A Day at Griffith Park

The 4,100-acre Griffith Park (the largest municipal park and urban wilderness area in the United States) stands out as an oasis in a city covered in cement and asphalt.

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."

Getting Here

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 6 am to 10 pm.

Top Experiences

Visit the Griffith Observatory. Griffith Observatory offers breathtaking panoramic views, and the structure itself, whose interior was recently renovated, is a pristinely maintained art deco spectacle. Visit during a scheduled talk or show at the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater, look through the Zeiss Telescope on a clear night, or check out the Samuel Oschin Planetarium and its incredible dome.

The expansive grounds are open to the public and include a monument dedicated to James Dean; several scenes from Rebel Without a Cause were filmed here (if you've never seen the film, it's a definite must-watch before visiting). 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 are plenty of scenic routes throughout the park, but one of the best trails is to the top of Mount Hollywood. Park for free at the Griffith Observatory lot and pick up the trail from there. It's an easy half-hour hike to the top. On 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 where you can stop for a break or snack. You'll likely cross paths with horseback riders on the way.

An up-close view of the Hollywood sign from below means hiking a little more than 6 miles round-trip from the parking lot.

Check Out the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens. In the northeast corner of the park, the zoo's highlights include a 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.

Enjoy a Bike Tour. There's a flat, family-friendly 4.7-mile 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 ranger station parking lot 323/653–4099 www.spokes-n-stuff.com).

See a Concert at the Greek Theatre. The 6,100-seat Greek Theatre (323/665–1927www.greektheatrela.com) is an outdoor venue where top artists such as Elton John and Paul Simon have performed.

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