Griffith Observatory: a window into the Los Angeles hills and the universe

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Martí Micolau
@martímicolau
SOURCES CONSULTED:

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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Il Griffith Observatory, flagship of one of the largest urban parks in North America (the Griffith park), literally dominates the city of Los Angeles and offers its visitors beautiful views of the urban area and the Hollywood sign. But it would be an understatement to speak only of the view that can be admired from this place and to leave out everything that is inside the observatory.

Entering the Griffith Observatory means embarking on a real journey to discovery of space and touch the history of progress that man has made in order to always discover something more of the unknown that surrounds him. If you are not an expert on the subject, however, do not be scared because I am sure that even those who are not "experts" will find something that can arouse amazement and interest.

Index



  • Where it is, how to get there and general info
    • Where to park
    • How to get there by public transport
    • Hours and ticket prices
    • Entrance to the Samuel Oschin Planetarium
  • What to do at Griffith Observatory
    • Samuel Oschin Planetarium
    • Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater
    • Permanent exhibitions
    • Visit to public telescopes and "Star Parties"
  • Panorama dal Griffith Observatory
  • Griffith Observatory in Hollywood movies and mass culture
  • Where to eat
  • Other useful resources

Where it is, how to get there and general info

The address to get to the Griffith Observatory is 2800 East Observatory Road. You will basically have two options to reach it: either with your rental car, or by relying on the public service. Another possibility is to rely on Uber-type services which may be preferable to using a taxi.


Where to park

The observatory has a parcheggio which, however, has the defect of being quite small, and therefore of filling up very quickly, as well as having a not exactly cheap cost of $ 4 per hour. Furthermore, getting to the observatory by car in high season can be quite complicated, as well as due to the scarcity of parking spaces, also due to the intense traffic that is created.


I felt what was said on my skin when luckily I managed to find only a long place N Vermont Canyon Rd (which can be a valid alternative to the official car park, but only if you feel like walking uphill for a while) just in time before giving up and returning to the hotel. If you want to park on this street, know that the parking is free unless there are events at the Greek Theater (you can check the official website to be sure).

The other two streets where you can park are West Observatory Road and Western Canyon Road: both of these solutions, however, are paid at the same rate of $ 4 per hour. If you want to use the paid parking lots, know that credit cards are always accepted while cash cannot be used in all parking meters.

How to get there by public transport

To avoid the inconveniences I mentioned, an alternative could be to use the public service. In particular, we refer to the DASH shuttle that reaches the observatory starting from the subway stop Vermont / Sunset Station served by the Metro Red Line.


The frequency is a shuttle every 20/25 minutes and one of the stops is near the Greek Theater, which can be useful if you have parked your car in the area and don't want to walk to the observatory.

The fare is $ 0.50 per ticket.

Hours and ticket prices

The entrance inside the Griffith Observatory is free. The only day of closure is Monday. The opening hours on the rest of the days of the week are as follows:

  • Tuesday to Friday from 12 to 22
  • Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 22

As for holidays, in most cases the structure is closed but to know each case I invite you to check on the official website.


Entrance to the Samuel Oschin Planetarium

During the course of the week there are many science themed shows in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, which I have discussed in detail below. To access it is necessary to obtain a ticket of $ 7 for adults and $ 3 for children up to 12 years, which can be purchased at the observatory only on the day of the event up to 10 minutes before the start of the same.

What to do at Griffith Observatory

So if you have decided to spend a part of your day in this fascinating Los Angeles attraction, here are the main activities you can undertake.

 

Samuel Oschin Planetarium

Perhaps we can define it as the spearhead of the Griffith Observatory, as it houses one of the most technologically advanced star projectors in the world. It offers visitors three different shows that alternate during the opening days.


  • Centered in the Universe: who are we, where do we come from and where do we go? These are the simple questions to which we try to give an answer in this show which retraces the stages of the most important scientific discoveries related to space in the history of humanity.
  • Water Is Life: leave for space in search of water. This is one of the main missions that man has always set himself in his travels in space: that is to find a place that can be suitable for the development of life.
  • Light of the Valkyrie: a show totally focused on the phenomenon of the Northern Lights. Its causes, the most beautiful images and Wagner's music will accompany you throughout the duration of this show.

For the details of the times of each show, I refer you to the official website.


Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater

This theater, dedicated to the late actor who played Spock in the well-known Star Trek series, is used above all to host meetings, conferences and shows related to the world of space and scientific discoveries (on the other hand, how could it be otherwise).

You can find the calendar of public events on the official website, maybe you will find something that suits you during the period of your stay. Typically access is regulated on a first come first served basis with entrances to the facility starting 10-15 minutes before the event.

