Monday, June 2, 2014

Los Angeles: Griffith Observatory

I grew up down in the LA area and, as a kid, we did visit the Griffith. But that was the last time I had been and now I had my own 12 year old son with me. Time to visit again. When I was a kid they lit up the HOLLYWOOD sign that is next to where the Griffith sits in the Hollywood Hills so I wanted to go up there after dark. We were also hoping to use the telescopes. Both of these hopes were dashed when heavy cloud cover made it clear that no telescope views would be possible and that, due to budget cuts, they no longer light up the sign. 
 The reward, however, was finding out that the Griffith is simply stunning at night. 
 We were fortunate to get parking right up front, probably due to the cloud cover knocking out the telescope use and partly because it was a weekday. So it was a very short and lovely stroll up to the front of the Observatory.
 Built in 1935, the Art Deco style is even more obvious at night when you can see those gorgeous windows lit up from within.
 But the architectural style is evident day or night. However, the feel of the place is very different at night than in the daytime. 
 But the View. Oh the VIEW! All of Los Angeles laid out at your feet. This, alone, is worth the drive up there. Just to see all the glittering lights of the city is amazing but to have this gorgeous architecture as part of your view just makes it all that more incredible. 
 Walk all the way around the building before you even step a foot inside. There are wonderful little pockets of beauty at every curve of this place. I love the Art Deco details on this window. 
That is not to say the inside isn't as amazing! It was incredibly crowded inside so it was a challenge to get any photographs of the building. These murals are simply gorgeous and they are right inside the main entrance.
 And under that ornate ceiling is an area that you want to spend some time in...seriously, plan to camp out for awhile. My son and husband really enjoyed this "attraction" at the Observatory, as did everyone else who watched from the edge.
Because what is inside is a pendulum that shows the rotation of the Earth. There were pins set up on one side of the circle and as the pendulum swung back and forth, and as the Earth rotated, it would, eventually, knock down every single pin. We arrived just as one pin had been knocked down so we hung out watching until the next one fell. It was truly riveting! The entire crowd cheered when the pendulum finally knocked the pin over!
 Of course it's not a trip to the Observatory without taking in a show. And we were truly amazed by this show. No, it wasn't the view of the constellations, which, on their own, was very interesting. It was the narrator! She wove an incredible tale about the history of the discoveries and the astronomers that held us enthralled the entire show.

 The next morning, on our way back out of Los Angeles, we decided to stop back off at the Griffith so our son could see the sign and so I could photograph the building in the daylight. Now this was a Saturday morning and it was quite the change in venue from the night before! First of all it was majorly crowded. Parking extended down the hill with lines of visitors hiking their way up to the Observatory.  We were amazingly lucky and got a spot at the very top but it was truly luck.
 In the daytime is it easy to see the Art Deco touches but you don't get to see the beauty of the stained glass during the day. This is why I recommend going twice, once in the daytime and once at night. Or arrive late in the afternoon and stay till dark. 
 These stairs lead up to the rooftop and the telescopes but, unfortunately, they were still blocked off to the public on this day.
 But the details are simply stunning. Not visible at night, this rooftop is just gorgeous. Add in the wall border design and you have a wonderful reason to look up at the Griffith!
 The view of LA is still beautiful. Not the glistening display of the night before but still an amazing view that extends right down to the sea.
 The other thing you can see during the day that you can't see at night are the gorgeous doors. The Art Deco design is found at every single curve so take the time to tour the building slowly.
 I was reminded of Greece with the blue and white sky against the white building and the faintly Grecian building design. It was truly just gorgeous to hang out for awhile and soak up the view!

 But don't forget that this beautiful building holds a wonderful Observatory so make some time to hang out inside too. As crowded as it was the night before, it was even more crowded on this Saturday morning. So if you can only go on the weekend be aware that it will be seriously crowded. If you have the choice then pick a weekday when the amount of people at this popular attraction is actually more manageable.
 The Astronomer's Monument honors 6 of the greatest astronomers in history. Hipparchus, Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Kepler, Newton and Herschel are honored in concrete at the very front of the Observatory grounds. If you don't know who any of these people are then take in a show, they will teach you all about them!
Our last look at the Observatory. I just can't recommend going here highly enough. It's so very beautiful, with the view and the architecture, but also so incredibly interesting. Lastly, it's totally affordable! Visiting the Observatory is totally free. There are no park fees to enter Griffith Park, there are no fees for walking the grounds or touring the inside of the Observatory or even using the telescopes. There is even a Tesla Coil display you really want to catch...for free! The only fees are for those shows! The Samuel Oschin Planetarium shows range from $3 to $7 depending on your age. Children under 5 are only admitted to the first show of the day so plan accordingly. You can find everything you need to know about visiting on the Griffith Observatory Website.

I hope you enjoyed this mini tour of Los Angeles. I hit a lot of the high points but didn't come even close to covering all that there is to see...I didn't even cover all of the areas there are to see! If you missed any of the parts of this tour of LA just keep scrolling down. And if you are looking for more information about touring LA then take a look at the DiscoverLA website.

Next week we head off to Hawaii for a multi part tour of the Big Island! I do hope you can come back soon!


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