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An Ultimate Guide to the Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory is one of Los Angeles’s most popular attractions. It opened in 1935 and has seen more than 81 million visitors since. It is easily the most visited observatory in the world and is also free to the public. Not only can visitors explore exhibits on astronomy, but they can also see amazing views of Downtown Los Angeles and out to the Pacific Ocean over Santa Monica. Today we will explore all the things you can do while at Griffith Observatory plus where to eat and stay.

The Griffith Observatory scaled

History of Griffith Observatory

Griffith J Griffith, a Welsh-born American Industrialist and philanthropist donated 3015 acres of land surrounding the observatory to Los Angeles City in 1896. He wanted to make astronomy more accessible to everyone so therefore he donated funds to help build an observatory, exhibit hall, and planetarium on that land.   

During World War II, the planetarium was used to train pilots in celestial navigation. In 1960, it was used to train Apollo Program astronauts for their moon mission. The observatory was closed in 2002 due to renovations and an expansion of the exhibit space. It reopened again in 2006 and retained its beautiful Art Deco exterior. New exhibits, a cafe, a gift shop, and a new Leonard Nimoy Horizon Theatre were added to the expansion.  

How to get there

The observatory address is 2800 East Observatory Road, Los Angeles, CA 90027. It is located in Griffith Park which spans 4,310 acres. There is a parking lot at the front but if the main lot is full you can park along the West Observatory Road and Western Canyon Road. However, it depends on the crowd, and you may end up finding parking way down the hill.   

Public transport is the best way to get there if you do not want to trek up a hill. The DASH Observatory bus, which is operated by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, and its operating hours match the observatory hours. It is air-conditioned and will take you right to the front entrance. You can also use ridesharing apps such as Uber or Lyft to get there as they are convenient as well. 

Timings & Fee

The Griffith Observatory is free to visit which includes the building, grounds, and the public telescopes.   

It is open Thursday and Friday from 12 pm to 10 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 10 pm. The grounds, terraces, and sidewalks are generally open every day. It is a very popular attraction and hence gets busy on weekends, so weekdays are probably the best time to visit to avoid crowds.

The Griffith Observatory 2 scaled

Things to do

  • Foucault Pendulum – It is one of the best features and fun things to do and watch at Griffith Observatory. It is located right inside the front entrance. This instrument is designed to demonstrate the earth’s rotation and is one of the largest of its kind in the world. The pendulum is suspended by a 40-foot-long cable and is attached to a 240-pound bronze ball that keeps swinging in a constant direction while the Earth turns under it.   
  • Planetarium – Look to sit back in the comfortable seating and watch a screening inside the Samuel Oschin Planetarium. The educational screenings include films such as the universe and solar system and they are shown on a state-of-the-art Zeiss star projector. You will feel like you are traveling through time and space back to the Big Bang and going on a journey through the solar system. Every show is presented by a live storyteller who explains engagingly throughout the program.   
  • Tesla Coil – This is one of the most memorable exhibits in Griffith Observatory and will thrill you with its electrical discharge and electrifying zapping noises. A Tesla Coil converts low voltage alternating current electricity into a very high voltage and then increases the frequency. It was named after the genius Nikola Tesla and the aim of the Tesla Coil was the transmission of electricity through the air to provide electricity without using wires. Telsa Coil presentations are conducted daily on the hour on weekdays and periodically between Tuesday and Friday.   
  • Telescope viewing – They also offer free telescope viewing to the public every evening. They also have staff members who help you guide what to observe and interpret what you see in the night skies. You may try to aim your visit on a day that has clear skies, and this shouldn’t be too hard in Southern California. You should try to get there around dusk.  
  • Gunther Depths of Space – It is an exhibition that displays the transformation of planets into landscapes, stars into solar systems, galaxies into vistas, and much more. You will also learn about what meteorite hunters do and how much you would weigh on Jupiter.  
  • Star Party – Every month Griffith Observatory hosts a star party for the public to attend that is free of cost. It is held with the help of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, Planetary Society, and the Los Angeles Sidewalks Astronomers who will help you explain the sun, moon, and the planets.  
  • Sunset Hike – Every month Griffith Observatory also offers a sunset hike that is led by a Park Ranger and a Museum Guide. This hike begins on the Observatory’s West Terrace and goes up the Charlie Turner trail to the Berlin Forest on the hill just north of the Observatory and then returns to the West Terrace. The total distance covered is about half a mile over an hour if you go at a moderate pace while making stops along the way. The departure time during winter is usually 5 pm and in summer it is between 7-8pm. 
The Griffith Observatory 3 scaled


No food or drinks are allowed inside the Griffith Observatory, but they do have a Cafe called Cafe at the End of the Universe and the best part is that they have outdoor seating where you can enjoy the views of Los Angeles and also the Hollywood sign.   

They serve quick bites and snacks such as grab-and-go sandwiches, salads, chips, muffins, and cookies. All of these are very delicious. We also recommended Little Dom’s, which is at the base of the hill, for a fuller meal. They have incredible ricotta cheese & blueberry pancakes during the weekend brunch and cacio de pepe for lunch.


  • The Beverly Hills Hotel – Dorchester Collection – It is known as the ‘Pink Palace’ and is a luxury hotel on Sunset Boulevard that features full service and an outdoor pool. It is just 1 mile from Downtown Beverly Hills. The bright and elegant rooms of the hotel feature marble bathrooms and 2 tvs. Plus, there is also a minibar, coffee maker, and ironing facilities.   
  • Clean Modern Room – It features accommodation with a shared lounge, free WIFI, and a shared kitchen. They also offer a flat-screen TV, a seating area, a washing machine, and a bathroom with a bath and a shower. It is a great choice for those interested in food, shopping, and restaurants.  
  • Empire Inn – It is just 5 miles from the center and provides air-conditioned rooms with free WIFI and a flat-screen TV.   

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