Griffith Observatory: Stargazing, Tesla Coil & LA Skyline

One of my favorite places to visit and view to see in all of Los Angeles is that of the Griffith Observatory. Not only is it one of the best observatories in the United States but it is entirely free, surrounded by hiking trails and it even allows the visitor to see through one of the smaller telescopes during select nights, giving you a glimpse of the stars generally only seen in photographs. The observatory is a remarkable place to have a picnic or to begin a new love for astronomy. Here is all the information.


The land on which Griffith Observatory sits was once a part of a Spanish settlement known as Rancho Los Felis. The Spanish Governor of California bequeathed it to Corporal Vincente Felis in the 1770s. The land stayed in the Felis family for over a century, being subdivided through generations, until Griffith, a wealthy mining speculator, purchased what remained of the Rancho in 1882. On December 16, 1896, he donated 3,015 acres of Rancho Los Felis to the City of Los Angeles in order to create a public park in his name. On December 12, 1912, he offered the City of Los Angeles $100,000 for an observatory to be built on the top of Mount Hollywood to be fully owned and operated by the City of Los Angeles. The dedication and formal opening of Griffith Observatory took place amid much fanfare on May 14, 1935. On that day, the Griffith Trust transferred ownership of the building to the City of Los Angeles.

Getting There and Parking

Just like anything in LA, getting there can be a long haul, depending on how close you are to Hollywood. We came from down by Amoeba, and it took us around 25 minutes to go the four miles to the top of the hill. From the 5 Freeway, I imagine it is a lot easier to get to, just like the old la zoo. Parking can also be difficult, depending on what time you go. As one of LA’s biggest attractions, it will fill up the small lot very fast as the day winds to a close. It is not uncommon to have a mile walk to get to the observatory if you go during a busy time so be prepared and bring your walking shoes.

The Observatory

Like I said before admission is completely free to the observatory. There are some shows that you have to pay for, but just to walk through the museum area you do not have to pay anything. The museum itself houses a lot of really cool exhibits as well so being able to go for free is a huge plus.

Some of my favorite things are the swinging pendulum that shows the earth’s rotation, the live view of the sun and the periodic table with the actual elements inside of it.

The Tesla Coil

The coil is turned on a half dozen or so times a day and it is worth staying around to see it.

The Planet Room

This room is full of planets and information about them. It even has a rock they brought back from the moon.

This is just the tip of the iceberg though as there are a lot more things to explore. This model shows the size and even the underground area of the observatory.

When you have finished exploring the inside, you can walk along the outer parts of the observatory to get a view of the LA skyline, or even climb up on the roof for a unique view of the Hollywood sign. On clear days you can see for miles up here, and it is a great place just to relax and wonder at the views.

The Telescope

One of the smaller telescopes on the top of the observatory is open to the public to look through on certain nights of the week, check their site for when. It is an unusual experience and depending on what it is pointed at can give you a fantastic view of space above us. It is a great thing to take the kids to so make sure you come during one of the viewing times.

The observatory shows you that there is more to LA than the celebrities and the glamor. It is one of my favorite spots to relax and spend some time, and I recommend you check it out yourself to help create a full view of what Los Angeles has to offer.

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