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Griffith Observatory: Take a picnic, take a pal. Just remember, we are all…

by Ace Damon
Griffith Observatory: Take a picnic, take a pal. Just remember, we are all...

Some monuments are movie stars. The same is true of the Griffith Observatory. Great cheekbones. Unusual presence. Something in the eyes.

In fact, if L.A. has a tickling spot, it would be here on the hill, east of the sun and west of the moon. A playful descendant of scandal and great wealth and increasingly imposing over time, Griffith Observatory it is a mandatory activity for out-of-town guests. More than the ocean. More than Hollywood Boulevard or even the expensive theme park in Anaheim that you love or hate.

A visitor can choose to get significantly smarter here or just leave the area. The planetarium, minutes before the projection show, while you lean back in this big chair, is one of the most meditative places in a big American city

Then, the show begins, narrated in a fluid way by a live human being from a script with more zing and drama than what is being shown in the local multiplex.

Sit back and watch Orion in the winter or how Polaris never moves, making it so significant – the star that guided hungry Bedouins through deserts and scandalous sailors across the seas.

Look at the roof of the planetarium and trace the paths of the kings and warriors that march in the sky. You can strive to absorb it, as if you are losing track of college astronomy. Or you can marvel at its majesty as you would with a world-class orchestra.

Griffith Observatory at dusk.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The video also puts you in your proper place in the universe, miles from the disenchanted driver closest to Uber or a long-distance bus. For 30 minutes, you stay away from your little problems. Here you are, among billions of stars, snowy galaxies, the sequined ball gown that is the expanding universe.

There are worse ways to kill a winter night.

"We are all stardust", concludes the narrator of the planetarium, which I understand as being all the stars. Who knew? We didn't even need to do a test.

The show costs $ 7, by the way. Everything else – the telescope view, the exhibits, the best breezes outside the South Bay – is free.

In fact, if Camelot had an observatory, it would be like this: a mixed mutt from Art Deco, Greek Revivalism, Beaux Arts, Moderne. In 2002, it was again lacerated and assembled again, so as not to leak anymore and the marble skin shone again.

To preserve the beautiful shell, they dug in the depths of the yard to create galleries in the basement and an additional 200-seat theater (in addition to the planetarium).

Don't miss it. Many people do. They are swept through the main entrance – where the Tesla Coil lightning calls sighs and elegant Foucault's pendulum demonstrates how the Earth rotates, confusing dozens of viewers at the same time.

As a reference, there is the main mushroom of the building, then the two smaller protuberances where the telescopes live.

The solar telescopes on the right show several images in the building, including a large lookout image in the main hall.

The other bump, on the left, is the 12-inch Zeiss, open at night. No telescope in the world has had more people looking through their lenses. Viewing starts around 7:00 pm, although it varies when the days get longer. If it is cloudy, you can go in and take pictures or head to the lawn, where astronomers wait with a smaller set of bazookas.

Views are also free. The adjacent trails? Free and among the best in the city. The Hollywood sign? You can almost kiss.

Visitors pass through a display of the solar system at the lowest level of the Griffith Observatory

Visitors pass through a display of the solar system at the lowest level of the Griffith Observatory.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Honestly, if you ran the Griffith Observatory, what would you change? You can add a gondola to access. Parking could be easier, but you could say that about just about anywhere.

Professional tip # 1: Park near the Greek Theater and take the 50-cent Dash space shuttle to the observatory, avoiding traffic jams and $ 10 an hour parking at the top.

You know, they originally wanted to stay at the top of Mt. Hollywood? The architects said, yes, that would be cool, but how would anyone get there?

So they put him on that spacious pancake on the southern slope, which makes the most of his 160-kilometer line of sight. Some days you can see Pittsburgh, or so it seems. At least, Big Bear.

At the solstice, a brush of sunlight streaked the floor of the West Terrace. Public lectures mark the occasion, as well as other astronomical landmarks, such as an equinox or an eclipse.

Professional tip # 2: A summer solstice picnic at the observatory may be the coolest first date in Los Angeles.

That this place exists is a miracle. The rich mess that made it all happen, Griffith J. Griffith, had already donated 3,000 acres to the park. After a visit to Monte. Wilson, the baron said, "If all mankind could look through this telescope, it would change the world." So, he proposed a public telescope for his park.

At the time, Griffith had just been released from prison for shooting his wife, and the city refused to negotiate more with a bossy criminal and alcoholic. But, as we know, you can sometimes finance your redemption. That's what Griffith was able to do. In his will, he got what he wanted, leaving the money for the observatory and the Greek.

The observatory opened in 1935 in the midst of the Great Depression. Since then, it has never been a research center. It is used only for the enjoyment of the public. The city manages – yes, the same city that manages LAX; you can't help but appreciate the differences.

Visitors enjoy the sunset from the roof of Griffith Observatory

Visitors enjoy the sunset from the roof of the Griffith Observatory.

(Luis Sinco)

"Our work is inspiration and a change in perspective," says Deputy Director Mark Pine.

Better times? Sunset, of course, just like anywhere else. Just better, in the midst of quail and chaparral. You can smell the sage in the canyons. You can watch the bright half-smile of Santa Monica Bay.

And the city lights, the glowing embers of another long day in SoCal, not so different from the charged sky.

Professional tip # 3: The weekends up here can be brutal, like a game of Rams, elbow to elbow, lines that endure.

Days of the week? Entirely different, and you can go to the box office and grab two tickets to the next show, sit back and reflect on how in this city monster you can find these little silent curtains.

In this spa of the stars, on a hill that looks down – and up – on almost everything.

Essentials

Schedule: The observatory is open from noon to 10 pm. From Tuesday to Friday, from 10am to 10pm on weekends, it is closed on Mondays. The building, lots and nearby trails will be closed on March 1st for a special event.

Waits can take an hour on the night telescope. It is not in operation on cloudy nights, but you can still enter the camera, examine it and take a selfie.

Shows: There are up to 10 planetary shows one day. The best is “Centered in the Universe”, but the observatory is adding “Signs of Life” in June, its first new show in 10 years. Tickets for the planetarium are only available in person on the day of the show. If the line is long, try self-service kiosks. Children under 5 years old are allowed only on the first show of the day. Prices: $ 3- $ 7.

Parking: Notoriously complicated on weekends, it loosens during the week and spaces are usually available near the top, for $ 10 an hour. The Greek Theater shuttle service costs 50 cents.

Information: Griffith Observatory, griffithobservatory.org

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