I have lived in Los Angeles for almost 30 years and am embarrassed to say I've only been to the Griffith Observatory twice! Once you experience this local treasure you are quickly reminded why you should visit it more often.
Surprisingly, this is one of the most affordable things you can do with your whole family in Los Angeles. There is free parking, and free admission to the museum. The only cost is the optional (and recently revamped) planetarium star show in the large auditorium which is an absolute must see! It was very reasonably priced too, less than $10 a person (and they offer student discounts - so kids, bring your school ID with you!)
The drive up the mountain is filled with views of beautiful trees and hiking trails, (not to mention a few Hollywood mansions). You pass the Greek Theater too! Many people chose to park along the narrow winding road that goes up to the Observatory. I wasn't prepared for a hike that day, so we drove all the way to the parking lot at the top, and waited about 10 minutes for someone to leave. Not bad at all.
The first thing that hits you when you get out of the car and look around, (besides strong winds), is the absolutely breathtaking (nearly) 360 degree view. You can see all the way from the Hollywood sign, to the sun reflecting off the pacific ocean to the west - you could even see a faint outline of Catalina! Looking toward the south-east we got a great view of the tall buildings in downtown L.A., as well!
I could NOT get enough of the view, and I hadn't even stepped inside the Observatory itself yet! Once inside, there are many interactive and educational displays to play with. Lots of information about the solar system, and technological advances. They had "Tesla's coil" on display which lit up every so often!
Besides the view, my favorite part was the star show in the center dome-auditorium. It was wonderful; artful, relaxing, and beautifully presented. I walked away learning several things that I either didn't know, or have long forgotten about.
We walked all around the Observatory to take it everything in - and to get a few (dozen) pictures. ;-) Next time, I'd really like to visit at sunset or early evening to see all the city lights from there!
One item on display out in front of the Observatory was puzzling to me, and maybe someone reading this can tell me more about the significance of it... It was a bronze bust of the late actor James Dean. I'd really be interested in knowing the history of why it's there. :-)
Then there was this little guy. He perched himself right in front of me as we were getting ready to leave. I adore hummingbirds so this was the perfect end to a great day!