Founded in 1966, the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens is a 133-acre zoo that's home to 1,400 animals from over 270 species, including 58 that are endangered. The botanical collection features several planted gardens and over 800 different plant species with about 7,000 individual plants. The zoo receives over 1.8 million annual visitors and is owned and operated by the City of Los Angeles. The newest exhibit, Rainforest of the Americas immerses visitors in the theme, “everything has a home.” Stroll through the tropical rainforest from the treetops to the river and encounter the jaguar, piranhas and giant otters, to harpy eagles and cotton-top tamarins. Other zoo highlights include the LAIR (Living Amphibians, Invertebrates and Reptiles), Elephants of Asia, Campo Gorilla Reserve and the Tom Mankiewicz Conservation Carousel. The L.A. Zoo is also heavily involved with the conservation of California condors, although they are not on display.
The L.A. Zoo hosts numerous special events throughout the year, such as Brew at the Zoo on August 3. Griffith Park, beer, gardens, and good friends make for a fun time. The annual festival features dozens of local craft beers and microbreweries, music, pop-up keeper talks, and animal discovery stations. Tickets are now on sale at the L.A. Zoo website.
Since its opening in 1935, the Griffith Observatory has become one of L.A.’s great cultural icons. The Observatory is located above Los Feliz on the southern slope of Mt. Hollywood, and offers some of the best views of L.A., from the Pacific Ocean to Downtown. Its stated mission is, “Inspiring everyone to observe, ponder and understand the sky.” In addition to its fascinating exhibits, the Observatory’s features include the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon, Zeiss Telescope and Gottlieb Transit Corridor. The Griffith Observatory is also one of L.A.’s most famous movie locations, perhaps best known for its appearance in Rebel Without a Cause, starring James Dean, and more recently in La La Land. A commemorative bust of Dean is located on the west side of the grounds.
The world-famous Hollywood Sign, which recently celebrated its 90th anniversary, is an instantly recognized symbol of Los Angeles. The 45-foot-tall, 350-foot-long sign was recently restored by the nonprofit Hollywood Sign Trust. In 2010, thanks to a $900,000 donation by the late Hugh Hefner, a $12.5 million fundraising goal was met and the area around the Hollywood Sign was saved from developers. The 138-acre parcel became a part of Griffith Park, preventing any construction that would affect the world famous view.
The Greek Theatre is one of L.A.'s premier outdoor venues, nestled in a picturesque, tree-enclosed setting within Griffith Park. Opened in 1929, the historic theatre has hosted some of the biggest names in entertainment, from pop and rock to classical and reggae. The 5,900-seat venue offers an intimate concert setting, with state-of-the-art acoustics combined with excellent sight lines. The Greek Theatre has been named North America’s Best Small Outdoor Venue multiple times by Pollstar Magazine.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2018, the Autry Museum of the American West was co-founded by legendary recording and movie star Gene Autry and his wife Jackie, along with country singer and actor Monte Hale and his wife Joanne. The opening of the Gene Autry Museum in 1988 realized Gene Autry’s dream to build a museum to exhibit and interpret the heritage of the West and showcase its influence on the United States and the world. The annual Masters of the American West fine art exhibition and sale is one of the Autry's most popular events.
Dedicated in 1952 and located in the northwest corner of Griffith Park, the Travel Town Museum focuses primarily on the history of railroad transportation in the western United States from 1880 to the 1930s, with an emphasis on railroading in Southern California and the Los Angeles area. The Railroad Museum features 43 full-scale railroad engines, cars and other rolling stock. The Melody Ranch Special, a miniature train once owned by Gene Autry, takes passengers on a ride for two loops around the museum grounds. For generations, Travel Town has been a popular destination for family picnics and barbecues; facilities are available for rental by contacting the museum.
For a unique tour of Griffith Park, get in the saddle with Sunset Ranch Hollywood, the only horse ranch located in greater Los Angeles. Sunset Ranch offers a variety of services and activities, including guided trail rides, boarding and lessons. A one-hour trail ride into Griffith Park includes a great view of the Hollywood Sign. A two-hour ride to the top of Griffith Park features spectacular 360-degree views of Los Angeles. Various other ride options are available, including Lunch Ride, Sunset Dinner Ride, BBQ Ride and Kids’ Party.
One of the best ways to explore Griffith Park is on a bicycle. Located next to the Griffith Park Ranger Station, Spokes ‘N Stuff offers bike rentals starting at $8 an hour or $25 daily. Griffith rental options include tandems, low riders, Go Karts and Surrey bikes. Rentals are only available for use on paved surfaces. Spokes ‘N Stuff is open Monday-Friday from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and weekends year round.
Located at the Los Feliz entrance to the park, the Griffith Park Pony Ride has delighted generations of children since 1948. There are several pony ride options, based on age, height and experience: the Pony Sweep, a “live Merry-Go-Round” around the fixed Griffith Park carousel; Slow Ponies; Medium Ponies; and Big Ponies. For pony rides, riders must be between the ages of 1 and 13 and can’t weigh more than 100 pounds. No adult riders, even if they're under the 100-pound limit. Wagon rides are open to the whole family, with no age or weight restrictions. All pony rides and the wagon ride are $4 per person.