With beautiful grounds, a fascinating premise and free entry, the Griffith Observatory makes for a great science-based day out in Los Angeles.
Built on land donated by Griffith J Griffith in the late 1896, the observatory was inspired by the one at Mount Wilson, which “moved him profoundly” and the project started in 1912, although it wouldn’t be completed until 1935, long after Griffith’s death.
Lower-than-usual materials prices during the Great Depression meant that the finishing of the building was unusually fine, with the depression-era Federal public works program employing six sculptors to create the Astronomers Monument, dedicated in November 1934.
Today, the observatory remains a national leader in public astronomy, just as Griffith intended it to be. The stunning building still features the planetarium, original telescope and Foucault’s Pendulum in the central Rotunda, as well as new additions such as the Transit Corridor. Equally impressive are the grounds, which command stunning views of the Los Angeles Basin, right out to the Pacific Ocean.
Once inside, it’s best to divide time between the exhibits (free) and the planetarium shows, for which charges apply. As Griffith requested, the public can view the stars through the original 12-inch Zeiss refracting telescope, which is normally trained on the Moon, the planets or other bright objects — its open every evening when the sky is clear, although you’ll have to share it with up to 600 other guests.
Also not to be missed on clear days is the Coelostats, which offer excellent views of the sun, and the other telescopes which are dotted around the observatory.
The planetarium has been upgraded with new technology, but its still in the same place (and the original doors are still there), so it’s well worth a visit to see one of the shows. When space-related media events are happening, the “Even Horizon” multimedia theatre is also opened to the public in addition to its regular schedule of lectures and other events.
Every month, free public star parties are held with the assistance of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society and the Los Angeles Sidewalk Astronomers at the Griffith Observatory from 2:00 p.m. to 9:45 p.m — see the website for further details.
|Address: 2800 East Observatory Road, Los Angeles, CA 90027, US|
|Admission Price: Free
|Opening Times: Wed – Fri 12.00 noon – 10.00 PM, Sat – Sun 10.00 AM – 10.00 PM|