Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Getting High at Griffith Observatory

Guys, I have an addiction.  It all started when I studied in Italy.  Bundled up and shivering while listening to our very knowledgeable yet incredibly long-winded tour guide tell us all about the architectural history of the Mole Antonelliana or Leaning Tower of Pisa, I looked forward to the rush that would come later.  It followed me that summer to New York City where we'd seek out the Empire State Building or a rooftop party.  Then that fall in Chicago, we indulged at the John Hancock Building and Willis Tower.  And of course, here in Los Angeles, I'm at it again.  I'm obsessed with getting high.*

There's nothing I love more than a great view.  The higher up, the better.  Looking down on the city makes me want to throw my hands in the air and scream, "I'm on top of the world!"  (I'm sure my family and friends are thankful that I have never actually done that.... but one day it will happen.  You've been warned.)

So one of the first things I did after settling into my apartment in Los Angeles was begin searching for the best view of the city.  And Griffith Observatory was a popular destination among acromaniacs like myself.

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory is located on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park which is a huuuugeeeee green space in the City of Los Angeles.  Getting to Griffith Observatory was a bit of an adventure in itself.  I took a residential road (many of these roads close at dusk) to get to the park.  But once inside Griffith Park, the signage was very good.  Get in the right lane and take Observatory Road all the way through the top (and through the tunnel!).

There were people parked on the street on the way up, and I wondered if I should do the same, but I kept driving to the top and quickly located a spot in the parking lot.  However, when I was leaving (around 6 PM that evening), there was a huge war for parking spots taking place.  I suppose people were coming to view the city at night and look at the stars.

Griffith Observatory

The Observatory opened on May 14, 1935. To quote a line that made me smile in the visitor's guide I received, "With Art Deco, Moderne, Greek Revival, and Beaux Arts architectural influences, the stately building actually looks like an observatory. It soon became a featured location in hundreds of movies and TV productions."

The Observatory operated from 1935 to 2002 when it shut down for an extensive renovation which included updated technology and expanding public spaces while maintaining the original character of the building.

Griffith Observatory

The East Terrace offers an incredible view of the city, overlooking Downtown Los Angeles. I've been told that the day after it rains offers the clearest city views because the rain helps knock the smog out of the sky. Of course, L.A. is in the middle of a serious drought. I've been here for over two weeks, and only once have I even seen a cloud in the sky.

Los Angeles Skyline

There are upper and lower terraces on each side. I looked down on this space and thought how lovely it would be to have a party up here under the stars. The Observatory hosts public star parties every month during which visitors can look through different telescopes and talk to astronomers.

But I wonder if this is ever rented by the rich and famous and dressed up for a glamorous party...

Griffith Observatory

To be honest, one of my main incentives of visiting Griffith was to take a photo of the cityscape that would make the perfect image for my 31 Days of Los Angeles series. Success!

Los Angeles Skyline

If you turn around and look to the side and behind you, there's a lovely mountain view. I love the imagery of man v. nature present throughout Los Angeles.

California Mountains

The West Terrace looks towards West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. With the sun setting in the west, it wasn't the best lighting for photos during the hour I visited.

City of Los Angeles

And behind you on the left terrace, there is a great view of the Hollywood sign. Of course, you'll want a greater focal length to really capture it from this distance (I was shooting with a 16-50mm lens).

Hollywood Hills

Now, you can get all of the great views of Los Angeles without ever stepping foot inside the observatory, but that wouldn't be a very smart thing to do.  Because going inside not only allows you a view of the interior architecture, but to also access a very high-quality and interactive little museum.  On top of that, admission is free (except to the planetarium), and its 2006 renovation has made learning fun and accessible.

The Ahmanson Hall of the Sky exhibits explore the Sun, Moon, and seasons in a very hands-on and visual manner. My favorite was the large-scale periodic table.

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Wilder Hall of the Eye gives a better understanding of how telescopes work and the different types that astronomers use.  I then took the Cosmic Connection to the lower level...

Griffith Observatory

Where there is a huge exhibit of space (and Pluto is no longer a planet... though it is noted as "Pluto and beyond," so at least it has a name).

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

I didn't have time to add a visit to the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, but tickets prices are incredibly reasonable ($7 Adult, $3 Child, $5 Seniors and Students... note that children under 5 years are only allowed to attend the first show of the day).

A quality attraction with free parking and free admission isn't easy to come by in Los Angeles. I really appreciate Griffith Observatory's dedication to educating the public in a high-quality, innovative manner.  For (arguably) the best view of Los Angeles and access to the planetarium, the drive to Griffith Observatory is definitely worth the time and something to add to your L.A. to-do list.

Griffith Observatory is located at 2800 East Observatory Road, Los Angeles, CA 90027 and is open Tuesday-Friday from 12:00 PM to 10:00 PM and Saturday-Sunday from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM (closed Mondays, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day).

Admission and parking are free of charge, but consider donating to Friends of the Observatory which strives to preserve, promote, and support Griffith Observatory.

*With use of the term "getting high," I mean that purely in the physical act of vertically elevating oneself above sea level.  I absolutely do not encourage "getting high" in any other sense of the term.  I only purposefully used this possibly controversial phrase to get your attention.

Check out the series, 31 Days of Los Angeles, for more cool places to visit in Southern California!