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Griffith Observatory

A Must-See in Los Angeles

Posted on December 9, 2009

Located in Griffith Park and overlooking Downtown Los Angeles, California, the Griffith Observatory is an iconic Los Angeles landmark that has been delighting stargazers since it opened its doors to the public in 1935. Featuring stunning views, from Downtown Los Angeles to the Pacific Ocean to the Hollywood Sign, this beloved spot has become a must-see for anyone who visits the City of Angels.

Griffith Observatory, an Art Deco landmark dating back to 1935, nestled within Los Angeles' Griffith Park, with views of the Hollywood Sign atop Mount Hollywood and a dazzling sunset sky.

The History of the Griffith Observatory

Griffith J. Griffith is a name synonymous with one of the most iconic landmarks of Los Angeles - Griffith Park. Born in Wales in 1850, Griffith immigrated to the United States with his family in the mid-19th century, eventually settling in California where he became a successful businessman. But his lasting legacy is his philanthropy.

In 1896, he donated just over 3,000 acres of land to the City of Los Angeles to create Griffith Park, which has since become one of the largest urban wilderness areas in the country. Griffith furthered his philanthropic endeavors by donating funds to build the Griffith Observatory and Greek Theatre, both becoming popular destinations for locals and tourists alike.

Today, Griffith Park and the Griffith Observatory, alongside the nearby Greek Theatre and Los Angeles Zoo, are beloved cultural landmarks, offering spectacular views of Los Angeles and surrounding area, while also providing visitors with glimpses into the worlds of astronomy, space exploration, and more. Griffith J. Griffith's impact on Los Angeles is undeniable, and his legacy, through controversial at times, continues to inspire generations of Angelenos.

Aerial photograph of the Griffith Observatory, nestled within the lush greenery of Griffith Park, with walking trails and horseback riding trails visible throughout the park.

Griffith Observatory's Architectural Designs

The observatory was built between 1933-1935, in a combination of Roman & Greek classical and Art Deco styles. Featuring an iconic glass pyramid skylight ceiling and terraced exterior walls adorned with astronomical murals depicting constellations, planets, and nebulae, the Griffith Observatory reflects a mix of Art Deco modernism and ancient Greek & Roman classical influences, giving the building an unmistakable presence above the LA skyline.

Griffith Observatory basking in the sunset light with the picturesque snow-capped peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains in the background.

What to See at the Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory hosts many activities and events for both children and adults alike.

The observatory features several free, public telescopes, where visitors can get up-close and personal during their visit. The building itself is an architectural marvel, with its impressive dome structure dominating the skyline. On clear days you can see for miles from the rooftop terrace, with views of Downtown Los Angeles all the way to Long Beach, which continue past the Hollywood Hills to the Hollywood Sign atop Mount Lee. Inside the observatory visitors will find interactive exhibits about astronomy and space exploration, a large Tesla coil, as well as a planetarium where they can sit back and take in shows about space travel, learn about other planets, and more.

The iconic Griffith Observatory perched atop Mount Lee, offering a panoramic view of the sprawling city lights of Downtown Los Angeles at sunset.

When to Visit Griffith Observatory

One of the best times to visit the observatory is just before sunset on a clear night when they have their weekly planetarium shows, like “All Space Considered”—a live presentation about the most talked-about subjects in astronomy, space science, and space exploration. After experiencing a magical sunset from the terrace, visitors can join telescope operators, who guide them through views of different constellations, while offering insights into the cosmos.

Additionally, the public observatory holds a monthly Public Star Party for those wanting to learn more about astronomy, astrophysics, and space exploration. Throughout the year there are also special events, like a laser light shows featuring music from Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”.

The Griffith Observatory sparkles with captivating elegance as its streamlined, art deco architecture is lit up by carefully placed accent lighting.

There’s something for everyone at Griffith Observatory—from experienced sky-gazers to budding astronomers just starting their journey into space exploration. Not only does it offer breathtaking views of the Southern California skyline but the observatory is also home to some fascinating interactive exhibits that provide insights into our solar system and beyond. For Californians and visitors alike, Griffith Observatory is an essential destination to experience science in action and appreciate our universe’s beauty up close.