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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 21 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Luciana Bellini

There are many reasons to go to Griffith Park, and one of the main ones is to visit the magnificent Art Deco observatory, which sits high above the city near the Hollywood sign.

You don’t even need to go inside to make the visit worthwhile – taking in the view over LA’s skyline and admiring the building’s impressive architecture (which you’ll recognise from films such as La La Land and Rebel Without a Cause) is more than enough.

That being said, don’t leave without going inside, where you’ll find permanent exhibits exploring the cosmos, free public telescopes and an excellent planetarium.

Don’t miss

Don’t miss the hypnotic swaying of the Foucault Pendulum in the vaulted lobby – a 240-pound bronze ball suspended by a 40-foot cable from the rotunda ceiling, it demonstrates the earth’s rotation.

Price from: £6
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 5+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

The observatory is high up in the hills in sprawling Griffith Park, to the east of the city, about a 20-minute drive from Hollywood Boulevard.

There aren’t usually queues to get in and the main exhibits are free, including daily talks led by the knowledgeable staff and Tesla Coil demonstrations (timings for these can be found online).

You do, though, need to book tickets for the Samuel Oschin Planetarium. Annoyingly you can’t pre-book these online or over the phone and can only buy tickets in-person at the observatory’s box office for that day’s shows. The show schedules can be found on the observatory’s website.

When to do it

The observatory is open all year round, Friday to Sunday. Closed Monday to Thursday.

You won’t usually have to battle queues, but if you fancy hiking up to the observatory it’s best to come early in the morning or later in the afternoon, before it gets too hot.

One Saturday a month the observatory hosts a free public star party, with various telescopes dotted around the front lawn and astronomers on hand for questions.

Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first

Hollywood Roosevelt

Los Angeles, California, United States of America (USA)[4.3 miles]

A Hollywood favourite is right in the thick of things; you can feel the neighbourhood’s energy pulsing through the property, whether you’re sipping cocktails in the Spare Room bar or lounging beside the David Hockney-painted swimming pool.

Official star rating:

Chateau Marmont

Los Angeles, California, United States of America (USA)[6.7 miles]

Soak up Hollywood’s scandalous past, present and future at this wonderfully glamorous Sunset icon, where you’re bound to bump into an A-lister in the Gothic-chic drawing room or the outrageously raucous bar.

Official star rating:

Mondrian Hotel Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California, United States of America (USA)[7.3 miles]

Superbly-located West Hollywood hotel, right on Sunset Boulevard. One of LA’s sexiest hotels, with a hippest rooftop party scene.

Official star rating:

West Hollywood Edition

Los Angeles, California, United States of America (USA)[8.7 miles]

The coolest recent addition to the Sunset Strip, the WeHo Edition is home to a buzzy rooftop pool and terrace, a destination restaurant, an underground nightclub and a gloriously zen spa.

Official star rating:

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Los Angeles

California, United States of America (USA)

The bright lights of Tinseltown are home to surfer-filled beaches, glorious mountain hikes, glitz and glamour in spades and year-round sunshine.

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Our writer’s recommendations of other bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination, closest first

Hike up to the Hollywood Sign

Los Angeles, California, United States of America (USA)[2.6 miles]

Hike the picturesque but little-known Hollyridge Trail to the summit of Mount Lee, offering spectacular views and the closest point to the sign.

Best for ages: 8+ | Free | 2-3 hours


Los Angeles, California, United States of America (USA)[4 miles]

The indomitable heart of the movie industry, where dreams are still made. See the star-studded Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theater – where the biggest premieres still take place – and the Kodak Theater, home of the Academy Awards.

Best for ages: 8+ | Free

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Universal Studios Hollywood

Los Angeles, California, United States of America (USA)[5.4 miles]

The La La Land outpost of this movie-themed amusement park feels more grounded in actual Hollywood than the others, thanks to its popular tram tour that takes visitors behind the scenes of a real working studio.

Best for ages: 6+ | £85

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Los Angeles, California, United States of America (USA)[8.1 miles]

A 20-acre compound of galleries and pavilions housing more than 100,000 works, from ancient Mayan bowls inscribed with bat heads and Japanese sculptures dating from 3000 BC to paintings by Rubens, Cezanne and Degas.

Best for ages: 13+ | £17

Other worthwhile experiences near this experience if you have time or interest..

Farmers Market on Fairfax

Farmers Market on Fairfax

Los Angeles, California, United States of America (USA)[7.6 miles]

This LA institution in West Hollywood first opened in 1934 and is home to over 100 food stalls and grocers, who specialise in everything from doughnuts and ice cream to beef jerky and gourmet pickles.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Life-size mammoth sculptures recreate Los Angeles prehistoric days at La Brea Tar Pits archaeological site in the Mid-Wilshire district of Los Angeles California.

La Brea Tar Pits

Los Angeles, California, United States of America (USA)[7.9 miles]

On Wilshire Boulevard, during the last Ice Age, asphalt bubbled from the ground, trapping sabre-toothed tigers, mammoths and giant sloths. Excavations continue to unearth new plants and animals and visitors can come to watch, or explore one of the world’s largest collections of fossils, on display in the museum.

Best for ages: 6+ | £12

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The Broad in downtown LA with a colorful crosswalk by Artist Carlos Cruz-Diez on Grand Avenue. The Broad is a contemporary art museum named after Eli Broad.

The Broad

Los Angeles, California, United States of America (USA)[8.5 miles]

The most popular of Downtown LA’s contemporary art museums, the Broad houses the collection of Edythe Broad as well as notable pieces by the likes of Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha and Basquiat. It’s always packed, so book in advance.

Best for ages: 18+ | £15

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Grand Central Market Downtown

Grand Central Market Downtown

Los Angeles, California, United States of America (USA)[8.9 miles]

This ever-popular food hall feels like a little slice of NYC in Downtown LA, with its neon signs and seemingly never-ending queues. Go hungry and try everything from wood-fired pizzas and fried chicken to spicy Filipino rice bowls.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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