Monday, April 25, 2016

USA 2015 - Day 7: Night at the Griffith Observatory and Hollywood Boulevard

at the Griffith Observatory
While on the final stretch of our drive to LA, we noticed the slowing down of traffic. By the time we were approaching the city limits it was evident that we will not be arriving at the hotel on schedule. So we decided we'd make another adjustment to our itinerary. Seemed like that night we were destined to see the moon and the stars.... while in the city!
Instead of driving straight to the hotel we made a detour to the Griffith Observatory after having checked that we could still make it before closing time. We then changed our GPS input while in the middle of very slow traffic flow and followed the directions towards Griffith Park.

2800 E. Observatory Road
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Admission to the building, grounds, and parking is always FREE.
Tuesday - Friday, 12:00 Noon - 10:00 p.m.
Saturday - Sunday, 10:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.

Observatory is closed on Mondays.

How to get there:
Via Vermont or Ferndell entrances to Griffith Park. 
Take note: Ferndell access closes every night at sunset.

At the Observatory grounds: free but limited spaces. Busiest times are weekends and holidays.

Parking is available along the W Observatory Rd. This was where we parked. Good decision to get a parking spot there because we realized that the one at the top was already full.

There were people walking back to their cars as we were walking up to the Observatory. We overheard some of them saying they didn't see anything at all and it was too cloudy. Most of them looked disappointed. We assumed they all looked through the telescope and watched the night sky. We were hopeful that we would see things better as the clouds drifted away.

We reached the Observatory which was perched on top of a hill. We could see the Los Angeles lighted up at night. It was at sight to behold. We walked around and took pictures.
LA at night
Griffith Observatory, one of the L.A.'s most popular attractions, is located on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood, 1,134 ft above sea level. At this height, one could see the surrounding city and even the Hollywood sign in broad daylight. 

It is an icon of Los Angeles and a national leader in public astronomy. It is the most visited public observatory in the world, inspiring people through astronomy. Griffith J. Griffith, who has given Griffith Park to Los Angeles in 1896, left money in his will in 1919 in order to build the Observatory and the Greek Theatre. 

The observatory officially opened in May 14, 1935 with Art Deco, Moderne, Greek Revival, and Beaux Arts architectural influences and soon became featured in several movies and TV shows. 

The observatory, from the beginning, intended for public astronomy rather than research, offered public telescopes, astronomy exhibits, and the 3rd planetarium theater in the US. 

Closer to the building were some people queuing up, waiting for their turn to peek at the telescope. We joined the queue after checking the schedules of the shows in the Observatory. We were to see the moon up close with the telescope. Some of the first few in the queue as well as those who walked past us on our way up were not lucky enough to catch a glimpse of our satellite. The cloud was covering it for some time. Luckily, when it was our turn the skies cleared. Ira was the first one to take a peek. We were only given a few seconds and Ira was a bit confused at first at what he was looking at. He said it didn't look like the moon. It was just all white. Then one by one, we had our turn on the telescope. It was the moon all right but in the perspective in which one would normally see the moon in. It was all white because the telescope zoomed in to the moon as close as possible and we couldn't even see its round shape. It was the first time we had actually seen the moon that close. It was an amazing experience even just for a few seconds.

After our moon encounter, we walked towards the Observatory.

What to see and do:
Here is a map of the observatory to guide you in your astronomical exploration:

Here you will find the main ticket counter, information desk, Foucault Pendulum and Hugo Ballin Murals.

Foucault Pendulum
A scientific instrument, one of the largest in the world, which demonstrates the Earth's rotation. We were lucky to be there at the right time - just when the observatory guide was starting to demonstrate and explain how the pendulum works. Perfect start to our Griffith Observatory visit.
This 240-pound bronze ball is suspended by a 40-feet cable and swings in a constant direction
as the Earth spins. How does it do that? It is secured to a bearing in the rotunda ceiling
 which does not turn with the building as it rotates with the Earth. 
As the day progresses, the pendulum swings in motion, knocks over pegs set up in the pendulum pit
which indicates the progress of the rotation. That means if one stands there for the whole day and watch
the swinging of the pendulum, one can see that the building is actually moving throughout the day.
Amazing, isn't it?! That's one scientific proof of the Earth's rotation right in front of our eyes.
Artistry and Astronomy rolled into one.

The Ballin ceiling mural showcases classical celestial mythology with the Atlas, the four winds, the planets as gods and the twelve constellations of the zodiac while the Ballin wall murals depict the advancement of Science - how science and engineering have changed over the course of time.

It's all about the Sun and some about the Moon. See live views of the sun through the solar telescope. Watch time-lapse solar movies. Learn more about what causes day and night, seasons, moon phases, tides, eclipses and even elements. 

There is also the spectroscope for visitors to see the components of the sun's rays and the spectrohelioscope to see the sun's flares. Sun facts overload.

Features state-of-the-art technology with spectacular Zeiss star projector, laser digital projection system, state-of-the-art aluminum dome, theatrical lightning and sound system. The Samuel Oschin Planetarium which has 290-comfy-seats is the finest in the world.
two of our tickets to the planetarium
Adult tickets are priced at USD7 while child ticket at USD3.
I think fees are affordable considering all those state-of-the-art technology.
We bought our tickets ahead of time and visited the other halls and exhibits while
we waited for the start of the show.
we were among the first ones in the planetarium so we could get good seats!
We watched the last show of the night at 8:45 pm entitled "Centered in the Universe". Visitors were asked to queue up outside the observatory about 20 minutes before the start of the show. It was a good thing we were used to queuing up early for anything because when we headed out to check out the line there was already a long queue! We thought, the show must be that good.

