

Griffith Observatory also offers stunning views of the Hollywood Hills. It provides you a different experience even if you plan to go hike the Hollywood Sign. Gaze out at the chaparral-covered peaks and canyons of Griffith Park. You may spot some of the local wildlife like deer, coyotes, or birds of prey soaring by.

The Pacific Ocean

On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Pacific Ocean, about 26 miles away. The telltale blue of the sea contrasts with the greens and browns of the hills. Watch the sunset over the water for an unforgettable experience. You’ll see why Griffith Observatory at sunset is an iconic LA experience, with the observatory domes silhouetted against a vibrant sky.

The views from Griffith Observatory showcase the diverse landscape surrounding LA. From nature to skyscrapers to the ocean, you get a taste of everything this city has to offer. No trip to LA is complete without taking in these vistas! I hope you enjoy exploring all the observatory and its views have to offer.

griffith museum views

How to Get to Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory sits atop Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park, so there are a few ways to make your way up there.

Driving

If you have a car, driving is definitely the easiest option. There is ample parking in the lots surrounding the observatory, with rates starting at $4. The observatory is open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 10 pm, so aim to arrive early, especially if there’s an event. Traffic and parking can get crazy on weekends and evenings.

Once you’re parked, walk up the path to the front entrance. You’ll spot the iconic domed building and know you’ve arrived! Driving directions: head for 2800 East Observatory Road, Los Angeles, CA 90027

Public Transit

Don’t want to deal with LA traffic and parking? No problem! The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) offers daily (10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.) low-cost DASH Observatory/Los Feliz public bus service from the Vermont/Sunset Metro Red Line station to the Observatory. And the best part is that it only costs 50 cents or 35 cents with a Metro TAP card each way. The shuttle drops off right at the front entrance of the Observatory along the horseshoe driveway every 20-25 minutes.

Taxis and Shared Ride Services (Uber, Lyft)

You can also book and arrive via taxi, limo, airport shuttle, and shared ride service such as Uber or Lyft. Immediate pickup and drop-off for such vehicles is past the Observatory horseshoe driveway in front of the lawn. Note that these vehicles cannot park at the Observatory, at any time.

Park and Walk

If you are able to walk up to a mile uphill, you can park for free in the area around the Greek Theatre. This is what we did with our visit. You can see good spots to pause and enjoy a view of LA and who doesn’t want free parking and shedding few calories?

Whether you drive or take public transit, getting to Griffith Observatory is well worth the trip. Once you arrive, you’ll discover why it’s one of the top attractions in LA!

Best Times to Visit Griffith Observatory

The best times to visit Griffith Observatory, hands down, are the evenings, especially around sunset and at night! As an astronomy fanatic, the night sky does magical things to me. Seeing the sunset over the Hollywood Hills and watching the city lights flicker on one by one seriously fills me with joy.

Once the sun goes down, the observatory really comes alive. The telescopes open up for public viewing, and you can see planets, stars, and galaxies up close. My favorite is looking at the moon through the historic 12-inch Zeiss telescope. You really get a sense of its craters and textures.

The observatory also has evening programs, like the “All Space Considered” lecture series and telescope demonstrations. Sometimes, they even have special events with guest speakers.

In the summer, the observatory stays open until 10 pm for those long summer nights. That means more time to gaze at the stars, explore the exhibits, and soak in the views. If you go on a weekend, they often have fun activities for kids and families in the evening too, like crafts, movies, and science demonstrations.

Overall, visiting Griffith Observatory at night is a magical experience, whether you’re a space enthusiast, science nerd, or just looking for a fun date night activity. The sky’s the limit – literally! I hope you get a chance to experience the wonder of a night at Griffith for yourself.

FAQs: Visiting Griffith Observatory

Visiting Griffith Observatory is a must-do for anyone exploring Los Angeles! I absolutely loved my experience there with my first time in LA. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions to help you plan your trip.

Do I have to pay for admission?

Admission to the Observatory and most exhibits are completely free! The only exception is the Samuel Oschin Planetarium shows, which have a small fee of $10. Everything else – the exhibits, observation decks, and grounds – won’t cost you a cent.

What are the Griffith Observatory’s opening hours?

The Observatory is open Tuesday through Friday from noon to 10 pm and weekends from 10 am to 10 pm. It’s closed Mondays for maintenance. I highly recommend going right when it opens to beat the crowds. The grounds are open until 10 pm for stargazing, even after the exhibits close.

Is there parking?

Parking at the Observatory itself is very limited, but there is ample parking down the hill that only costs $10-15. Shuttles run continuously to take you up to the Observatory. Street parking in the residential areas is also an option if you don’t mind walking. You can also park for FREE at the Greek Theater. I’ve found that the earlier you arrive, the more likely you’ll snag one of the closer spots.

What can I see?

