Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles

LA’s iconic Griffith Observatory, with unparalleled views of Los Angeles and Hollywood, is one of southern California’s must-see attractions.

Located on the south-facing slope of Mount Hollywood just above the Los Feliz neighborhood in Griffith Park, the public Observatory features a planetarium and numerous astronomy exhibits. Admission to the Observatory building and grounds is free; however, prices vary for the Samuel Oschin Planetarium shows. When observatory benefactor Griffith J. Griffith opened the planetarium in 1935, his main stipulation was for the Observatory to remain free to the public.

Hailed as one of the most popular educational facilities in the United States and the most-visited observatories globally, the Observatory has welcomed more than 85 million visitors (1.6 million visitors annually) since its opening.

Photo Alert: Check the weather before you go and try to visit on a clear, cloudless day to capture the best photos and stunning views.

As a national leader in public astronomy, Griffith Observatory's mission is to "inspire everyone to observe, ponder and understand the sky." Los Angeles's Department of Recreation and Parks owns and operates the 67,000 square foot observatory.

Related Post: 3 Days in Los Angeles: How to Make the Most of 72 Hours

With a vast collection of space and science-related exhibits, the Observatory is split into six sections: The Wilder Hall of the Eye, The Ahmanson Hall of the Sky, the W.M. Keck Foundation Central Rotunda, the Cosmic Connection, the Gunther Depths of Space Hall and the Edge of Space Mezzanine.

Pro Tip: The Observatory is the best vantage point for checking out the world-famous Hollywood sign.Hollywood Sign on Hillside - Los Angeles, California, USA

No food, drinks or alcoholic beverages are not permitted in the building; however, guests can buy refreshments at the Observatory's Café at the End of the Universe. The Sunset Terrace (outside the café) is reserved for café customers. The Observatory does not permit animals inside the building, except for service dogs.

Samuel Oschin Planetarium

Griffith Observatory is one of the only significant facilities globally that still produces exclusively live planetarium shows. The planetarium has presented over 100,000 shows since the building opened in 1935, and more than 18 million people have seen a live program in the Observatory's Samuel Oschin Planetarium.

Fun Fact: World War II aviators and Apollo astronauts trained in the Griffith Observatory's
planetarium theater to learn how to navigate by the stars.

Griffith Observatory Special Recurring Events

The Observatory hosts virtual and in-person programs, including public star parties, All Space Considered and the Sunset Walk-and-Talk.

  • All Space Considered: The Observatory presents this free event on the first Friday of each month. The event discusses space science, astronomy and space exploration with special guests and presentations.

Fun Fact: The architects designed the stairway railing from the corridor to the lawn to point at the North Star.

  • Sunset Walk-and-Talk: Every month, a park ranger and museum guide take visitors on a half-mile sunset hike, discussing the highlights and history of Griffith Park.

Griffith Observatory Exhibits

With over 60 exhibits, there is no shortage of activities at the Observatory. One of the earliest Observatory exhibits is the Foucault pendulum, demonstrating the earth's rotation. Another, the Zeiss refracting 12-inch telescope, has allowed over eight million people to view the cosmos, more than any other telescope in the world.

night view of Griffith Observatory with dark blue blurry sky in background in Los Angeles, California USAFun Fact: The Griffith Observatory has appeared in hundreds of film and television productions, most notably Rebel Without a Cause starring James Dean in 1955. There is a bust of James Dean's head on the Observatory's grounds.

Related Post: How Much Does it Cost to Go to Los Angeles?

Griffith Observatory Daily Programs

Daily programs include live shows in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium and live Tesla Coil demonstrations. Early planetarium shows displayed the moon, eclipses and worlds of the solar system.

Pro Tip: Staffers recommend booking Griffith Observatory tours ahead of time to secure your spot.

Other Griffith Park Perks

Griffith Park is the largest urban wilderness municipal park in the United States, spanning more than 4,300 scenic acres. In addition to the Observatory, activities include gawking at the rhinos at the Los Angeles Zoo or enjoying an open-air concert at the Park's Greek Theatre. With over 53 miles of hiking trails, it's easy to see why Griffith Park is one of the most visited parks in the world.

Related Post: 25 Unforgettable Romantic Things to Do in Los Angeles for Couples

The Observatory's Backstory 

Griffith J. Griffith, a Welsh-born industrialist and philanthropist, donated the land for Griffith Park in 1896. Then in 1912, he tried to donate $100,000 to build an observatory and $50,000 to build the Egyptian Theatre, but the city refused his funding due to his notoriety. Griffith shot his wife in 1903 and served a two-year sentence in San Quinten. Griffith received a reduced prison sentencing due to alcoholic insanity. His wife survived the shooting by jumping out a window after being shot in the face. Griffith bequeathed the donation of the Observatory and theatre in his will.

Night View of City Lights From Griffith Observatory - Los Angeles, California, USAObservatory Hike to Mount Hollywood

From the Griffith Observatory, visitors can reach the 1,625-foot Mount Hollywood peak in Griffith Park for panoramic views of the Los Angeles basin, Hollywood and the Pacific Ocean. It's a steep 1.4-mile hike or a scenic 2.65-mile trek from the lower park in Western Canyon for a hike of around 4.2 miles.

Related Post: Sightseeing in LA: 16 Can't-Miss Stops

In 2002 the facility closed for a comprehensive renovation. The project cost $93 million to expand and restore the Observatory's public astronomy department. Since its reopening in 2006, attendance has steadily increased both in-person and online. In 2020 the Observatory celebrated its 85th anniversary.

Observatory Hours of Operation

(The Observatory is closed Monday through Thursday)

  • Friday: Open 12:00 pm to 10:00 p.m.
  • Saturday & Sunday: Open 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Griffith Observatory Parking

The area surrounding the Griffith Observatory is paid parking. Parking is enforced every day of the year, Monday-Friday 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Related Post: Current Festivals and Events in Los Angeles

Pay stations accept only credit cards. Once parked, go to the pay station and follow the instructions. After paying, take your receipt back to your car and place it on the dashboard.

There is also parallel parking on West Observatory Road and Western Canyon.

Pro Tip: If there is no show at The Greek Theatre, you may park for free in that parking lot and ride the DASH Observatory up the hill.


close up of Erin smiling on a sunny day

Written By Erin

Erin Poche` is a Utah-based writer and editor for Tripster and contributing writer for BeyondType1. She also writes and edits for an indie publisher of fanta ...

Want to write for Tripster?

Subscribe to our Newsletter