Griffith Park: LA’s One-Stop Affordable Day-Maker

Griffith Park: LA’s One-Stop Affordable Day-Maker

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.
  1. It never ceases to amaze me how many Angelinos—even natives—hardly ever visit Griffith Park. I’ve met locals who have never been there, and shame on them. Don’t they know that at over 4,200 acres, Griffith Park is one of the largest urban parks in the world, nearly five times the size of puny little Central Park in New York and almost four times as big as that snooty Golden Gate Park in San Francisco? Of course, over 3,500 of those acres are wilderness, accessible only by hiking trails. And anyone who has even looked at Griffith Park from a distance knows that the hills those trails traverse are steep. Still, are you likely to run into wild animals larger than a squirrel in Central Park, other than muggers and politicians?  I think not!


    Unlike most urban parks in America, you stand a good chance of encountering wildlife in Griffith Park. You are apt to see many birds of prey, particularly hawks and falcons, but also the occasional owl or even eagle; raccoons are common, you might see a coyote or two, might be unlucky enough to encounter a family of skunks, would be extremely unfortunate to step on a rattlesnake and what you’ll never see but what most likely inhabits those hills are mountain lions, so don’t go off onto secluded trails alone if you know what’s good for you. Also, oddly, Griffith Park is home to many peacocks and peahens. No, they aren’t native to the area, but you’ll see them on occasion nonetheless.

    Here’s your itinerary for an excellent full day in Griffith Park (to know where to go, download a map of the park at You’d be hard pressed to do everything on this list, so don’t beat yourself up if you have to take two days to see it all. However, if you don’t mind rushing from location to location to follow a tight schedule, this plan is doable.



     (1) 8 AM: Drop the kids (and an adult chaperone, of course) off at the playground on Griffith Park Dr off of Crystal Springs Dr. There is plenty there to keep most kids under the age of 10 occupied for hours. Kids from 11 to 16 are continuously plugged into their magical pocket gizmos, mesmerizing them with endless hours of media brainwash, games and communicating with distant friends so they don’t have to talk to the people around them, so you won’t have to worry about them.


     (2) While the kids are distracted, continue up Griffith Park Dr. to Woodrow Wilson Golf Course and take in nine holes. Then again, a number of local celebrities golf here fairly regularly, so might consider going for a brisk walk instead (see #8).


     (3) 10 AM: While you’re finishing your game, send the kids via chaperone south on Crystal Springs to the Griffith Park Pony Ride. This is something that would only appeal to kids that find the playground entertaining. If you have older children—or none at all—you may consider visiting one of the local stables around the park and renting a horse for a half day. Hiking Griffith’s trails on foot is exhilarating, but doing them on horseback isn’t quite as exhausting.


     (4) 10:15 AM: (The pony ride doesn’t take long.) Take the kids north on Crystal Springs to the Los Angeles Zoo to visit the elephants and gorillas, two of the newest additions. Have them run through the aviary (perched on a very steep hillside and filled with precipitous stairs) as fast as they can to wear them down while you wait below. By the time you get them to the koala bears, they’ll be pooped and ready to go; and from here, the exit isn’t far.


     (5) Noon: Continue north on Crystal Springs Rd.; it will curve west, then stop at any of the picnic areas along the road for the lunch you thoughtfully packed. Most picnic areas have benches and trashcans; the larger ones have restrooms. There was a time when you could find sites with built-in barbecue grills, but not anymore. However, you can always bring your own if you’re ambitious enough, as long as the fire hazard level isn’t too high, which usually is the case from August through October.


     (6) 1 PM: Backtrack down Crystal Springs to the zoo, but instead pull into the parking lot on your left and visit the Autry Museum. By now, the kids should be logy after all the running around at the zoo and a big lunch, so they won’t complain much. Inside you’ll find a lot of memorabilia, a considerable number of Western-themed pieces of art, an extensive collection of American Indian artifacts and something of a tribute to Buffalo Bill Cody.


     (7) Time Permitting: Exit the park onto Los Feliz Blvd. (turn right from Crystal Springs) and go two miles, then turn right onto Fern Dell Drive. Park near Black Oak Drive and take a quick walk through Fern Dell. It’s a walk of less than a mile all the way to the end and back, but you don’t have to go the whole distance. If it’s a hot day, this is a good place to cool down, as the overhanging trees and constantly-running spring bring the temperature down significantly compared to the surrounding area.


     (8) Time Permitting: For those who would rather have a free hike than pay for the zoo or the Autry Museum, there are many trails—most rather hilly—that wind and twist all over the park. Some will take you up to the famous Hollywood sign, if that’s your thing; others will take you to Bronson Caves, one of which served as the Caped Crusader’s Bat Cave entrance on the campy Batman TV show. The trails are everywhere and easy to find, but few are easy to traverse, so you better be in good shape.


     (9) 3 PM: Backtrack again and head south on Crystal Springs to Fire Rd. Turn left and go to the Merry-Go-Round. This is an old-timey carousel, not a Disneyland knock off, and the thing really whirls, so hang on! You may want to ride a couple times, and then the kids will certainly want to return to the playground next door, so take a nap under a shady tree while they go nuts.


     (10) 4 PM: Turn around again and go north on Crystal Springs, around the bend, past the picnic areas, then turn left onto Griffith Park Dr and turn in to Travel Town. With the lowering sun, there will be plenty of shade. Let the kids ride the mini train while you videotape like mad, then go gawk at the many trains. Inside the museum are several antique vehicles and one of the most extensive model railroads I have ever seen. The detail is amazing, and watching the tiny train whizzing around you can almost imagine it’s all real. (Note: do this on a weekend, or change your itinerary, as Travel Town closes at 4 PM on weekdays.)


     (11) 5 PM: Exit the park onto Los Feliz Blvd and head west, then turn right onto Vermont Av and re-enter the park. Follow the road to the top of the hill and pray that you can find a parking space in the observatory parking lot. You’ll be in luck if you have a handicapped placard, as they have many handicapped spaces, but otherwise you may have to hike to reach the observatory. The observatory is open until 10 PM and has its own cafeteria that the adventurous and those lacking taste buds may find acceptable. Your family can take in a Laserium show while you sneak away…


     (12) Night Time: Abandon your family at the observatory and take in a concert at the Greek Theater. However, keep an eye on your watch and make sure you leave the theater well before 10 PM, as traffic entering the park is turned away after 10 and if you’re late, your family will have to hitch a ride or walk out of the park, which makes for a very cranky family.


    Whether or not you take in that concert, be sure you’re up at the observatory at sunset. Even on cloudless evenings, LA’s legendary smog can make for some of the most spectacular sunsets you will ever see.

Leave a Reply