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Griffith Observatory is my number must-do for any traveler visiting sunny SoCal, whether you have 5 days in LA or only one! As a local to Los Angeles, I know the ins and outs of this landmark of Los Angeles super well. So in this Griffith Observatory guide, I’m sharing my insider Griffith Observatory parking tips, the best way to get there, and what exhibits you’ll see.
Why you should visit Griffith Observatory
I have rant-and-raved about Griffith Observatory for forever now, so it’s time for a full guide. Whether you’re looking for a fun science destination or you’re visiting Los Angeles on a budget, Griffith Observatory is for you. Here’s why you should go to Griffith Observatory:
- SCIENCE – If you’re new here, hiii I’m a chemist (I’m virtually waving at you)! I love science and I love space, so if that’s you too, you’re in the right place! Griffith Observatory has amazing, high-quality exhibits on astronomy, history, the planets, and more! The detail is incredible and you will learn something, guaranteed!
- FREE – Not only is The Observatory an incredible activity, it’s free! Yes, you read that right. Free. As in walk through the doors with your wallet untouched. Budget travelers rejoice!
- VIEWS – Honestly, the views from the Observatory are unmatched. You can see the Hollywood sign (without trespassing to do so), and the downtown Los Angeles skyline.
- MOVIES – If you love movies, some great ones were filmed here like La La Land, the Terminator, Charlies Angels: Full Throttle, Rebel Without a Cause, and Transformers.
- HISTORY – Talk about a historic structure and defining landmark of Los Angeles. The Observatory was built in 1935 and renovated in 2006, where they dug out from below and added a second underground level. It was quite the feat! All for science!
Griffith Observatory Parking Tips
Alright, so now you want to go but what are the logistics?
How to Get to Griffith Observatory
First, if you plan on driving make sure you are entering the correct address into your GPS. The Observatory is located in Griffith Park, which spans 4,310 acres (and makes for a great scenic drive). The actual observatory address is:
2800 East Observatory Road, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Parking at Griffith Observatory
This address takes you to the front, which is where the parking lot is. They are really great at putting up signs as to where you can (and can’t) park.
If the main lot is full (which happens often), your best bet is along West Observatory Road and Western Canyon Road. However, depending on how crowded it is, you may end up parking a ways away down the hill.
There is disabled parking available. Show the attendants at the front lot your parking permit or license plate and there are designated handicap spots at the front.
The Best Way to Get to Griffith Observatory
Now, if you aren’t into trekking up a hill in the Los Angeles heat, public transportation is the best way to get to Griffith.
There is a bus called the DASH Observatory bus (red line), operated by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT). Bus operation matches the Observatory hours. And, the best part is that it only costs 50 cents each way.
The bus is air-conditioned and takes you right to the Observatory entrance. The hardest part about this process is finding street parking near the bus stops. I recommend driving the bus route until you find parking. We did that and found parking 3 stops north of the last station (on Prospect Ave. and Hillhurst Ave.).
Another thing to note, ride shares like Uber and Lyft cannot drop you off at the front of Griffith Observatory. They can only go as far as the Greek Theatre, which is at the bottom of the hill.
You can catch the DASH Observatory bus at the Greek Theatre. If you don’t have a car, need a ride-share, or want to minimize your public transportation usage, this is your best bet.
If all of that was confusing and intimidating, please note that I grew up in Los Angeles and when I visited the Observatory on the DASH line recently, that was my first time ever riding the city bus (this was 56 weeks ago, age 24, captains log). So if I can do it, so can you!
When you actually get to the observatory, there is so much to see! The Hollywood sign is to the right when you are facing the Observatory entrance. The Los Angeles downtown skyline is behind the Observatory in the distance.
Outside of the building, there are some cool features to see. The statue out front, called the Astronomers Monument, pays tribute to Hipparchus, Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and Herschel, pioneers of science and space discoveries!
If you walk to the farthest right corner and look down to the level below, you can see the Gottlieb Transit Corridor. The astronomical instrument links the movement of the sun and moon with the time and calendar, so by looking at the shadows you can tell what day and time it is. It’s pretty neat!
Around the building, you can see the planetary orbits on the ground marked by bronze lines. The model is to scale and the sun can be found in front of the main entrance!
Inside the Observatory
Once inside, you’ll see the central rotunda with the swinging pendulum. The exhibit to the left covers a history of astronomy and instrumentation. Here you’ll find a close up look at the Milky Way and a Tesla Coil that operates daily according to a set schedule.
The exhibit to the right of the central rotunda has my favorite thing in the museum – the periodic table with samples of each element! (Reminder that I’m a chemist by day.) I could stare at this thing all day. In this exhibit, you’ll also see cool interactive displays of the seasons, eclipses, moon phases, tides, and more!
Also on the main floor is the Planetarium. If you get the chance I highly recommend seeing a show here. You do need to buy tickets at the front office for shows, which cost between $3 and $7, and they get incredibly full throughout the summer. However, the large room is circular and the chairs are so comfortable so the show is very enjoyable even when crowded!
On the lower floor, you can take a closer look at each planet (and dwarf planet…sorry Pluto). You can see how much you weigh on each planet, what the temperature is like, and more!
On the opposite wall is “The Big Picture,” a full size photo of space! It’s HUGE. And, the Leonard Nimoy Theater is on this floor where there are free shows. If you make your way outside from this floor, you can get up close to the Gottleib Transit Corridor.
The café and gift store are also on this floor.
Telescopes at Griffith Observatory
If you can, while you make your way around the outside of the Observatory, try to check out the telescopes. They are open everyday day and night that the sky is clear!
You can also go inside the East structure to look at how massive the telescope is even if you can’t look through it.
Where to Eat at Griffith Observatory
While no outside food or drinks are allowed inside the Observatory, they do have a café called Café at the End of the Universe (how freaking cute!). The best part is that they have outdoor seating where you can take in the views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign.
They serve quick bites and snacks like grab-and-go sandwiches, salads, chips, muffins, and cookies. But they’re actually pretty delicious!
I also recommend Little Dom’s at the base of the hill for a more full meal. They have INCREDIBLE ricotta cheese & blueberry pancakes during weekend brunch and cacio de pepe for lunch.
Griffith Observatory Hours and Admission
Griffith Observatory is currently closed Monday through Thursday, but are open Friday from 12pm to 10pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 10pm.
Admission is free! But, planetarium shows do cost $3-7 (and are so worth it!).
For more information on the most recent visiting hours and Planetarium tickets, visit their website here.
More time in Los Angeles? Check out these other posts!
- 5 days in Los Angeles Itinerary
- Ultimate budget guide to Los Angeles
- How to spend a day in Los Angeles
- Ultimate guide to Los Angeles museums
- Los Angeles gardens perfect for spring (and summer)!
- Science guide to Los Angeles (for other fun science destinations)
- What to do at and around Grand Central Market LA