Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, CA
The Griffith Observatory sits high on a hill above the city of Los Angeles, its white walls and domed roofs visible from miles away. It is the ideal place to get a panoramic view of the city and to watch and learn about the stars–the real ones, not the movie variety.
City view from the Promenade Walkway of the Observatory
The Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park is one of the premier public observatories in the world. Griffith J. Griffith wanted the public to have the opportunity to look through a telescope, which he felt might broaden human perspective. Mounted in the copper-clad domes on either end of the building, the Zeiss and solar telescopes are free to the public every day and night the sky is clear.
Jennifer and me, in front of the Observatory. The Griffith Observatory opened to the public on May 14, 1935
When my daughter Jennifer was in high school and college, she worked as a guide at the Observatory. She was in town last summer with her family, so we decided to spend an afternoon there.
Astronomer's Monument and Sun Dial on plaza in front of the Observatory
Traffic and parking are always a challenge near the Observatory, so we parked along the road near the Greek Theater. We then ate a picnic lunch on the grass before heading up the hill, about a mile’s walk. One can also get to the top by riding one of the free shuttle buses that stop across the road from the Greek Theater.
Foucault's Pendulum
Just inside the main door of the Observatory is Foucault’s pendulum, a heavy ball that swings in an arc following the Earth’s rotation. It is a favorite exhibit at the Observatory. Visitors crowd around the railing around the pit, waiting to see the ball knock over a peg every few minutes.
The 240-pound brass ball moves back and forth on a 40-foot steel cable suspended from the dome. At Los Angeles' latitude, it takes 42 hours for the pendulum to complete a circle as the earth beneath it rotates. The movement is visually represented by small wooden dowels that are knocked over one at a time by a pointer on the bottom of the ball.
Tesla Coil
Another favorite Observatory exhibit is the Tesla coil. When it turns on, giant flashes of light explode as electricity flows into the air of the chamber.
During our visit we looked at dozens of other exhibits as well, learning about the sun, moon, planets and things astronomical. We ended our stay with a live show in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, settling into the comfortable reclining seats for the show. (Tickets for the shows can only be purchased at the Observatory on the day of the show.)
It was a great family outing and opportunity for our grandchildren to see where their mother had worked when she was just a little older than they are now.
Admission to the Griffith Observatory and Grounds is FREE. For more information click HERE.
North Doors of the Observatory

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