For many the single greatest reason to visit Santa Monica is to enjoy the ultimate Southern California beach .
Santa Monica has 3.5 miles (5.6 km) of well-maintained California beach locations and enjoys on average 340 days of sunshine a year plus a nearly constant gentle ocean breeze. Cycling, movie shoots, beach volleyball games, and the finest of people-watching all happen here, and it's no wonder. People love to gather at this California beach , partially because it is so pristine.
Santa Monica Beach in particular is a natural asset that we take great care to preserve; the city of Santa Monica cleans and rakes the sand daily, and even offers a “trash valet” service on Fridays, weekends and holidays. Lifeguard stations are staffed during all daylight hours – though the lifeguard headquarters provides 24-hour assistance year-round.
Access/ParkingThere are eight beach parking lots north of Santa Monica Pier along Pacific Coast Highway. In addition to the Pier Parking Deck, five beach lots are near the Pier (two north, three south, and the Pier Parking Deck), and two beach lots are located farther south at Bicknell and at Ocean Park Boulevard.
There are also several short-term parking lots along the beach. Metered parking rates are approximately $1 per hour. In the beach parking lots, visitors deposit money in a central kiosk according to the parking space number. The kiosk then produces a stub that should be placed visibly on the dashboard of the car. Always read and obey any applicable signs and always carefully read the meter instructions. Different restrictions and regulations may apply in different areas. In order to avoid a ticket, do not park in restricted areas.
Nothing beats simply sticking your feet in the fine sand, sitting in the sun and observing the ocean swell, or watching your kids frolic. The simple pleasures. Santa Monica Beach is perfect for that, as well as any of the following fun, athletic activities. Any equipment needs are available for rent. Easily turn the hour at the beach into a day.
Annenberg Community Beach House : This restored landmark will serve as a visitor's center with cultural and interpretive programming year-round. The Beach House features an upgraded beach cafe, new concession stands as well as beach recreation equipment rentals such as umbrellas and beach chairs. The public pool facility is entirely restored with a pool deck for lounging and an enclosed picnic area that features a special water playground for kids and a two-story pool house with lockers. Now Open!
Biking: The South Bay Bicycle Trail runs along the Santa Monica State Beach. The Trail stretches 22 miles (35 km) – north towards Malibu and south to Torrance – and is the longest beach path of its kind in the world. Sample an array of Southern California beaches on any non-motorized wheeled conveyance.
Fishing: No fishing license is required, and rods and bait are available for rent at the ocean end of the Pier. Many serious fisherman stake out favorite spots, but amateurs are welcome to drop a line.
Sunbathing : Stretching for 3.5 miles, Santa Monica Beach is the perfect location for soaking up the California sun. Experience real VIP treatment with your very own Beach Butler who will set up your beach chair, table and umbrella and assist you with beverages and more!
Surfing: Permitted year-round depending on the level of beach activity. During the summer, surfing is allowed only between lifeguard towers 18 and 20 (Pico Blvd. and Bay St.), and between 28 and 29(Ashland Ave. and Pier St.). Always check with lifeguards before surfing.
Swimming: Santa Monica's mild surf makes it a prime beach for swimming, bodysurfing or boogie boarding. (Rental equipment available.)
Volleyball: Sandy beach volleyball courts south of the Pier are always available to the public and free of charge. Join pickup games or grab a place on the bleacher-style seating to watch others play – Olympic competitors have trained on these courts. Additional beach courts run along Ocean Front Walk and the bicycle path in both directions from the Pier.
Beach SafetyApply sunscreen often
Santa Monica's own “Heal the Bay” program – an initiative to educate, inspire and empower its visitors to be stewards of the environment – has made a positive impact on the water quality at our Santa Monica beaches , which recently received all "A" ratings.
Weekly reports on the water quality at the beach of your choice are available through HealTheBay.org.
When the stress of the day becomes overwhelming, find your escape from the city through the magic of Runyon Canyon.
Nestled away in the far east corner of the Santa Monica mountains amidst the bustling streets of Hollywood lays a little slice of heaven called Runyon Canyon; well known for the beautiful bodies that populate it's winding slopes and the green parks. A stones throw away from the world-famous Hollywood Walk of Stars and Graham's Chinese Theatre lives the best view of Los Angeles. From the minute the Los Angeles sun kisses the face of the Canyon it's heart is throbbing with life and sights that make Runyon Canyon the place to be.