What I particularly loved about this planetarium and the show itself was the fact that there was a live presenter/lecturer. She had been a presenter for so many years and I could still see and feel her passion for astronomy and what she has been doing over the years.

She had a very calming voice, almost hypnotic. We leaned back on our comfy seats as the lights dimmed, we followed her voice and the lighted ball she was holding (which represents the sun) as she began the story of who we are and where we come from. The rest, I should say, is history. You better see it for yourself to fully appreciate it.

I recommend visitors to watch this show on your visit to Griffith Observatory. It's mesmerizing. It's a must-see!

Learn about how people observe the sky, the tools/instruments they used, and how those observations change the way we perceive our place in the universe.

Exhibits of Sky dioramas, Eye telescopes, Palomar Telescope model, Palomar telescope mirror plug, Tesla Coil, Rotating Camera Obscura. 
behind us are all of the exbihits
This was our last stop after coming out from the planetarium.
The TESLA COIL exhibit gathers the most crowd in this part of the observatory. Visitors are mesmerized with each spark of electricity. Every lightning-like discharge that projects to the wired cage accompanied by a loud buzzing sound is like a performance to behold. 

A Tesla coil, invented by Nikola Tesla, converts low-voltage alternating current electricity to very high voltage, with the aim of transmitting electricity through the air.

This 190-seat presentation theater features a 24-minute film about the history, history of renovation and future of the Observatory. Other live shows and demonstrations like "All Space Considered" and "Let's make a comet" are also hosted here. 

As seating is on a walk-in, first-come, first-served basis, visitors should take note of the show timings to plan their time well. In our case, we were just outside the theater looking at the exhibits, waiting for the showtime when one had to go to the toilet. I pleaded with the theater guide if he could wait for us before he locked the door (yes! the theater doors are locked before the show starts) and he kindly said he would give me 5 more minutes. Unfortunately, he had already closed the door when Kelvin and Ira came back. 

When one door closes another one opens. We had more time to explore the other exhibits before the Observatory closed for the night.

This is where visitors can actually see and touch samples of the universe that come to Earth from space or acquired through exploration.

There are observing telescopes which allows visitors to explore space exhibit in the gallery. Families can explore the spark and cloud chambers. There are also specific areas for the moon and updates relating to astronomy and space exploration.
this is an actual meteorite that has fallen from space
This area in the Observatory showcases the timeline of significant events that happened over the past 14 billion years - from the beginning of time up to the present. 
Ira was very much engrossed with the cosmic exhibits

It had been a very educational visit for us as a family. Griffith Observatory requires a second visit, maybe during day time till sunset, to watch the other shows and explore the grounds outside combined with the visit to the Griffith Park.
for now, we say goodbye
Since we were already in LA that night, we decided why not make the most of the night and go to the main tourist area?

We drove off to the heart of LA and drove past Hollywood Boulevard twice. Then looked for a convenient and affordable place to park so we could walk along the streets of Hollywood.

There were several paid parking options nearby but prices were steep or for overnight parking. Luckily we found a parking space at Hawthorne Avenue behind the El Capitan Theater. We were not too sure though about the parking conditions so we had to ask a bus driver who was parking across the street. We confirmed it was free for that time. It was just next to Hollywood Blvd so it was a short, convenient walk to where all the action was.

What we saw along Hollywood Boulevard:

In commemoration of the achievements of actors, musicians, directors, producers, musical and theatrical groups, fictional characters, and others who have made a name in the entertainment industry. You haven't been to LA if you have not seen one of these. 

Location of Walk of Fame:
1.3 miles along Hollywood Boulevard from Gower Street to La Brea Avenue
and a part of Marshfield Way which runs diagonally between Hollywood and La Brea.
0.4 miles along Vine Street between Sunset Boulevard and Yucca Street
one of the first familiar stars we've seen,the main character in the happiest place on earth
my husband with his favorite actor
the first time we walked this stretch of road I didn't remember seeing his star.
I'm glad this time around I found it.
big fan since Top Gun
"It's Probably Me"...
yes, he is...Sting, that is
he's definitely there
our common favorite author...
no fault in his star ;)
found another familiar character
singer, song writer, record producer...
She's our "Lady Marmalade"
well what do you know?! He's got the hat for them!
one of the Angels, just for the night
Looking for a place to watch a movie premier on your visit to LA? This is the place to be. The main attractions are the hand and footprints of screen legends like Jack Nicholson, Marilyn Monroe and a lot more located at the forecourt.
took photo of the theater from across the street.....
..... then we crossed Hollywood Boulevard to get a closer look
On our walk that night thought the forecourt was already closed. We were able to take a photo of the prints of our favorite characters in the famous movie Star Wars.
wondering if they will add BB8 any time soon???
We continued walking until we reached the Chinese Theater. Unfortunately, the front ground was already closed so we were only able to see Starwars stars prints.


Hollywood Boulevard that night was so vibrant and alive. With all the blinding and blinking lights from both sides of the road you'd think it's morning. There are a lot of other places to see along this stretch of road. There are the theaters (Dolby, Egyptian, El Capitan, Golden Age), Guinness Book of Records Museum, Hollywood & Highland, Hollywood Museum, Hollywood Wax Museum, Ripley's Believe It or Not, and souvenir shops.

Tired and cold, we decided to walk back to the car to end the night's sightseeing. Truth be told, we were starting to compare LA with San Francisco. The crowd was different. We felt so much safer walking at night in San Francisco. It's the atmosphere. It's just different. There's some danger attributed to LA. It's probably all the movies we've watched. Or the fact that Mark's aunt lived there for the longest time and has seen it all. Still, it is worth visiting LA just take proper precaution.

At 11:59pm, close to midnight and we were not in our hotel yet. We stopped by In-n-out burger in Pasadena. Three double doubles and our night was done. Good night, everyone....

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