Griffith Park spans more than 4,300 scenic acres, making it the largest municipal park in the country. Experiences at attractions range from ogling elephants at the Los Angeles Zoo to hearing big-name musicians perform at the open-air Greek Theatre, and here are five compelling ways to spend a day in the park.
Hike along pristine, scenic trails
Escape the city on your own or with a knowledgeable guide on 53 miles of hiking trails that lace Griffith Park’s remarkably unspoiled terrain. Follow well-marked paths through the lush, fern-filled glen at Fern Dell, amble through an urban wilderness to Bronson Caves (the Bat Cave in the 1960s Batman TV series), or trek to the Griffith Observatory. Afterward, grab an avocado sandwich and Stumptown Coffee at the Trails Café.
Discover the wonders within the Griffith Observatory
A Los Angeles landmark since 1935, this formidable Art Deco–style building houses a triple-beam solar telescope and a twin refracting Zeiss telescope, both for public use. (Perhaps you remember the facility’s star turn in the film La La Land.) Its outdoor deck provides an awesome view of the L.A. basin and its mountains-to-sea environs. Visit the astronomy exhibits in the Hall of Science or be awed by the stars at Samuel Oschin Planetarium, which boasts one of the largest planetarium domes in the world.
Transport yourself back to the Wild, Wild West
Learn the truth about the shootout at the OK Corral at The Autry Museum of the American West, a beloved museum Gene “The Singing Cowboy” Autry helped launch in 1988. Eight galleries explore the mythic history of the American West through collections of buckskin jackets, branding irons, saddle blankets, barbed wire, Native American baskets, and Frederic Remington sculptures. The museum store is a winner for gift-givers.
Hop on a horse and hit the trails
Let Trigger or Flicka do the walking for you at Sunset Ranch Hollywood. Daily horseback rides include a one-hour excursion that delivers a close-up look at the world-famous Hollywood Sign plus grand views of the chaparral-covered hillsides sloping down to the metropolis below. Longer rides include a trek to the top of Mount Hollywood for a 360-degree Los Angeles vista.
Take a spin on the Griffith Park merry-go-round
This carousel inspired Walt Disney, whose daughters loved to climb atop the gilded horses. While they galloped on this 1926 Spillman merry-go-round, Disney imagined a much grander amusement park, which later became… well, you know. The carousel’s 68 prancing steeds are jumpers, and a custom-built organ plays more than 1,500 marches and waltzes.
As the largest municipal park in Los Angeles, Griffith Park protects 4,511 acres of mountains and canyons at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains. It’s a remarkable stretch of rough, hilly wilderness in the heart of an enormous urban area—and it’s also home to a wealth of culture.
Want to hike? Choose from more than 50 miles of trails lacing the chaparral-studded slopes, including one to the top of 1,625-foot Mount Hollywood, the park’s highest point. Another trail takes you to the site of the Old Zoo, where you can explore animal enclosures that have been abandoned and untouched for over 50 years. Unpaved roads also provide access for mountain bikers and trail rides; guided rides out of Sunset Ranch include great views of the Hollywood sign.
Griffith Park has a more refined side, too. Learn about American western art at the Autry Museum of the American West. Leading musicians love to play at the open-air Greek Theatre. Kids can get close-up looks at koalas and Komodo dragons at the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens. And high on a slope overlooking Los Angeles, the landmark Art Deco-era Griffith Observatory gives you a window to the cosmos.
The sprawling public park is now well known for its cameo in 2016’s smash hit La La Land—actors Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone begin their epic dance scene twirling on one of Griffith Park’s hilltops as city lights twinkle below (more on this later). But the public park has been around for generations. It was an eccentric mining tycoon, Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, who in 1896 donated over 3,000 acres of his Rancho Los Felis to the City of Los Angeles. It was a Christmas gift to be used as “a place of rest and relaxation for the masses.” Since Griffith’s original contribution, bits and pieces have been added to the park, which now attracts more than 10 million visitors a year.
No time for an African safari or Amazon adventure? Then take a walk on the wild side at this remarkable—and remarkably varied--attraction in L.A.’s Griffith Park. Explore tropical habitats at Rainforest of the Americas, and observe chimps in a natural setting of waterfalls, palm trees, and rock formations in Chimpanzees of Mahale Mountains. (World-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall praised the chimps’ digs as one of the world’s outstanding zoo habitats.)
The L.A. Zoo is home to more than 1,100 animals, including 29 endangered species. Get close-up (but safe) looks at spectacular Sumatran tigers, deadly Komodo dragons, and bright orange orangutans. The zoo is also a horticultural paradise with more than 7,500 individual plants. And, as you’ll discover in the kid-friendly California Condor Rescue Zone, it has played a key role in bringing the iconic California condor back from the brink of extinction.
Insider’s tip: Go nose-to-nose with a rhino at the zoo’s Indian Rhino Encounter.