Little compares to the hiking trails of Runyon Canyon – with so many to choose from, every time feels like a new experience. Whether you are hiking for sport or for the health of it, the superior quality and layout of the dusty Runyon Canyon hiking trails are perfect for any age or athletic range. If working up a heavy sweat isn't enough for you, maybe the breathtaking views of the city will be the payoff you desire. From challenging hills covered with beautiful bodies to pull up bars and benches perfect for push-ups, Runyon Canyon is the ultimate workout spot. Throw away that gym membership, save yourself some money and use put yourself on a Runyon Canyon workout plan.
There is nothing like a breath of fresh Runyon Canyon air, the dirt under your feet while surrounded by the city. Early birds get the luxury of an uncrowded Runyon Canyon trail but a dusk trailblazer gets the view of the city lights against the fading sky.
There are 3 main hiking trails at Runyon Canyon perfectly designed your personal challenge level. Whether you are visiting Runyon Canyon for a leisurely stroll with your pup or running the trails of Runyon Canyon to get a hard workout and get ripped – Runyon Canyon has everything you are looking for. Make sure you have a good set of running shoes when visiting Runyon Canyon as the terrain is steep and unpaved in many areas of the park and always make sure you bring enough fresh water with you. Enjoy your time at Runyon Canyon!
If you are looking for a quiet hideaway in the center of the city’s hustle and bustle, Franklin Canyon Park is the place to go. For an indoor party, meeting, or wedding, we offer an Auditorium opening to a courtyard with a beautiful view. If it’s an outdoor "back-to-nature" site you're seeking we offer numerous outdoor facilities including lakeside picnic areas, open amphitheaters, and large lawns with towering oaks.
The Doheny Ranch and Amphitheater is a quiet, secluded picnic site among oak and sycamore trees in lower Franklin Canyon. There is a very large open grass area, a paved parking lot, and restrooms. The bench-style seating of the amphitheater is located under a shady tree. There are six picnic tables. This site is perfect for company picnics, weddings, reunions and other large parties.
The Upper Picnic Area is located by the upper gravel parking lot. It has a distinctive stone and bronze sculpture located at one end. There are two picnic benches located here; the maximum capacity of the lawn area is 100 people.
Heavenly Pond is a small duck pond located to the west of the Franklin Canyon Lake. Visitors can observe the very active bird life on the water. It is a quiet area with three picnic benches.
The Franklin Canyon Lake Picnic Area is located to the east of the Franklin Canyon Lake and is reached by trail. There are two picnic benches located in this area; the maximum capacity is fifty people.
The newly rennovated Eugene and Michael Rosenfeld Auditorium featuring hardwood floors, ambient lighting, and glass patio doors pens onto a courtyard with views of the mountains. Chairs and banquet tables are available as part of any rental.
The Sam Goldman Amphitheater has bleacher-style seating on unpaved ground. The performance area is also unpaved, measuring 25' x 30', and covered by a shade structure.
If you have any questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact the Franklin Canyon Park Event Coordinator at (310) 858-7272 x.180.
The park is located entirely within the Los Angeles city limits and is considered the world's largest wildland within the boundaries of a major city. Excellent recreational opportunities for hikers as well as mountain bikers (restricted to fire roads) and equestrians.
The park is bound on the south by Pacific Palisades and Brentwood, on the west by Topanga Canyon, and on the east by Rustic Canyon. Numerous geologic formations can be found in the park, including earthquake faults, marine fossils, volcanic intrusions, and a wide variety of sedimentary formations.
A good place to start a visit to Topanga State Park is Trippet Ranch, once a "gentleman's ranch" for a weekend getaway from the city.
From Pacific Coast Highway, travel north on Topanga Canyon Boulevard, pass the post office at the center of "town," then turn right on Entrada Road.
Keep to the left at every opportunity until you reach the park's main parking lot (about one mile). From the Ventura Freeway (101), exit at Topanga Canyon Boulevard, drive south over the crest of the mountains and proceed three miles to Entrada Road and turn left.
