There aren’t many cities where you can listen to live music under a star-studded sky with majestic canyons as your backdrop. Enter the Greek Theatre, an outdoor amphitheater carved into a hillside of Griffith Park that’s become so iconic for its magical setting and great natural acoustics, it inspired the 2010 film, Get Him to the Greek, starring Russell Brand. (In the movie, a music executive must escort a wayward rock star to—you guessed it—the Greek Theatre, for his first stop on a career-defining concert tour.)
The Greek Theatre has a rich history of its own. Upon his death in 1919, Colonel Griffith J. Griffith left a $1 million trust to the City of Los Angeles with instructions to construct an observatory and an outdoor theater with Greek columns. Though the cornerstone was finally laid in 1928, the venue didn’t host its first act, an operatic concert, until 1931. Over the next few decades, sporadic use caused the Greek Theatre to fall in disrepair. During World War II, it was even converted into military barracks. But renewed interest in the 1970s sparked its resurgence. Since then, the Greek Theatre has hosted a slew of musical legends, including Frank Sinatra and Sir Elton John.
The amphitheater’s event lineup always promises big names—like Harry Styles, Tom Jones, and Pete Townshend—and with an intimate 5,900-person capacity, there isn’t a bad seat in the house. The season only runs from spring to mid-fall, but the theater, modeled after a Greek temple, is still worth a look-see in the off-season.
Insider tip: Consider preordering one of the picnic baskets for two, filled with Mediterranean-style noshes like hummus, charcuterie, baguettes, or Greek salad.
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.