로스앤젤레스 최대 규모를 자랑하는 그리피스 공원(Griffith Park)은 산타모니카 산맥(Santa Monica Mountains) 동쪽 끝에 펼쳐진 4,511에이커의 여러 산들과 계곡을 보호하는 시립 공원입니다. 거대한 도시 지역 한가운데 이렇게 방대한 면적의 거친 야생 지대가 있다는 것이 놀라울 뿐 아니라 이곳은 풍부한 문화가 있는 곳이기도 합니다.
하이킹해 보시겠어요? 길이 80km가 넘는 덤불 언덕 트레일 중에서 골라 보세요. 이 중에는 그리피스 공원의 최고 지점인 500m 높이의 마운트 할리우드(Mount Hollywood) 정상으로 이어지는 트레일도 있습니다. 올드 주(Old Zoo)로 연결되는 또 다른 트레일은 50여 년간 버려진 상태 그대인 동물 울타리를 살펴볼 수 있습니다. 공원의 비포장 도로는 산악 자전거 이용자와 승마 투어에도 개방되어 있습니다. 선셋 랜치(Sunset Ranch)에서 출발하는 승마 가이드 투어에는 할리우드 사인이 아주 잘 보이는 지점까지 올라갑니다.
그리피스 공원에는 교양 있는 요소도 있습니다. 오트리 미국 서부 박물관(Autry Museum of the American West)에서 미국 서부 미술에 대해 배워 보세요. 야외 그리크 씨어터(Greek Theatre)에서는 유명 뮤지션들의 공연도 펼쳐집니다. 아이들은 로스앤젤레스 동물원(Los Angeles Zoo)& 식물원(Botanical Gardens)에 가면 코알라와 코모도 드래곤을 가까이서 구경할 수 있습니다. 또한, 로스앤젤레스가 내려다보이는 언덕 높은 곳에 위치한 아르 데코 시대 랜드마크 그리피스 천문대(Griffith Observatory)에서 창 너머로 우주를 엿볼 수 있습니다.
넓은 지역에 펼쳐진 공원이 이제는 2016년 대 히트작 라라랜드(La La Land)에 깜짝 등장한 명소로 더 유명합니다. 배우 라이언 고슬링(Ryan Gosling)과 엠마 스톤(Emma Stone)은 반짝이는 도시의 불빛을 배경으로 그리피스 공원 언덕 위에서 빙글빙글 돌며 잊지 못할 댄스 장면을 연기합니다(여기에 관해서는 나중에 더 자세히 얘기합니다). 하지만 이 공원은 수 세대 동안 존재해 왔습니다. 1896년 자신이 소유한 란쵸 로스 펠리스(Rancho Los Felis)의 3,000 에이커에 달하는 땅을 로스앤젤레스 시에 기부한 사람은 바로 괴짜 광산 재벌 그리피스 J 그리피스 대령(Colonel Griffith J. Griffith)이었습니다. "대중들을 위한 휴식과 여유의 장소"로 사용해 달라는 크리스마스 선물이었습니다. 그리피스가 이 땅을 처음 기부한 이후 공원에 이것저것 더해지면서 지금은 한 해 천만 명 이상이 다녀가는 명소로 성장했습니다.
Griffith Park spans more than 4,300 scenic acres, making it the largest municipal park in the country. The range of available activities is sizable too, including everything from ogling elephants at the Los Angeles Zoo to hearing top-flight musicians perform at the open-air Greek Theatre. 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.
Completed in 1935, the Griffith Observatory is almost as iconic as the Hollywood sign. It appeals to anyone who “loves space, science, the stunning view of L.A., and the building’s Art Deco architecture,” says Bonnie Winings, a director for Friends Of The Observatory.
But for movie fans, the observatory in Griffith Park may be recognized most recently as the feature spot in 2016’s magical La La Land dance scene in which actors Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone waltzed through the air under a star-filled ceiling. Prior to the award-winning film, the Observatory served as the signature location for 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause. James Dean’s new-kid-in-town character tries to impress his classmates inside the planetarium, only to get caught up in a knife fight in the parking lot.
In an interesting real-life plot twist, Dean commissioned a bust of himself shortly before his death at age 24. That bust is now on prominent display near the front lawn of the Observatory. A lot of fan photos still get taken by that statue, says Winings, “since the backdrop is also the Hollywood sign.”
While some simply go to the Observatory for the view (arguably the best in L.A.), there’s much more to see. The 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). A nice perk: Admission to the Observatory is free.
If you’re eager for a snack before or after your visit—say, a slice of quiche, a crumbly scone, or just a good cup of joe—it’s worth a stop at the nearby Trails Café, a walk-up eatery nestled amongst the trees. There is parking along the road, but intrepid visitors might make the 2-mile hike from the Observatory.
No time for an African safari or Amazon adventure? Then take a walk on the wild side at the remarkable—and remarkably varied—Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens 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 the Mahale Mountains. (World-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall praised the chimps’ digs as one of the world’s outstanding zoo habitats.)
The 133-acre 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.
If visiting during the winter holiday season, stick around until after sunset to see the elaborate holiday lights show, Zoo Lights. With a cup of hot cocoa in hand, you can walk through shimmering light tunnels and a disco-ball forest, watch larger-than-life animal-shaped displays, and meet real reindeer.
Insider tip: Go nose-to-nose with a mama hippo and her baby at the zoo’s Hippo Encounter.
Gone are the glory days of the Wild West, but you can still get in on the action at the Autry Museum of the American West. Just across from the entrance to the L.A. Zoo in Griffith Park, you’ll find this 36,000-square foot complex with over 500,000 works of art and artifacts from the American frontier.