Many of the park's trails can be accessed from Trippet Ranch. The Musch Trail leads north to Musch Trail Camp by winding in and out of the sun and shade where plant assemblages change with every subtle difference in light and moisture.
Two miles from Trippet is Eagle Junction , where hikers encounter the Eagle Spring loop trail. Eagle Rock, one of the many boulder outcrops on the trail, looms over the terrain and provides panoramic views of the park. At the eastern end of the Eagle Spring loop, hikers will come to the Hub Junction and the Temescal Fire Road .
Going north, hikers travel through chaparral to unpaved Mulholland Drive, which traverses the park. South on Temescal Fire Road takes hikers high above the wild canyons with sycamore and oak riparian forests below. At Rogers Junction, hikers can opt for the Backbone Trail , a trail that winds through the Santa Monica Mountains from Will Rogers State Historic park in the east to Point Mugu State Park in the west. Rustic Canyon can be seen from the Backbone Trail.
Another option from Trippet Ranch is to walk east to the Topanga Fire Road and then north for a short distance to the Santa Inez Trail . Descending into the Santa Inez Canyon, hikers can see crumbly sandstone formations containing pockets where moisture can collect, supporting numerous small plants that form tiny cliff gardens. Close to the bottom of the trail is a side trail leading to a lovely waterfall.
The cream-colored Farmers Market buildings, with their green roofs and brick-colored trim, embrace dozens of small shops and stalls knitted together by a network of passageways. The charm of the Farmers Market lies in unpretentious connection to the past: red vinyl stools and green Formica counters, green-painted folding chairs. The crowd is a combination of tourists licking ice cream cones and Hollywood locals who still come here to buy meats and produce.
Hollywood's glitterati have been going to the Farmers Market for years. Walt Disney sat at a Farmers Market table while he designed Disneyland, and it is said that James Dean ate breakfast here on September 30, 1955, shortly before getting into his Porsche and going for the last drive of his life. Today, groups of writers, directors and Hollywood executives gather for breakfast meetings and old-timers get together for morning coffee.
The Farmers Market stays true to its origins, with stalls for butchers and bakers and others selling fresh produce, candies, nuts and cheese. Magee's, one of the Farmers Market's original merchants, grinds 100,000 pounds of peanut butter a year and the folks over at Bob's Donuts begin work at 4:30 AM to make the 1,000 donuts they sell each day. In all, there are 100 shops here with 500 employees (who speak at least 23 different languages).
If admiring the produce and food stalls works up an appetite, you can also dine at the Farmers Market in many languages. With five places earning a Zagat food rating of 20 or higher, you'll find lots of great food to choose from, including the Gumbo Pot, a personal favorite for its Louisiana-style gumbo, red beans and rice and sweet potato salad. The wine bar located near the center of the complex is a great place to pick up a drink and schmooze with locals who come here in the evening after the tourists go home.
The Los Angeles Farmers Market has been around since 1934, when enterprising farmers started an informal market at the corner of Fairfax and Third Street, selling produce from their trucks. Tourists soon discovered the impromptu Farmers Market, marveling at the array of fresh produce available even in mid-winter, and the Farmers Market grew into a more formal complex of produce stalls. Over seventy years later, the Farmers Market is still one of the most popular sights in Los Angeles, an official Los Angeles Cultural and Historical Landmark drawing over 3 million visitors a year.
The Grove at Farmers Market , an 80,000 square foot retail and restaurant complex opened next door in 2002. Linked to the original Farmers Market by a a simulated main street with a gleaming green streetcar running down it, The Grove adds more attractions at the corner of Third and Fairfax. A few older storage buildings were taken down to make way for the construction, but the Farmers Market remains intact, making it possibly one of the most interesting eighty-somethings in Los Angeles.
Places to View the Hollywood SignSome years ago, the hardy hiker could make it to the base of the Hollywood Sign, but nowadays, it's fenced in to keep out the curious, and guarded by a high-tech alarm system. You'll have to be content to see it from around town, and these are a few of the best places to see (and photograph) the Hollywood Sign.
