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LA's landmark 1935 observatory opens a window onto the universe from its perch on the southern slopes of Mt Hollywood. Its planetarium claims the world’s most advanced star projector, while its astronomical touch displays explore some mind-bending topics, from the evolution of the telescope and the ultraviolet x-rays used to map our solar system to the cosmos itself. Then, of course, there are the views, which (on clear days) take in the entire LA Basin, surrounding mountains and Pacific Ocean.
The public is welcome to peer into the Zeiss Telescope on the east side of the roof where sweeping views of the Hollywood Hills and the gleaming city below are especially spectacular at sunset. After dark, staff wheel additional telescopes out to the front lawn for stargazing.
Inside the building, you’ll definitely want to grab a seat in the Planetarium – the aluminum-domed ceiling becomes a massive screen where lasers are projected to offer a tour of the cosmos or show the search for water, and life, beyond Earth; children under five are admitted to the first daily shows only. Downstairs, the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater screens a fascinating 24-minute documentary about the observatory's history, which includes an extraordinary engineering feat that saw the entire building lifted from its foundations during its expansion in the early 2000s.
The observatory itself has starred in numerous movies, most famously Rebel Without a Cause with James Dean. Outside, have your picture snapped beside the actor’s bust with the Hollywood Sign caught neatly in the background.
Those relying on public transit can reach the observatory by hopping on the DASH Observatory shuttle bus, which runs between Vermont/Sunset metro station on the Red Line and the observatory. Buses (50¢, 25 minutes) run every 20 minutes from noon to 10pm on weekdays and from 10am to 10pm on weekends. Otherwise, parking costs $6 to $10 when the building is open.