The Griffith Observatory, high on Mount Hollywood and visible to the LA basin beckons everyone to come up and share in the story of planets, stars, and galaxies. It’s free. Who can resist peeking at our neighbor planets and learning about the stars and galaxies overhead? Visitors throng the manicured grounds- day and evening. The observatory entices everyone, not only from Los Angeles, but also thousands of visitors from around the world.
The observatory, a gift to the city from philanthropist Griffith J Griffith, was built with the directive to make astronomy available free to the general public. In accordance with his vision of a public observatory, the three domed building opened May 14, 1935. At the time it featured, and to this very day still features: a Foucault pendulum, the twelve-inch Zeiss refracting telescope (located in the east dome), a solar telescope (located in the west dome), the planetarium (under the large central dome), and exhibit halls.
I remember my very first visit. I, being a very broke student just out of the army, had to find a way to impress a cute young lady on our first date. Well, gee-whiz, Mr. Griffith did stipulate the observatory was to be free to all. So off we went (in her car, by-the-way.) Well, that first date must have been a hit. That young lady and I have revisited the observatory many times. In fact, we just recently took our grandkids there for a fun evening.
The grandkids, of course, loved it. They peeked through the telescope, stood on the scales that showed their weigh on other planets, pondered the models of the planets of the solar system, and climbed all over the life size brass figure of Einstein. (Uh, sorry about that Albert.)
Obviously the observatory has always ranked as one of the most popular destinations in town. When we looked into it, web pages that accumulated popular reviews consistently rated the observatory nearly five stars out of a maximum of five stars based on thousands of reviews.
But high ratings didn’t tell the whole story. Every time we visited, including the evening we took the grand-kids, my wife and I noticed the wide variety of visitors, young families, dating couples of all ages, groups of friends, lots of youth groups, and whole families of parents with kids, including the many aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. They stood in line for their chance to peek through the Zeiss telescope, ogled the fantastic view of the lights of downtown LA, and made their way into the planetarium for the show. There was so much to see and do. There was a friendly camaraderie in the air. Everyone enjoyed himself or herself.
The Department of Recreation and Parks, of Los Angeles City, has followed the spirit of Mr. Griffith’s wishes to the letter for over eighty years. The only exception being, when the observatory underwent extensive expansion and renovation that cost about 93 million dollars and required a closure for four years. It was well worth the cost and the wait. The observatory updated the exhibits with contemporary scientific knowledge and images, along with the interactive displays.
I can’t sing the praises of the Observatory enough. If you’ve never visited I urge you to go. Check the website: www.griffithObservatory.org. Here you’ll find all the information you’ll need to plan a visit, including current shows available in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, public transportation, and information for persons with disabilities.
Looking at the planets such as Saturn, through the telescope made me personally aware that space is dark, cold, and vast. Yet, I yearn to know more about the neighbors in our solar system. Go visit. The observatory beckons to us all. And, it’s free.
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Looking for more interesting places to take the kids and family? There are many County and City activities and venues in and around Los Angeles that offer fun and educational experiences for everyone. Click on these previous posts listed below for great family outing ideas:
Metropolitan Features including information regarding:
– Los Angeles Zoo
– Griffith Observatory
– The Arboretum
– Exposition Park
– Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History
– Santa Monica Pier