Griffith Observatory

7 Fun Things To Do At Griffith Observatory

The Griffith Observatory is one of L.A.’s most popular attractions and since its opening in 1935, it has seen more than 81 million visitors. Not only is it the most visited public observatory in the world, but it is also free to the public too.

At the observatory, visitors can not only explore exhibits on astronomy, but see incredible views of Downtown Los Angeles and even all the way out to the Pacific Ocean over in Santa Monica.

Even though it is enough to just take in the incredible architecture of the building and panoramic views of L.A. on your visit, there are a few fun things you should not miss when you go up to the Observatory.

7 Fun Things To Do At Griffith Observatory

1. See The Foucault Pendulum

Griffith Observatory

One of the best features and most fun things to watch at Griffith Observatory is the Foucault Pendulum which is located just inside of the front entrance. This scientific instrument is designed to demonstrate the earth’s rotation and is one of the largest of it’s kind in the world.

The elegant pendulum is suspended by a 40-foot long cable which is attached to a 240 pound bronze ball that swings in a constant direction while the Earth turns beneath it.

2. Watch A Screening Inside The Planetarium

Fun Things To Do At Griffith Observatory

Sit back in the comfy reclining seats and watch a screening inside the impressive Samuel Oschin Planetarium. The educational screenings that include films about the universe and our solar system are shown on a state of the art Zeiss star projector.

Travel through time and space back to the big bang, go on a journey through the solar system in search of water, or blast off to Mars. Every show is presented by a live storyteller that explains in an engaging way throughout the program. See the show schedule here.

3. Tesla Coil Demonstration

Griffith Observatory

The Tesla coil is one of the most memorable exhibits at Griffith Observatory and has been thrilling visitors with its electrical discharge and electrifying zapping noises for years.

What is a Tesla Coil? A Tesla Coil converts low-voltage alternating current electricity to very high voltage and increases the frequency. It was named after its inventor and genius Nikola Tesla who displayed his first model in 1891. The main aim of the Tesla Coil was transmission of electricity through the air to provide electricity without using wires which was a part of Tesla’s dream.

Electricity became widely available around 1900 when the first networks began to send power to homes and businesses over transmission lines. They were expensive to build so Tesla and others worked on wireless electrical networks. The technology was difficult to implement so it never got off the ground. However, the power grid that we use to bring electricity to our homes is based on Tesla’s work.

Tesla Coil presentations are conducted daily on the hour on weekends and periodically between Tuesday and Friday.

4. Free Telescope Viewing

Fun Things To Do At Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory offers free telescope viewing to the public every evening for free. They even have staff members on hand to help guide you with observing and interpret what you see in the night skies. You can find the 12 inch Zeiss refracting telescope in the rooftop dome but there is another telescope outside also.

If possible, try to aim your visit on a day with clear skies, although this should not be too hard in Southern California. Be sure to get there around dusk and remember that they do stop showing people at 9:30 pm.

5. Gunther Depths Of Space

Griffith Observatory

The Gunther Depths Of Space is an exhibit that displays the transformation of planets into landscapes, stars into solar systems, galaxies into vistas and more.

Here you can learn about what meteorite hunters do, how much you would weigh on Jupiter, and loads more on all things galaxy related.

6. Attend A Star Party

Fun Things To Do At Griffith Observatory

Once a month the Griffith Observatory hosts a star party for the public to attend. The free event is held with the help of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Planetary Society, and the Los Angeles Sidewalk Astronomers who help to explain the sun, moon, and the planets above.

Attendee’s are free to look through a variety of telescopes and ask the friendly volunteers and astronomers and questions they may have.

7. Join A Sunset Hike

Griffith Observatory

Each month Griffith Observatory offers a sunset hike led by a Park Ranger and a Museum Guide. The hike starts on the Observatory’s West Terrace and proceeds up the Charlie Turner trail to the Berlin Forest on the hill just north of the Observatory, then returns to the West Terrace.

The distance covered is about half a mile over the course of an hour at a very moderate pace with stops along the way to discuss the highlights and history of Griffith Park and objects visible in the evening sky.

The departure times vary depending on the time of year but in winter months it usually around 5 pm and in summer it is between 7 – 8 pm. You can see the schedule for 2023 here.

If you’d prefer to hike during daylight hours, there are a few other group led hikes to the Hollywood Sign on offer, although they are paid guided tours. Here are the best options for guided hiking tours to the Hollywood Sign:

If you’re visiting Los Angeles for the first time, read this guide to L.A. in 2 days. Planning on spending some time at the beach? See this article on the most beautiful beaches in Malibu.

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