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Everything You Need to Know About the Griffith Observatory

Everything You Need to Know About the Griffith Observatory

Explore the wonders of space at one of California's best observatories and urban parks.

Natasha Kouyoumjian


5 min read

February 28, 2023

Disclaimer: is not receiving any type of compensation for reviewing any of the products or services mentioned in this article.

Imagine the luxury of orbiting the galaxy and observing the constellations at close range. Some call The Griffith Observatory a landmark, but we call it a manifested fantasy. Designed by two genius architects—John C. Austin and Frederick M. Ashley—this semi-domed Art Deco establishment is quite the building. From movie buffs and gamers to outdoorsy hikers and astronomy enthusiasts, the observatory has drawn above 70 million visitors from around the world.

Plan your trip right and make the most of the ample offerings of this iconic L.A. attraction. Have a ball with the incredible exhibits on science and space explorations, meteor shower festivals, as well as panoramic vistas of the city, and vitalizing hikes.

The observatory sits high atop Los Angeles, providing some excellent views.

What is the Griffith Observatory?

Location: 2800 East Observatory Road, Los Angeles, CA 90027

Pricing: Free. Admission cost for Samuel Oschin Planetarium

Opening Hours: Closed on Monday. Tuesday to Friday Noon to 10 p.m. Saturday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Parking: Paid parking

It all started with a dream in 1919 by Griffith J. Griffith who wanted to make astronomy and observation accessible to the masses. Today, that dream is perched in the heart of Los Angeles city and remains loyal to its benefactors’ wishes. Ever since its debut in 1935, the entrance to Griffith Observatory and Griffith park is free of charge, making it one of the best free things to do in L.A.

Where is the Griffith Observatory?

Nestled in what feels like the heart of the city, The Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles boasts uncanny views of Downtown Los Angeles to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest. Have your cameras fully charged because you’ll want to frame those scenic sights. However, be wary because you may not get a strong signal at the observatory.

Getting There

Although public transport is the easiest way to get to the Griffith Observatory, hiking and biking are also solid options. If you’re pumped about taking a Griffith Observatory hike, we highly recommend you take the trails originating from near the Greek Theatre or Fern Dell. The planetarium is also filled with several bike racks, If you’re keen on cycling up.

The observatory is highlighted by a massive park, perfect for having outdoor fun.

Can you see the Hollywood sign from Griffith Observatory?

Explicitly gloating the Hollywood sign, as well as a wide variety of exhibits on science and space, the Observatory is a top-rated tourist attraction. Take in the majestic views of the Los Angeles Basin and Mount Hollywood’s southern slopes that subtly hint at your next hiking adventure in California.

Griffith Park

Starting with the theory of “A great city needs a great park,” Griffith forged the idea of a place where people can rest and relax. He considered it his obligation to turn L.A. into a happier and cleaner city. So he devoted 3,015 acres of his own land to build today’s well-known Griffith Park. Home to wilderness areas, this landmark stands as one of the largest parks in the country.

Whether you’re aiming for a romantic afternoon with your partner or searching for a pleasant family-friendly activity, the park has something for everyone. It’s filled with sporting activities, gardens, picnic areas, and so much more. It’s a vast green playground waiting to be explored.

The observatory boasts high-quality telescopes that keep a keen eye on the universe around us.

Zeis Telescopes

Bask in outlandish views of the masterpieces of our galaxy, as you witness the nuclear fusions burning brightly from the Zeis Telescopes. Deliberately situated on the planetarium’s east end’s roof-top dome to serve the public, the telescope has been frequently used to view special celestial events, including Halley's Comet and comets Hale-Bopp and Hyakutake.

The Foucault Pendulum is an interesting exhibit to see that highlights the wonders of science.

Foucault Pendulum

Located in the Keck Foundation Central Rotunda, the Foucault Pendulum gently wobbles pleasing crowds who explicitly arrive at The Griffith Observatory to catch a glimpse of this relic. Featured in blockbusters like La La Land, this fully restored, elegant pendulum is one of the largest such devices in the world and demonstrates the Earth’s rotation.

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Tesla Coil Demos

Having millions witness it in action, Griffith Observatory's Tesla Coil became one of its most memorable and iconic exhibits filling the walls of its alcove with lightning-like discharges. The Tesla Coil demonstration has been restored and relocated to a new alcove ready to thrill new generations of visitors. The new space is meticulously designed to minimize external electrical disruptions to the Interior and the ceiling.

Gunther Depths of Space

Exhibiting out-of-this-world (pun intended) lit walls, the Gunther Depths of Space exhibit is dedicated to venture capitalists and astronomy enthusiasts–Richard and Lois Gunther. Step out of the three-dimensional skies and into a world that will light up your passion for outer space. Discover more than what meets the eye as you explore the deeper depths of the universe with The Big Picture. Hanging on the walls of the Gunther Depths Space display, The Big Picture is one of the world’s largest astronomical images, covering 30.4 square degrees of sky–mostly in the Virgo constellation. Get to know our universe through this magnified image that gives the unfamiliar cosmos a slightly more comprehensible touch.

Samuel Oschin Planetarium

Catch a live show and unveil the universe's wonders in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium. With its Zeiss projector later imported from Germany, the fiber optic technology blankets the ceiling with an exquisite view of space. Enjoy the perks of The Griffith Observatory with ongoing shows such as Signs of Life, Centered in the Universe, and the Water is Life. Check out the high-tech Digistar Projection System that will traverse you through space and time with its 8K resolution and color palette saturations, and carve out time for a unique storytelling experience. 

Wear some solid shoes when visiting the observatory to enjoy a hike to the Hollywood Sign.

Griffith Park to Hollywood Sign Trail

Location: 2800 East Observatory Road, Los Angeles, CA 90027

Parking: Free parking at the observatory till noon.

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 8.6 miles

Duration: 4 hours 30 minutes

Elevation: 1906.168 feet

Route: Loop

Dogs: Allowed on leash

Although there are myriad Griffith park trails, this route has always come up as the ultimate crowd-pleaser. If you want to take a hike before visiting the planetarium, beat the sun and take on this trailhead in the early morning. Park your car at the observatory free of charge, and head out on this eight-and-a-half-mile, moderately challenging path. Begin from the Griffith Park Visitor Center and march up to the Gravel fire road. From there, trek the asphalt route that sets you on the trail to the top of Griffith Park, finally landing right above the Hollywood sign. Be sure to carry extra water as the track has barely any shade. Enjoy the breathtaking view as you appreciate the bonuses of the unique Los Angeles park.

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