C has every other Friday off (hooray for 9-80 work schedules!), so last Friday – yes the day the big blob of space junk was set to crash down to Earth, oh, the irony – we decided to pick up and drive up to Griffith Observatory. Located in spacious Griffith Park in Los Angeles, C and I visited their annex location back in the early 2000s a few times when the main buildings and telescopes up on the hill were closed for a major renovation. But that was pre-T, and the original building has been reopened for years now; needless to say it was about time we got up there as a family. Turns out T’s at a great age right age now to enjoy the different features of the exhibit halls, minus the planetarium movie (that one’s five-and-up and for good reason: it costs extra and it’s at least an hour long, meaning, attention span required).
While C has been there dozens of times (if not more as it’s a popular field trip spot for LA schools), I cannot believe that after almost 10 years in the Los Angeles area and for as many times as we’d been to Griffith Park that I’d never been up there before. The location is pure beauty; located in the Hollywood Hills with a panoramic view of the city far and wide and direct photo opp of the iconic “Hollywood” sign, one could just spend the day outside on the front lawn or the observatory rooftops taking in the views.
Your museum experience begins before you even step inside the gorgeous building. Plaques along the entrance paths leading to the front door highlight the different orbits of all eight planets – in addition to recently demoted Pluto.
Then once inside, we were greeted by the Foucault Pendulum . Every several minutes the pendulum knocks over pegs that visually mark the movement of the Earth’s rotation. Visitors stand here captivated by this so much that they might stand there to wait for a peg to knock over before moving on and into the observatory’s other exhibits (C even admits that growing up he’d not leave the pendulum rotunda before seeing a peg fall down).
We then moved into the Observatory’s halls and wings, which consisted of several hands-on exhibits that T just loved; he had buttons to push, telescopes to look through, planets to spin, and meteorites to touch. There was also an entire floor dedicated to the planets of our solar system where you could learn facts about each planet and even step on a scale and see how much you would weigh in each place (Earth’s Moon was included in this wing as well). The exhibits were really well-outfitted with step-stools for the littler kids, too.
One very cool diorama that we walked through was a Big-Bang Theory scale model of the time elapsed since the beginning of the Universe. Gaudy jewelry represented the matter particles that have blown apart and come together (and vice-versa) throughout the last several billion years to form our universe. Then marked at varying intervals in time were milestones such as the beginning of single-celled organisms and the origin of Human Beings here on Earth (mere blips in universal time and represented as such on the graph).
We also spent some time upstairs on the rooftop overlooking Los Angeles. As the observatory is open until 10pm nightly Wednesday through Sunday, this is a very popular spot for visitors not just for taking in terrestrial views in the daytime, but it stays popular well into the evening. That’s when the real stars come out in Hollywood, two large telescopes turn on, and visitors take a moment to stop, look up, and gawk. Really brings a whole new meaning to star-gazing in LA, doesn’t it?
While this was my first trip to Griffith Observatory, it definitely won’t be my last; T is already asking when we can return, too, so I’m pretty sure he had a good time. It is an amazing place and we all had a fantastic afternoon. What’s not to like: free admission (yes!), rockets, astronauts, space, science, and “please touch” exhibits. We definitely think Griffith Observatory is out of this world, and I bet it will rock your world, too.
Admission to Griffith Observatory and parking on-site or nearby street parking is free; cost of planetarium show for ages five and up varies. For more information on hours of operation, special events, and other details, please go to http://www.griffithobservatory.org/visiting.html .