The largest municipal park in Los Angeles, Griffith Park protects 4,210 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 such an enormous urban area. 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. Unpaved roads also provide access for mountain bikers and trail rides; guided rides out of Sunset Ranch include great views of the Hollywood sign.
There’s plenty here to make for a great day out with kids: Since 1948, the park has offered pony rides to budding cowboys (and cowgirls), and the Travel Town museum serves as a “railroad petting zoo” where children can imagine themselves as engineers. Visitors of all ages can clamber over vintage locomotives, freight cars, and cabooses.
The 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 Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens. And high on a slope overlooking Los Angeles, the landmark art deco-era Griffith Observatory presents mind-expanding planetarium shows throughout the year, plus films and special events in the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theater, and hosted telescope parties (check the calendar for details).
One of the more unexpected attractions within the park is Bronson Caves, a series of man-made gouges and a tunnel, has been used as a location in countless TV shows and movies (ever wanted to visit the Bat Cave?) and is accessible to the public. A nice perk: Admission to the observatory is free.