If you go out to see the Hollywood sign from some of these locations, you'll find signs at the entrance to each street saying that there's no access to the Hollywood sign. That's strictly true, but a bit misleading. Just because you can't access the sign doesn't necessarily mean you can't see it.
Griffith Observatory is an icon of Los Angeles, a national leader in public astronomy, a beloved civic gathering place, and one of southern California's most popular attractions. The Observatory is located on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park, just above the Los Feliz neighborhood. It is 1,134 feet above sea level and is visible from many parts of the Los Angeles basin.
The mission of Griffith Observatory is inspiring everyone to observe, ponder, and understand the sky.
Hours of Operation
Griffith Observatory is open six days a week.
Free Public Telescopes
Free public telescopes are available each evening the Observatory is open and skies are clear. Knowledgeable telescope demonstrators are available to guide visitors in observing. Please be aware that the demonstrators must cut off the line for each telescope to enable all viewing to be completed by 9:45 p.m. Hours for telescope operation are NOT the same as for the building (which closes at 10:00 p.m.).
Visitors may drive directly to Griffith Observatory and park in its parking lot or on the adjacent roads. As always, there is no admission charge to enter the Observatory building and no reservation is required to visit.
To the extent possible, visitors are encouraged to carpool, organize bus trips, hike, cycle, or even take a taxi. Observatory traffic staff will be on hand to help keep traffic moving through the park, preventing gridlock if the Observatory's parking lot and adjacent roads become full.
VEHICLE PARKING: Parking at the Observatory remains very limited; there was simply no unused room on the hilltop and roads to add additional parking spaces. The busiest times are usually on weekends. Please be aware that there may be an uphill walk to the Observatory from some of the parking available along the roads.
Note: The 2011 Greek Theatre season runs from April-October. Heavy traffic on concert nights may affect how quickly you are able to reach the Observatory. A northbound lane on Vermont Avenue is always open for Observatory traffic to bypass those trying to park at the Greek. For the schedule of Greek Theatre shows, please click here.
DISABLED PARKING: The Observatory has designated disabled parking spaces for those with official plates and/or placards. To access these spaces, please approach the checkpoint in the parking lot and speak with the traffic staff. Disabled access shuttles coming to the Observatory will be passed through at all times (even when the parking lot is full) and will drop off at the horseshoe driveway in front of the building. Such shuttles may not park at the Observatory.
GROUPS AND TOURS: Visitors are encouraged to arrange group trips to the Observatory, whether via school buses, private charter buses, or tour buses. Groups do not need to make any kind of appointment to visit the Observatory nor notify the Observatory in advance of their visit. We regret the Observatory is not able to provide tour guides for group tours or to offer advance ticketing for the Samuel Oschin Planetarium.
Though our formal school program is only for fifth-grade students, we welcome and encourage school groups to visit during public hours of operation. While there is not a formal program for other grades, our knowledgeable and experienced Museum Guides are located around the building to help make your visit successful. We do ask that such groups have sufficient adult chaperones (1 adult for every 10-12 students) and that the chaperones actively monitor student activity.
Groups in buses coming to the Observatory will be passed through at all times (even when the parking lot is full) and will drop off at the horseshoe driveway in front of the building. NO buses may park or wait at the Observatory at any time. Buses must leave after dropping off passengers and return when they are ready to pick up visitors; there simply is not room at the Observatory for safe parking. There is generally parking available in and around the Greek Theatre, though this is not guaranteed.
PUBLIC BUS SERVICE: The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) operates weekend public bus service from the Vermont/Sunset Metro Red Line station to the Observatory. The LADOT Observatory Shuttle operates every Saturday and Sunday, except holidays, between 10:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. and stops in front of the Observatory along the horseshoe driveway every 35 minutes. The fare is 50 cents, 25 cents for seniors and persons with disabilities, and free for small children (4 years and under) and LADOT or Metrolink pass holders. There is NO parking in or around the Metro station. For more information, click here.
Please note that the Observatory Weekend Shuttle WILL run on Saturday and Sunday evenings when there are concerts at the Greek Theatre. However, it is possible that it will be slightly delayed because of traffic congestion. Also, on show nights there will be parking restrictions in and around the Greek Theatre that visitors should be aware of.