Co-founded by musical western star Gene Autry in 1988, it’s natural that the museum would dedicate space to cool Western film memorabilia, from the pistols used by Steve McQueen to costumes from 2005’s Brokeback Mountain. There’s even a replica movie set of an Old Western town with storefronts. (Little-known fact: The first-ever feature-length movie filmed in Hollywood was a Western—the 1914 silent film The Squaw Man, directed by Cecil B. DeMille. The camera used to film it is here, too.)
A bronze statue of “the singing cowboy” Autry greets you at the entrance, but the museum covers much more than just Hollywood gunslingers—you’ll learn all about the real Old West, too. You’ll find engraved golden pistols given to Annie Oakley by her husband Frank Butler. There’s an extensive saddle display, a mail stage coach from 1855, Smith & Wesson revolvers, pioneer portraits, cowboy hats, buckskin jackets—even a saloon with a mahogany bar and roulette wheel.
Western lore aside, the Autry also celebrates the region’s contemporary artists. Every year, it curates the Masters of the American West, a magnificent exhibition with works from more than 70 Western artists. Yet the real must-see is the annual American Indian Arts Marketplace held in November, where visitors can peruse and purchase paintings, sculpture, basketry, carvings, and other items from roughly 200 artists and artisans representing over 40 different tribes.
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.)
“We played The Greek!” is a common refrain from bands rocking out in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park. On the California Now Podcast, longtime Rolling Stone contributor Fred Schruers recalls hearing Ryan Adams check The Greek off his musical bucket list at the end of a show. The prestige and allure of this stunning outdoor venue prompted Schruers to list it in his top five favorite places to see a concert in L.A.
From May through November, the 5,900-capacity amphitheater hosts some of the biggest names in music. “It has terrific acoustics,” Schruers notes. The venue opened in 1930, but its history dates to the 1880s when mining mogul Colonel Griffith J. Griffith moved to America from South Wales. Upon his death in 1919, Colonel 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 into 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.
Over the past century, the city has preserved The Greek’s grandeur. Nestled among lush trees at the base of a Los Feliz canyon, The Greek remains one of the best places in Los Angeles to soak in a show. 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.
And don’t just take Schruers’ word for it; Pollstar Magazine also named The Greek Theatre as the best small outdoor venue in the United States in 2018. Schruers says simply: “It’s crazy cool.”
Insider tip: Consider preordering one of the picnic baskets for two, filled with Mediterranean-style noshes like hummus, charcuterie, baguettes, or Greek salad.
Griffith Park has a venerable 110-year history and nothing captures its old-timey charm more than the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round. It was built in 1926 by the Spillman Engineering Company and then moved from San Diego to Griffith Park in 1937. The amusement ride features 68 intricately carved horses with jewel-encrusted bridles, leaping to one of 1,500 tunes played by a Stinson 165 military band organ (reportedly the largest on the West coast). The story goes that Walt Disney, who frequented the carousel on weekends with his young daughters, used it as inspiration for what would later become Disneyland.
If the pretend ponies of a merry-go-round are too tame for your tot, head down the road and for just $5, kids can ride the real deal at Griffith Park Pony Ride. The family-owned business has been operating on the former ranchland since 1948 and, with roughly 100 Shetland and Welsh ponies, it has something for any pint-size wrangler-in-training. Got a first-timer? Your safest bet is the Pony Sweep, a merry-go-round-style ride where ponies walk 8 laps around a fixed carousel. Older kids can walk, or trot, along a separate 1/5-mile track on slow, medium, or big ponies. The catch: Riders must be between the ages of 1 and 13 and cannot weigh more than 100 pounds. Opt for a covered wagon ride and grown-ups can get in on the fun, too.
Or, take one of the traditional, guided horseback rides out of Sunset Ranch, which include great views of the Hollywood sign. Day or evening tours, which last up to four hours, let you explore the park on horseback; you can also book an overnight package that includes a ride, dinner, and a stay in a home once owned by Bette Davis.
This massive urban park gives youngsters not one, but three, chances to ride trains. (Well, make that four, if you count the L.A. Zoo’s Choo Choo.) Tucked in Griffith Park’s northwest corner, you’ll find Travel Town, a transport museum focusing on the history of the Western railroad thru the 1930s. With dozens of vintage train cars lining the campus, some dating as far back as 1880, it’s an impressive collection for any locomotive lover.
For $3, guests can ride a miniature train twice around the mostly outdoor museum’s perimeter. With just one tunnel it may not be a long excursion, but the close encounters with real-live steam engines (including one that kids can climb) and a gift shop stocked with train-related items (like Thomas the Tank Engine toys) make the trip worthwhile. Be sure to wander to the back of one of the buildings: There you’ll find an observation window where, on the weekends, your little ones can stand nose-to-glass while rail hobbyists skillfully assemble a teeny-tiny model railroad and its surrounding California landscape.
Next to Travel Town is an independently run facility, L.A. Live Steamers. Only open on Sundays, guests can ride for free (with a suggested donation of $3) on miniature trains, maintained by local train clubs, which snake through tunnels and go by shrunken towns. (Note to parents: These trains are of a smaller scale—riders straddle the seats rather than sit on benches—so there’s a height minimum of 34 inches.)
Don’t miss Walt Disney’s barn, which was transported from the backyard of his Holmby Hills property in 1998. The barn, where the famous rail enthusiast built and maintained his own train collection, is only open on the third Sunday of every month from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
If you’re only in it for the ride, then head straight to Griffith Park & Southern Railroad near the park’s south entrance. Kids can board one of two miniature train reproductions with kitschy names: the Colonel Griffith or the Freedom Train. From there, they’ll wind along a mile of track over bridges, past meadows and grazing ponies, and through an Old Western town. Be sure to look for statues of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, greeting passersby from outside their cottage.