There is so much to experience at the Observatory! Must-sees include:

  • The historic dome and telescopes
  • Samuel Oschin Planetarium shows
  • Stargazing programs and nighttime telescope viewings
  • “Centered in the Universe” permanent exhibit
  • Temporary art exhibits
  • Iconic observation decks with panoramic city views

Whether you’re interested in astronomy, science, or photography or want to soak in the views, Griffith Observatory is an incredible place. I hope you found this helpful in planning your visit. Let me know if you have any other questions!

Happiness on the Way Tips

Traveling is a way to experience wonder and gratitude and be present. Specifically, a visit to a planetarium like Griffith Observatory is an opportunity to tap into a deeper level of joy by soaking in the vastness of the universe and our place in it. You can use your visit to reconnect with nature and, consequently, yourself.

As someone who writes about travel and finding happiness along the way, here are some things you can do:

Recognize that you are part of a vast Universe.

As you step inside, the immensity of the universe unfolds before you, humbling and liberating you at the same time. You will realize that your worries will fade away. You will feel the inner joy that comes with the understanding of your connection to something infinite and extraordinary. A cosmic dance where you are an integral part of the grand tapestry of existence.

Experience serenity.

I sat on the Observatory’s terrace, and with each passing moment, a sense of tranquility washed over me. I felt connected to the rhythmic dance of the cosmos, where everything seemed to move in harmony. The worries and stress of my quick trip to LA slowly melted away, replaced by a profound sense of calmness. It was a reminder that amidst the chaos of life, there exists a serene space within us where we can find peace.

Rekindle your Childlike Joy

In the observatory’s halls, I felt like a child again – curious, present, open-minded, and eager to explore. Moments like this make us realize that joy isn’t merely an external pursuit but a treasure within ourselves waiting to be rediscovered. When was the last time you allowed yourself to be a child again and experience untainted joy?

Conclusion

My visit to Griffith Observatory was a remarkable experience. From the stunning views of the city skyline and Hollywood sign to learning about the cosmos in the state-of-the-art exhibits, this iconic LA attraction offers something for everyone. The observatory grounds are open every day of the year, so pack a picnic, bring your family and friends, and head over to enjoy an afternoon getting lost in space and time. You’ll leave feeling inspired by the wonders of the universe and grateful to call Los Angeles home.

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22 Comments

    1. Thank you for your kind words! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. The Griffith Observatory’s majestic appearance can indeed give off a Greek vibe! And you’re absolutely right, visiting after dinner to see the sparkling lights of LA at night is a magical experience. I hope you get the chance to witness it for yourself—it’s truly unforgettable!

  1. I love all the hiking around the observatory! I haven’t been since high school, this post made me realize how much I miss it!

    1. Hiking around the observatory is indeed a fantastic experience, and I’m thrilled my post could bring back those fond memories for you. It’s never too late to revisit a place that holds a special spot in your heart. I hope you get the chance to visit again soon and relive those cherished moments! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. I would love to visit Griffith Observatory when I’m in LA. Star- and planet-gazing are so fascinating and the views would be amazing also.

    1. Absolutely! Griffith Observatory is a must-visit for anyone fascinated by stars and planets. The experience of gazing into the night sky and exploring celestial wonders is truly awe-inspiring. And let’s not forget the breathtaking views of the city—it’s a perfect combination! I’m sure you’ll have an incredible time there during your visit to LA.

  3. Griffith Observatory looks like a stunning place for the views! Would love to visit around sunset. Thanks for sharing all your recommendations!

    1. You’re very welcome! I’m glad you found my recommendations helpful. Visiting Griffith Observatory around sunset is an excellent idea—the views are absolutely stunning at that time! The golden hour adds a magical touch to the scenery. I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic time soaking in the beauty of the place.

  4. I live not far from Griffith and take visitors all the time. It’s so magical! I learned some new tips here, so thanks for the awesome info! The views are so good and the exhibits are super cool. Great post!

    1. That’s fantastic to hear! Living near Griffith Observatory must be such a treat, and I’m delighted that my post could offer you some new tips. Thanks for your kind words and for stopping by to read the post!

    1. Thank you so much! I’m thrilled to hear that you love the “Happiness on the Way” tips section. It’s all about rediscovering joy in the little things during travel. I hope these tips sparked some thoughts to ponder for your next travels!

  5. When we visited LA we saw the Griffith Observatory high on the hill but ran out of time to visit. Great to keep this post to help us with a visit on a return trip. A live show at the Planetarium would not be missed. And I can imagine how amazing it would be to look through the telescopes.

    1. Oh, I’m so excited for you to visit the Griffith Observatory next time you’re in LA! It’s a gem you won’t want to miss. The live show at the Planetarium is mind-blowing, and looking through those telescopes is simply awe-inspiring! You’ll have a blast! Let me know how your future trip turns out!

    1. I’m glad you found the parking tip helpful! I always look for free things (especially parking) during my travels and I make sure to add them in my blogs.

  6. I’ve been to the observatory a couple times and share your enthusiasm for it. I can’t believe it’s free. The views of the city are unparalleled, it’s the best place for sunset in LA I think 🙂

  7. I grew up in Southern California and Griffith Observatory is a destination I still love to visit. Whenever I host visitors while staying with family, I love to take them here!

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