TAXIS AND LIMOS: Visitors are welcome to arrive via taxi, limo, airport shuttle, and other similar conveyances. Such vehicles will be passed through at all times (even when the parking lot is full) and will drop off at the horseshoe driveway in front of the building. NO taxis, limos, or other such vehicles may park or wait at the Observatory at any time. Please be aware that Griffith Park inbound gates close each evening at 10:00 p.m. If you are being picked up by a cab or friend, please make sure they are in the park before 10:00 p.m.
HIKING OR CYCLING: Those hiking to the Observatory are encouraged to take one of the hiking trails which originate near the Greek Theatre or Fern Dell. There is public parking near all trailheads. Those cycling to the Observatory should use paved park roads (not the park trails or fire roads) and may park in public spaces around the park. The Observatory has several bike racks for you to lock up your bike while you visit.
RESTRICTED BEHAVIOR. Griffith Observatory is a historic facility which we are trying to preserve for future generations. It is also a very heavily-visited institution which needs to ensure that both visitors and the facility are protected. As a result, we have the following restrictions on visitor activity.
o Food and drinks are prohibited inside the building.
There is no set duration for a visit to the Observatory. Some visitors may stay for an hour, others for many hours. The only real limit is the building's daily operating hours:
Seeing the Samuel Oschin Planetarium Show
There are eight shows each weekday and ten shows each weekend day. The schedule of shows can be found here.
Show tickets may be purchased ONLY at the Observatory, only for that day's shows.
Tickets are sold in blocks of 2-3 shows at a time during the course of each day, on a first-come, first-served basis. While there is no way to ensure the ability to purchase a ticket, visiting on weekdays will improve your chances. Tickets for each show are sold until 10 minutes before the start of that show, unless tickets have been sold out prior to that time. For example, tickets for the 1:45 p.m. planetarium show will be taken off sale at 1:35 p.m.
Tickets may be purchased ONLY at the Observatory, either at the Ticket Counter inside the W.M. Keck Foundation Central Rotunda or at the automated ticket machines around the building.
There is a limit of 8 planetarium tickets per transaction. Coming on a tour or other group bus does NOT entitle you to purchase blocks of planetarium tickets.
Once you have purchased planetarium tickets, there will be NO refunds (unless the show is canceled).
FORMS OF PAYMENT: The Observatory accepts credit cards (VISA, MasterCard, and Discover only) or cash in payment for show tickets. We regret we are unable to accept personal, corporate, or organization checks (including those from public institutions).
The planetarium show is not appropriate for children under five years of age. The content, visuals, and sound of the program in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium are likely to be disorienting and/or disturbing for children under five. Children under five will ONLY be admitted to the first show of the day (12:45 p.m. on weekdays, 10:45 a.m. on weekends). This is to ensure a satisfying experience for all visitors. There will be NO exceptions.
There will be absolutely no late admission to the theater. Once the doors have closed, the show is underway and must not be interrupted.
To the extent possible, shows will be presented on the posted schedule. However, it is possible that technical difficulties or required maintenance will cause the cancellation of one or more shows. We regret any inconvenience this may cause.
May I bring food or drinks into the Observatory?
Are there picnic facilities available?
Is smoking allowed at Griffith Observatory?
May I bring alcohol to the building?
Are pets allowed inside the building?
I lost something at the Observatory. How do I reach your Lost and Found?
May I bring my skates/skateboard/scooter or any other wheeled toy device?
How do I learn more about Griffith Observatory?
How do I obtain more information about Friends Of The Observatory (FOTO)?
When did Griffith Observatory originally open?
When did Griffith Observatory close for renovation and expansion?
When did the Observatory reopen to the public?
How much did it cost to renovate and expand Griffith Observatory?
When may my school come to Griffith Observatory again?
If your students are NOT in fifth grade, you may still bring them to visit the Observatory during public hours of operation. While there is not a formal program for other grades, our knowledgeable and experienced Museum Guides are located around the building to help make your visit successful.
When may I rent space at Griffith Observatory for an event, meeting, or filming?
When did drive-up access to the building resume?
For More Information
If you have additional questions regarding a visit to Griffith Observatory, please call the Observatory's General Information Line at: 1-213-473-0800 from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Pacific Time.