||Los Angeles, CA|
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Griffith Observatory sits atop Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park, offering 360 degree views of the iconic Hollywood sign, the downtown LA skyline, and the greater LA basin. Sitting on the cafe's sun-drenched balcony enjoying a zephyr-like breeze, I kept thinking of the Red Hot Chili Pepper song lyrics, "And in this perfect weather, we'll find a place together..." LA truly has some glorious days.
My favorite part of the observatory was the view from the terraces that surround the building and from the cafe. The rest of the observatory, and the walk up to it, were quite crowded, probably because admission is free. Come early because you will have to park way far down the hill if you don't. And bring a stroller for sure!
The observatory was built in 1933 as a Works Progress Administration project during the Great Depression, on land donated by Colonel Griffith J. Griffith. It is built in Art Deco style and looks lovely perched on a hill. As you walk up the hill to the observatory, you pass pretty vegetation and views of the Hollywood sign. Did you know the Hollywood sign used to say Hollywoodland?
Once at the top, a regal front lawn beckons, with a large astronomers' monument in the center. Your first sight as you walk inside the building is impressive- the central rotunda with painted ceiling of heavenly themes and the Foucault Pendulum, sparkling as it swings back and forth showing the rotation of the earth.
The rest of the exhibits are well-done, teaching about the planets, the sun, the seasons, the tides, and the moon. There is a tesla coil that creates lightning at designated times throughout the day. My favorite exhibit was the solar telescope that offered real-time images of the sun's surface and the eruptions on it.
Although there were some buttons here and there, the buttons didn't do much of interest for young kids and this was a shame. If there had been buttons and flaps for kids to lift, we adults could have read the interesting plaques at the exhibits, but because our young child was bored, we didn't get to learn much. I would recommend this museum for kids of 7 years or older.
At night you can come here to look for free through the huge telescope, until 9:45pm.
Planetarium shows are offered 8-10 times a day and you can purchase tickets at the observatory at the counter or from the machines. Kids under 5 are only allowed at the 10:45am weekend show or 12:45pm weekday show, though the shows are not officially recommended for young children because they are disorienting. I myself get really dizzy at planetariums.
Downstairs is a new area built in 2006, with hanging planets and a real meteorite stone. There is a moon rock (just looks like a regular rock) and more exhibits on planets. None of this will hold the attention of younger kids.
The Cafe is a good place to take a break and enjoy the scenery and some fresh air. You grab your food cafeteria-style. The food is bland and watery, like at most Wolfgang Puck museum cafes. But the views are well worth it.
While in Griffith Park, go for an enchanting walk in Ferndell or let your kids play on the shady peaceful playground there. See the big trains at Travel Town. The main Griffith Park playground has every type of play equipment a kid could want!
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Griffith Observatory is located at 2800 East Observatory Road, Los Angeles CA 90027, call (213) 473-0800. Exit Highway 5 at Los Feliz Blvd and head west on Los Feliz Blvd. After 1 1/2 miles, turn right on Hillhurst Ave. Turn right on N. Vermont Ave which becomes Vermont Canyon Rd. After 1 mile, turn left on East Observatory Rd and park along the road as high up the hill as you can find a spot. Bring a stroller if you have a young child because it's quite a walk!
Open Tues-Fri noon-10pm, Sat-Sun 10am-10pm.
Closed on Mondays and on July 4, Thanksgiving day (Nov 24, 2011), and Dec 25.
Admission is free.
Planetarium shows cost $7 for adults and children over 12, $5 for seniors, $3 for kids over 5.
This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.
Overall Visitor Rating: Unrated.