The Griffith Observatory – What Will You See and When’s The Best Time To Visit?

I hop on the scale, and I’m thrilled to see that it reads ’55 pounds.’ Sweet, the diet has paid off!

I’m surprised at the low figure, but I have no doubt it’s accurate. Of course, we’re not talking about my weight on Earth – we’re talking about my weight on Mercury.

That’s according to a scale inside the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, which has adjusted-weight scales for all nine planets and the moon. I’m 133 on Venus and 347 on Jupiter, but just ten pounds on Pluto.

planetarium Griffith Observatory
Inside the planetarium at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.

Located on a hill overlooking the city, the Observatory also has giant telescopes, interactive space debris exhibits where you can explode virtual meteors into the Earth’s surface to view the potential damage, and much more.

It’s a great place for anyone who’s interested in science and the solar system. Or anyone who just wants a killer view of L.A.

Read on for info and tips, including the best time to visit Griffith Observatory.

Telescope Griffith Observatory

Griffith J. Griffith – what a strange man

The land that the Observatory sits on was donated in 1896 by wealthy industrialist Griffith J. Griffith. (Tell me that isn’t the most awesome name you’ve ever heard.)

The 3000+ acres he donated became Griffith Park, where the Observatory resides to this day.

This seemingly-wonderful philanthropist apparently had a temper, because in 1903 he shot his wife in the face, for which he served all of two years in prison. And the city even kept his name on the park!

best time to visit Griffith Observatory telescope view

Great views of Los Angeles from the Griffith Observatory

As its names implies, the Observatory sits high on a hill, allowing visitors to look out from the observation terraces to see the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica to the west, downtown LA to the southeast, and most of the rest of the city to the south.

One of the first things I noticed while walking over to glance at the Hollywood sign was a bust of James Dean that seemed completely out of place. Not being a ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ fan, I had no idea that parts of the movie were filmed here.

Shouldn’t there be a plaque or something explaining this? Most of us were born after 1960 – it shouldn’t be assumed that we know these things!

Once you know the back story, seeing old James on display here is pretty freaking cool.

James Dean bust Griffith Observatory

Exhibits inside the Observatory

Inside the Observatory, you’ll find displays with model telescopes, close-up photographs of the sun and the Milky Way, a Foucault Pendulum and much more.

You can see actual meteorites from outer space and even touch one of them. It’s really freaky to hold something that didn’t come from our planet.

I’m not missing any fingers – it just looks that way because of how I’m holding it.

Griffith Observatory meteorite

Tips – Best Time to Visit Griffith Observatory

What’s the absolute best time to visit Griffith Observatory for tourists?

You can visit Griffith any time, but you’ll want to go when the interior is open, so you’re able to go inside and look at the scientific displays and space exhibits.

That means don’t visit on a Monday, when the building is closed. And for smaller crowds, avoid weekends. Therefore, weekday morning and afternoons (Tuesday through Friday) are ideal times to visit.

But what about sunset? Sunset hours are quite crowded, because people want those glorious sunset pics. I believe it’s worth dealing with the crowds to witness a sunset here, but that’s up to you. If you don’t need a sunset photo, come early in the morning instead.

Current weekday hours are noon to 10 pm, and weekend hours are 10 am to 10 pm. The observatory is entirely free, unless you want to see a planetarium show, in which case you’ll encounter a small ticket fee.

The observatory has a number of evening programs, so you may prefer to visit at that time if something on their calendar appeals to you.

Parking can be a nightmare during popular times, like weekend afternoons, so be prepared. You may have to park far away and hike 15 minutes or more to get up to the site. There are paid parking lots near the observatory.

That’s another reason that the best time to visit Griffith Observatory is during a weekday morning or early afternoon. Avoiding crowds is a great life hack while traveling!

If you want to go inside to see the exhibits, check out the facility’s hours. Of course, they’re open late most days, so guests can see L.A. and the night skies in the dark.

The Griffith Observatory has been featured in many other pop culture places as well, such as tv shows and movies. Adele filmed an entire concert special here just a couple years ago!

And remember, while you’re in Los Angeles, check out Marilyn Monroe’s grave site, the Grammy Museum, and the Madame Tussauds wax museum.

Do you have any advice for the best time to visit Griffith Observatory or the best things to see there?