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!
The Biggest Thing to Worry About: Traffic Jams
Only in Los Angeles would you have to worry about traffic jams inside a park, but it’s true. Although I love Griffith Park, traffic and parking can be utterly nightmarish if you go at the wrong time. Here are some times to avoid:
- Friday, Saturday, and holiday evenings
- Saturday, Sunday, and holiday afternoons
- Any time during a concert at the Greek Theater
I have had dates almost ruined by crippling traffic jams at Griffith Park, where you’re stuck for up to an hour moving at a crawl with no way out.
I recently went with my wife on the day after Christmas (which was a Sunday) and we weren’t even able to make it to the top due to one-mile-per-hour traffic. There was no special event going on… just a bunch of folks wanting to go for a hike during the holiday weekend. The worst part was that there was no warning sign at the entrance and we had to go through a half-hour traffic jam to find out the road was closed.
So, Griffith Park is best enjoyed during non-holiday weekdays and nights when there is no concert at the Greek. I cannot stress that enough!
Now that I have that warning out of the way, on to our regular programming…
During the Day
Griffith Park is a wonderful daytime destination, offering great views, wonderful gardens, and amazing hikes. For more info, see my post on a great hike in Griffith Park:
Going at Night
Griffith Park is great 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 10 PM, 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.
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 of 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 is usually 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