Tips on Visiting Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory is a very iconic and historic landmark for Los Angeles. If there is a post card that shows popular city sights, then chances are you will see a picture of the Observatory along with the Hollywood Sign.

As such, the place is very popular for locals and tourists alike, and even on the most tame of days, you will always encounter large crowds of people. This post will help you plan ahead on when would be a good day to visit – coming straight from an employee who happens to be the author of the article!

It’s Always Crowded, But Here Is When It’s LESS Crowded

There’s three things that are absolute: Death, Taxes, and It’s ALWAYS crowded at Griffith Observatory. But if crowds are not your thing, then weekdays between October through March are typically your least crowded and more tame days.

It’s normally the most crowded on weekends, during spring break, summer vacation, or on holidays… you know, when most people and their children have the day off. During the more crowded hours, traffic control may not let vehicles all the way up top except for buses, rideshares/taxis, handicap, and staff members.

If those types of days are your only options, then you have been warned!

NEVER Plan Your Visit on a Monday, Thanksgiving, or Christmas Day!

If you plan on visiting the place, the building is open from Tuesday to Sunday – but NOT Monday! Every Monday, the building is closed for maintenance and clean up purposes.

On that same token, the Observatory is also closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day!

The Building Is Still Free, But Parking Isn’t.

It was in Griffith J. Griffith’s will that admission remain free to the public, which is one reason why the place is very popular.

Parking near the top is very limited, and gets congested during busier times.

Fairly recently, the city installed paid parking meters in the parking lot up top and along W Observatory Road. I’ve seen the rates as low as $4/hour during the “off season” and as high as $12/hour during peak tourist season. If you’ve attended a sports game and paid for parking, then you’re already familiar with this concept.  

Don’t Want to Pay For Parking? Use These Low Cost Alternatives
  • The DASH (Downtown Area Short Hop) Bus Service has a special “Observatory Route”  that begins and ends at Vermont and Sunset (right next to the Red Line Metro Station of the same name), and usually drops people off at the Observatory every 20 minutes. The round trip costs no more than $1 per person.
    • I DO NOT recommend parking at the Barnsdall Square Shopping Plaza, which walking distance from Vermont and Sunset. Reportedly, there are people watching for those who park and leave the lot for places across the street, and I have heard that shady business owners will tow your car if you park there too long, even if you’re actually spending money at their businesses! Stay Away!
  • When The Greek Theater nearby is not in use, their parking lot is free, and the DASH picks up passengers by the Greek. If there is an event happening at the Greek, however, then you won’t be able to use this option, so check their event schedule!
  • There is free parking near the bottom by Ferndel Dr/ Western Canyon Road – but the lot closes after sunset. Park here if you don’t mind the hike.
  • Uber, Lyft, Taxi’s, and other Rideshare services will be able take you to the top. They are busy at this location, so finding a ride for your return trip shouldn’t be a problem.
DON’T Try to Visit During the December Holidays

 You need to realize that almost everyone is on vacation from mid December through New Years, and has the same idea you have! The place gets PACKED!

Imagine taking almost an hour to go up from Los Feliz Blvd up to the entrance of Griffith Park, only for tourists to be directed away because every parking lot, including the Greek, is full. The congestion makes it difficult for the DASH and even staff members to get up. Seriously… plan your visit on any time except the December holidays.

July 4 is NOT Recommended Either!

On this holiday around nightfall, many locals climb up the hill in droves to get a view of  many random Angelenos launching their own fireworks all over the city.

While the sight of it is impressive, it’s not good for crowding issues or observing. They install flood lights to assist people walking up and down the hill, and the roof can get closed off, making it difficult for those who actually want to visit the Zeiss Telescope.

DO NOT Bring Your Drones!

Per city ordinance, the observatory, and all of L.A. city parks are “No-Drone Zones.” If a park ranger catches you, you will be cited or possibly arrested! As soon as one is spotted, rangers are contacted over the radio, and an effort will be made to search for the drone operator.

Remember, There’s THREE Floors (And a Roof)!

Many tourists visit the building and go inside the main historic floor, yet don’t bother to  check out the other two floors below – making the bottom two levels seem empty in comparison. That means they miss out on a second theater with free shows every hour, and many other interactive exhibits, plus the cafe and gift shop.

The roof is also open to the public as long as the stairs are deemed dry enough for safety reasons. While the historic Zeiss refracting telescope dome to the east is open, the coelostat solar telescope dome to the west is not.

The Weather Is Like A Roulette Wheel

It is disappointing when the sky is overcast (thus no telescope viewing), and tourists often ask, “well when is it usually clear?” Seriously, asking me that is like asking where the ball is going to land on the Roulette Wheel.

Yes, Los Angeles has a “dry season” from late June to October, but we have odd weather patterns. “May Gray/June Gloom” occurs in the spring to early summer, and frequently brings foggy skies over L.A. while the “Santa Ana Winds” bring high pressure systems and dry weather during our “wet season.”

Just check your daily weather forecasts!

Love this shot, the telescope, the sign, and the city in the background.
Yes, You Can Look Through Telescopes (Even The Big One)!

All telescopes are free to view and operated by knowledgeable employees. As long as the sky stays clear. Between the hours of 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm, you can get in line for either the historic Zeiss Telescope, or for the portable telescopes set up on the lawn. The line for the Zeiss dome is always going to be longer, but the portable 11″ Schmidt Cassegrains on the lawn are actually capable of the same views as the 12″ Zeiss.

Once 9:30 pm hits, the doors to the dome close, and you will not be allowed in. Telescope lines on the lawn also close around this time. “Oh, but we came all the way from {that far away place}…” Sorry, we’ve heard it all. All telescopes must be put away by a certain time. The Observatory and Griffith Park has strict rules about closing procedures, as….

Closing Time Means CLOSING TIME!

This is not a place that allows people to stay inside and explore after closing time. PA systems will frequently announce that closing time is approaching, and once 10 pm hits, staff WILL force you to leave. Rangers will be making sure people outside are making their way to their cars or to the bus stop. Please… don’t try to visit or stay after hours!

I hope this helps you figure out a day for you to come visit!

If you want to know what are the most frequent questions I get asked while on the job, check out, “Frequently Asked Questions at Griffith Observatory.” 


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