A favorite tourist destination in Los Angeles is the Griffith Observatory. The iconic LA Landmark is located on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park, just above the Los Feliz neighborhood. It is 1,134 feet above sea level and is visible from many parts of Los Angeles.
The Observatory offers a planetarium, exhibits, public telescopes, cafe and bookstore. One of the best places to view the Hollywood Sign from is the Griffith Observatory. On a clear day it also offers some of the most breathtaking views of Los Angeles, sweeping from downtown Los Angeles on the east to the Pacific Ocean on the west.
The surrounding land of 3,105 acres and funds to build the observatory, exhibit hall and planetarium were donated to the City of Los Angeles by Griffith J. Griffith, a wealthy industrialist, philanthropist… and attempter murderer. The legacy was marred by Griffith’s notorious shooting of his wife in 1903, a crime for which he served only two years in prison.
In an era when it was believed observatories should be restricted to scientists on remote mountain tops, Griffith’s goal was to make astronomy accessible by the public. Construction began on June 20, 1933. The observatory and accompanying exhibits were opened to the public on May 14, 1935. It logged over 13,000 visitors during its first five days of operation. Since then it has received over 81 million visitors.
Some of the attractions include The Café at the End of the Universe, one of the many cafés run by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. One wall inside the building is covered with the largest astronomically accurate image ever constructed called “The Big Picture” of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. The Observatory produces a number of shows and events, the schedule of which can be found on the Griffith Observatory website. Admission to the observatory is free, but tickets to events are charged for.
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The Observatory has been featured in a number of films. Most notable was the James Dean film Rebel Without a Cause (1955). This film helped make the Observatory an international icon. A bust of James Dean has been placed at the west side of the grounds.
There is a small parking lot at the Griffith Observatory and it is seldom adequate for the number of visitors it receives. There is also street parking on the winding roads leading up to it, again inadequate. There is a DASH Shuttle Service going to the Observatory from Sunset and Vermont for 50 cents or less. It runs every 20 minutes, with the last bus leaving the Observatory at 10 pm. Note that the Observatory is closed on Mondays, though the grounds remain open.