From personal experience I can tell you that, if you have time, it is worth going to see a conference / demonstration because they are made in an engaging way and can also be used by those who are not in the trade (like myself).

Permanent exhibitions

The Griffith Observatory, as we have already begun to see, is a veritable hotbed of events and exhibitions dedicated to science and space. So let's go and see what awaits us once we enter this fascinating building.

Ground floor

  • W.M. Keck Foundation Central Rotunda: to welcome you once you enter the Griffith Observatory will be this beautiful roundabout in the center of which you can admire a huge Foucault pendulum (one of the largest in the world) which demonstrates the rotation process of the earth. The ceiling and wall tops are decorated with works of art by the artist Hugo Ballin celebrating the progress of science from antiquity to the present day. In one corner you will find a portrait of Griffith J. Griffith and his deed of donation of his lands (today's Griffith park) to the city of Los Angeles.
  • Wilder Hall of the Eye: this part of the observatory is dedicated to the evolution of sky observation methods (such as the telescope) and the impact these discoveries had on the society of the time. Also playing a prominent role is the niche in which a large Tesla coil is exposed inside a grate.
  • Ahmanson Hall of the Sky: in this wing the protagonist is the Sun and its interaction with the planet Earth. Very interesting is the section where you can observe in real time the image and the movements of the most important star for our life.
  • South Gallery: this room, which basically serves as a connection to the Samuel Oschin Planetarium and the lower levels, houses on its walls ten iconic images related to astronomy.

Lower floors

  • Cosmic connection: along this connecting corridor there is an exhibition dedicated to the evolution of the universe from the Big Bang to the present day.
  • Edge of Space Exhibits: the most interesting parts of this section in my opinion are two: the Pieces of the Sky which, as perhaps you can guess from the name, consists of a series of fragments of meteorites accompanied by explanatory panels, and the area dedicated to the Moon in which you can admire a piece of lunar rock recovered during the Apollo missions.
  • Gunther Depths of Space Exhibits: you will find yourself in the largest exhibition space of the entire observatory where you can admire a representation of the earth and our solar system complete with everything you need to discover how it works. You will also find a life-sized bronze statue dedicated to Albert Einstein.

Visit to public telescopes and "Star Parties"

When the sky is not cloudy every evening it is possible to observe the sky both through the two famous public telescopes of the observatory and from some portable ones in the lawn in front of the main entrance. On the other hand, this was Griffith J. Griffith's desire for the construction of the observatory, that is, that as many people as possible would be able to directly observe the wonders of the sky.

Once a month on Saturdays the Griffith Observatory hosts one Star Parties. From 14:00 pm to 21:45 pm under the guidance of volunteers from the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, Los Angeles Sidewalk Astronomers and The Planetary Society hold demonstrations and lectures on using telescopes and observing space.

To see the updated calendar of these events, you can consult the appropriate section on the official website.

Panorama dal Griffith Observatory

The Griffith Observatory more than for everything we have described so far is known among tourists also because it offers splendid views over the entire city of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign.

The best views of the city can be seen from the East and West Observation Terrace, while the Hollywood sign can be seen on the terraces located to the west of the structure (to be clear on your right when looking at the observatory). From the parking lot of the Griffith Observatory there is also a path called Mt. Hollywood Hiking Trail which will take you to some splendid panoramic terraces over the area.

You can find a more detailed description by reading our article entirely dedicated to the best places to photograph the Hollywood sign.

Griffith Observatory in Hollywood movies and mass culture

The Los Angeles Observatory has also served as the backdrop for several Hollywood blockbusters. The most famous scene of all is surely the one from Wasted Youth of 1955 with a young man James Dean. In memory of this there is a statue outside the Griffith Observatory depicting the face of the well-known actor.

But it is not only Hollywood that has set his stories in this place, also popular video games have had as background the places of the Griffith Observatory such as Mafia 2, Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas and Grand Theft Auto V.

Where to eat

The location of the Griffith Observatory is certainly privileged in terms of nature and the views it offers, but a little more unfortunate for the attractions and services it offers its visitors. In fact, if you want to refresh yourself, you will have no choice but to reach the "end of the world". The Café at the End of the Universe in addition to allowing you to eat something thanks to its panoramic terrace, it offers a good opportunity to rest a bit along your itinerary.

Other useful resources

For your stay in the city of angels, I suggest some resources that may be useful to you.

  • our tips on what to see in Los Angeles.
  • our suggestions on where to sleep in and around Los Angeles.
  • if you have rented a car, read our guide on where to park in Los Angeles.
  • if you prefer to move by public transport you can take a look at our tips on how to get around Los Angeles.
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