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A Day at Griffith Park
With so much of Los Angeles paved in cement and asphalt, 4,100-acre Griffith Park stands out as a special place. It's the largest municipal park and urban wilderness area in the United States.
On warm weekends, there are parties, barbecues, mariachi bands, and strolling vendors selling fresh fruit. Joggers, cyclists, and walkers course its roadways. There are also top attractions within the park, including the Griffith Observatory and the Los Angeles Zoo.
The park was named after Col. Griffith J. Griffith, a mining tycoon who donated 3,000 acres of land to the city for the park in 1896. It has been used as a film and television location since the early days of motion pictures. One early Hollywood producer advised, "A tree is a tree, a rock is a rock, shoot it in Griffith Park."
The park has several entrances: off Los Feliz Boulevard at Western Canyon Avenue, Vermont Avenue, Crystal Springs Drive, and Riverside Drive; from the Ventura/134 Freeway at Victory Boulevard, Zoo Drive, or Forest Lawn Drive; from the Golden State Freeway (I-5) at Los Feliz Boulevard and Zoo Drive. The park is open from 5 am to 10 pm.
VISIT THE GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY
The view from the front of the Observatory is absolutely breathtaking, and since its recent massive makeover what's inside is equally impressive. Visit during a scheduled talk or show at the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theatre, look through the Zeiss Telescope on a clear night, or check out the Samuel Oschin Planetarium and its incredible dome.
It's also fun—and free—to tour the expansive grounds, which include a monument dedicated to James Dean; several scenes from Rebel Without a Cause were filled here. And to see the lights of the city twinkle at night from above, stay late and head up to the Observatory Deck, open until 10 pm every evening except Monday.
CLIMB MOUNT HOLLYWOOD
There's plenty of fabulous hiking to do in this park, but the best is to the top of Mount Hollywood. Park for free at the Griffith Observatory lot and pick up the trail, which begins there. It's an easy half-hour hike to the top. On super clear days you'll be able to see all the way to the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island. About two-thirds of the way up is Dante's View, an area with benches to stop for a break or snack.
An up-close view of the Hollywood sign from just below means hiking a little more than 6 miles round-trip from the parking lot.
CHECK OUT THE LOS ANGELES ZOO AND BOTANICAL GARDENS
Located in the northeast corner of the park, the zoo's highlights include a new gorilla reserve, a Sumatran tiger, a snow leopard, and an acre dedicated to one of the largest troops of chimpanzees in the United States. In addition, the zoo claims to have more flamingoes than any other zoo worldwide.
Other Fun Things to Do
CATCH A CONCERT AT THE GREEK THEATRE
This 6,100-seat outdoor venue (323/665-1927 www.greektheatrela.com), is where top artists such as Elton John and Paul Simon have performed.
LEARN ABOUT THE WEST
The silver-screen cowboy Gene Autry created the Museum of the American West (4700 Western Heritage Way, at Zoo Dr. 323/667-2000 www.autry-museum.org), which features paintings, sculpture, textiles, and more that help tell the story of how the West was settled. Open Tuesday-Friday 10-4 and weekends 11-5 (open until 8 on Thursday in July and August). Admission is $9; get in free the second Tuesday of the month.
Best Active Adventures
ENJOY A BIKE TOUR
There's a flat, family-friendly 4.7-mi path that runs along Crystal Springs Drive and Zoo Drive. Rentals are available inside the park at Spokes n' Stuff Bike Shop (4730 Crystal Springs Dr., at the Ranger Station Parking Lot 323/653-4099 www.spokes-n-stuff.com).
HIKE THE TRAILS
Explore the rugged hills and remote areas hiking along the park's 53-mile network of trails. Maps and other information are available at the park's Ranger Station (323/913-4688).
GO HORSEBACK RIDING
Although riders must stay on specially marked trails, much of the park can be seen on horseback. Private stables are located in the park's northwest and southwest boundaries.
Best For Kids
TAKE A PONY RIDE
Hop on top of a pony or horse—or try a covered wagon ride—along the oval track located near the Los Feliz park entrance (323/662-5874).
SAY ALL ABOARD
If your kids love trains, they'll be riding high at Griffith Park with a ton of options, such as seeing old locomotives and taking miniature train rides. Travel Town (5200 Zoo Dr. 323/662-5874) is a free, outdoor museum that has a fantastic collection of old locomotives, cabooses, freight cars, and more as well as a miniature train ride around the museum. The Griffith Park Southern Railroad (4400 Crystal Springs Dr. 323/664-6903) has run miniature train rides since 1948. For riding a real steam locomotive, there's the Los Angeles Steamers Live Railroad Museum (5202 Zoo Dr. 323/662-8030), although it's only open Sunday from 11 to 3.
RIDE THE MERRY-GO-ROUND
L.A.'s oldest merry-go-round (323/665-3051). dating back to 1926, continues to spin here, playing a fabulous Stinson calliope. It's open weekends 11-5 as well as major holidays. Adults and kids can ride for $2 each.
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