23rd Birthday Trip to Griffith Observatory

23rd Birthday Trip to Griffith Observatory

Where art, science, natural and man-made beauty collide.


For some odd reason I never had the chance to check out Griffith Observatory before, despite having lived in Southern California all my life. That was until my 23rd birthday came up on November 23rd and I finally got to see this beautiful place for myself.

Right away I can see why this place is so popular with so many tourists and locals. The building is a stately Art Deco masterpiece constructed from 1933-1935 using money left in the will of the park's founder, Griffith J. Griffith, who died in 1919. He specifically wanted an observatory that would be freely accessible to the public and inspire our curiosity and sense of wonder with our place in the universe. I imagine the final draft of this amazing landmark would have exceeded Griffith's wildest expectations had he lived to see it.

The surrounding natural landscape is one of the main reasons people come up here in the first place, as it's perched above Los Angeles on the nearby Santa Monica Mountain range, offering spectacular views of the basin from the city to the ocean. The Hollywood sign is of course right across from the observatory and it's a great place to take a shot of it whenever there's light out (the sign is not lit at night because of the neighborhood below it). It gets a bit chilly at the observatory with the gusts of wind blowing so it's best to bring a jacket whenever you come up here, but I personally found it quite refreshing.

One of the least-talked about aspects of the observatory is the sheer beauty of its artwork! Back in the 1930s when this place was being built, the prevailing art movement of the era was Art Deco and no expense was spared in employing the best craftsmen to make a truly mesmerizing feast for the eyes. The fresco in the above picture for example features references to Greco-Roman mythology, showing how early man first saw the night sky way back when. The philosophy of Art Deco was to combine a variety of new and old, familiar and exotic styles into an all-encompassing art form that was forward-thinking and signified man's progress into the machine age. The art featured at the observatory is just as dazzling as it was when it was first created and remains timeless to this day.

Of course you can't talk about Griffith Observatory without going over some of the exciting exhibits here. They're fun and educational for both kids and people who want to brush up on their understanding of science like myself. One of the coolest attractions here is their Tesla coil, which is about 106 years old and runs every hour or so for a quick demonstration and great photo ops. I also enjoy their periodic table of elements, which features actual samples of the elements themselves according to their corresponding numbers, the Foucault pendulum in the lobby demonstrating the rotation of the Earth, and much more than I have time to write about in this article.

For me, Griffith Observatory is Heaven on Earth for the curious mind. I can't get enough of the natural and man-made beauty of this place and I will absolutely be back again one day.

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