The Griffith Park Observatory is not only one of the most popular tourist attractions in Los Angeles, it’s also a great place to go for an after-dinner date with someone special, and most of the attractions there are free! Here are my top recommendations to have a great time there.
Why I Like Going at Night
Griffith Park offers great hiking trails during the day, but I think it’s most romantic to go to Observatory is at night, when the view of the city is spectacular, and when they have telescopes out for people to check out. It’s a great after-dinner activity if you’re in or near Hollywood. Keep in mind that it closes at 10PM, so don’t make it a late dinner. As of this writing, it’s open Tuesday through Sunday, but check their site to be sure of the hours.
Warning: Traffic Can Be an Utter Nightmare
The next thing to think about is traffic. When a concert at the Greek Theater is starting or ending, traffic can come to a complete standstill, which is no fun, believe me. You should make sure there are no shows going on at the Greek Theater the night you want to go.
The crowds during holidays can be tough as well, so you might want to think of a different time to go other than the holidays, although I went the weekend after New Year’s Day, and found street parking without too much difficulty.
It can be quite a bit colder on the mountain than down below, so bring jackets! Also, wear good walking shoes.
If you have a good camera, bring it! The views are spectacular.
How to Get There
You can get up to the observatory either by going up Vermont in the east, or Fern Dell Drive in the west.
Even though I come from the west, I like the Vermont route because it’s a bit shorter and much less winding. The Fern Dell route is really winding and might even cause your passenger(s) to get car-sick. (Ginger gum is a great cure for nausea).
On the other hand, the Vermont route goes right past the Greek Theater, so traffic can be bad during shows.
When in doubt, I go up Vermont and exit on Fern Dell.
The Observatory’s parking lot is free, but will probably be full, so be prepared to park on the street and do a lot walking. If someone is wearing high heels, this is not a good place to go!
I usually drive up Vermont and find the best street parking that is available, then walk the rest of the way up. Use your best judgment based on how many cars you see parked on the side of the road, and how many people you see walking up.
The main attraction at Griffith Park Observatory is the view. It offers some of the best nighttime views of the Los Angeles basin!
Don’t forget to go check out the view from the roof as well.
Next are the astronomy exhibits, which are free. Honestly, unless you’re really into astronomy, you’ll probably go through these pretty quickly. But, they are worth a quick look.
But, don’t miss the downstairs exhibits, which are pretty cool. There are exhibits for each planet there.
You can also see some of the science shows in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, which features immersive 360-degree films and projections. Check the observatory site for showtimes.
Finally, there are smaller telescopes available for free public viewing, but there usually is about a 15-minute wait to use them.
Overall, you won’t need to spend a whole lot of time at the Observatory unless you’re watching a show. You should have some other activities in mind for the night.
The Griffith Park Observatory is a great component of a Los Angeles date itinerary. While I would not make a trip to Hollywood just to see the Observatory alone, it’s a great after-dinner activity if you’re already nearby, offering some of the best nighttime views of Los Angeles and a romantic atmosphere.
What do you think of the Griffith Park Observatory? – Brian