“If every person could look through that telescope,” declared Griffith J Griffith, “it would revolutionize the world.” More than 80 years after this iconic building opened, the world remains unrevolutionized, and the city smog means that the views are not as crystal-clear as they were in Griffith’s day. However, after a five-year program of renovations at the observatory, the 12 in. Zeiss refracting telescope is once again open to the public, providing the crowning glory for this wonderful old landmark.
You could comfortably spend a few hours here just taking in the exhibits and the shows. The ground floor holds the Hall of the Sky and Hall of the Eye, a pair of complementary displays that focus on humans’ relationship to the stars; a Foucault pendulum, directly under Hugo Ballin’s famed mural on the central rotunda; and the handsome, high-tech Samuel Oschin Planetarium. And downstairs, accessible via the campy displays of space-slanted jewelry in the Cosmic Connection Corridor, you’ll find a number of other new exhibits.
At the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater, you can see a short film about the history and resurgence of the observatory. Pieces of the Sky documents, brightly and informatively, the impact made on Earth by meteorites and other falling debris. The Gunther Depths of Space contains crisp descriptions of the planets, a bronze of Albert Einstein and a vast, 2.46-gigapixel image of the night sky taken from the Palomar Observatory in San Diego County. And there are above-par snacks in the Café at the End of the World.
However, the star attraction remains the building itself, both inside and out. Famous for its appearances in movies both acclaimed (Rebel Without a Cause) and disdained (Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace), this longtime Los Angeles icon has been returned to its former glory and is once again one of the city’s must-see attractions.