• author
    • Kim Orendor

      Columnist
    • September 11, 2014 in Columnists

    Living in L.A.: Taking in the brighter stars

    Unemployed person’s log, star date 09022014.0930

    My temporary lodging is conveniently located near just about everything a person needs in L.A.

    Let me clarify that, everything a person who loves to check out museums and take a walk in the park needs.

    Since I’m still somewhat in vacation mode, I start the day with a drive up to the Griffith Observatory (four and a half stars, 1,585 reviews).

    This is one of my favorite views of Los Angeles. It’s probably one of the most photographed vantage points, so even if you haven’t been here, you’ve seen the view.

    It is also another touristy spot for taking in the Hollywood sign. (There are far better places to get pictures of the iconic sign, but that’s another story.)

    The historic observatory was birthed in the mind of Griffith J. Griffith (seriously, that’s his name) in 1912. He gave the city a boat-load of money to build it and then gave it to them to run. Basically, here L.A. have some cake, and eat it too, and don’t forget the whipped cream. And later the city received a giant cherry on top as a huge portion of his family’s original land grant, today’s Griffith Park (four and half stars, 399).

    Sadly, GJG died in 1919 before the observatory could be built. It was finally finished in 1930. (L.A. is not known for being quick with construction.)

    The observatory sits on top of the Hollywood Hills like a white crown. You can’t miss it. I guess you could mistake it for a mosque with its domes, but you can’t miss it.

    There are many things that make the Griffith Observatory cool: the view, the science/space exhibits, the statue of James Dean, and, the price: it’s free.

    That’s right, F-R-E-E, free. There is a movie that costs to see, but 99.9 percent of this amazing place is – say it with me – free.

    As I walked around the massive grounds, I tried to remember the last time I had been inside the building. On previous visits as an adult, I’d taken in the grounds many times with friends. However, not too many of my friends like to go in museums and even fewer are on unemployed vacation like me, so finding a travel buddy on a random Tuesday afternoon was out of the question.

    Thankfully, as an adopted only child I have enjoyed my company all my life.

    Once I stepped inside the building and saw the murals on the ceiling and the giant pendulum, childhood memories came flooding back. I’m 8 again and hold my breath as the giant orb swings back and forth, knocking over pegs. As a kid I really didn’t understand what a Foucault pendulum was or why I should care – still don’t really know now – but it was, and is, still a sight to behold.

    The building can get a bit crowded – remember it’s free – but I was able to weave in and out of the people to take in the exhibits I wanted to view. (An added benefit of traveling alone.)

    I wound my way down to the lower level, to the Gunther Depths of Space exhibit. I had no recollection of this, so I’m safely going to say it was put together after 1977.

    If you have even a microbe of science geek in your DNA, this display will make you all tingly. There are giant planets hanging from the ceiling, there are star charts (check out what the Big Dipper would look like from a different vantage point), there are interactive displays and more.

    One of the interactive components I came across by accident. I was reading all about Jupiter and its spot when I stepped sideways to read another factoid and felt the floor jiggle. At first I thought it was a tiny earthquake, but then realized my other foot was not moving.

    I had stepped on a scale that was perfectly placed and matched all the floor tiles. The scale read out was discreetly displayed are waist level. (Which is really great because things be heavy on Jupiter.) Mars was nice to me (thinking of moving there) and so was Pluto, but with the whole planet-not-a-planet deal, I’m not sure it counts. The closest place with the best weight reduction is the moon.

    The journalist in me is begging the lazy me to make this a balanced report. So here’s some not-so-good things about the observatory. It keeps really weird hours. It’s open six days a week from noon to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Luckily there are things to see on the grounds if you arrive before noon.

    The biggest hassle is parking. However, I benefit from a parking angel and am able to find spots usually within five to 10 minutes.

    The most biggest hassle is trying to get there when there is an actual astronomical phenomenon because it brings out astronomic amounts of people, forcing officials to shut down the upper parking lot and making people hike up from points beyond.

    But for those with time in the afternoon, it’s all yours for free.


      • Grace Carpenter

      • September 11, 2014 at 2:40 pm
      • Reply

      Ah, the destination of many field trips for L.A. kids! Such memories! Also try out the Norton Simon museum in Pasadena. It’s not always free, but when it is- it’s the on the first Friday evening of every month.


      • Maya North

      • September 13, 2014 at 1:18 am
      • Reply

      Sounds awesome! More things need to be free — education, wonder and beauty should not belong only to the privileged few. 🙂



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