Griffith Park

Started around 1882 as an ostrich farm by Griffith J. Griffith, planned to be the central draw for the area where he had built housing around the farm. After selling housing tracts, he donated most of the remaining land (3000+ acres) for a park.

Griffith was fascinated by many things and dedicated a portion of the land to aeronautics in 1912. This later became the Los Angeles Zoo and the Gene Autry Museum in 1939 when it was closed down due to air congestion in the area.

Griffith wanted girls and boys camps, an amphitheater, an observatory, and a planetarium built but after he was imprisoned for shooting his wife in 1902, he had difficulty getting buy-in from the city leaders. He passed away in 1919, and then the city began to build the features he had originally envisioned.

The original Griffith Zoo opened in 1912 and was closed in 1966, replaced by the Los Angeles Zoo. Train Town was built in the 1950s, and Los Angeles Live Steamers train club was given access to build a small town, switchyard, storage sheds, bridges and miles of scale trackage to tool around on in 1956.

The Arrival

Driving up I-5 through Los Angeles, the park is almost due north, and you have to take a quick exit to get to the outer loop road. Parking is pretty ample, but free parking is a tad more difficult to find. The north side has some, and at the base of the mountain when the Greek theater is not in service. Tip - get there BEFORE things open on Sunday (best day in my opinion) to find good parking spots. Bus service is available around the loop and from the Observatory.

The Park

The park is quite large and is on a mountain. The roads are steep and the trails mirror them. You do get quite high over the San Fernando Valley (where Los Angeles sits), and the views can be spectacular.
I drove around the north side of the complex and parked in a dirt lot between the Travel Town Train Museum and the Live Steamers large model train club. Then I walked down the road to Travel Town.

Travel Town

Travel town is a primarily static train museum focusing on railways and transportation of the Southern California region. Union Pacific and Southern Pacific are prominent in the displays. Started in 1952, right off the main train lines that ran north of the park, it began with a collection of steam engines that were on their way to the scrap heap. It grew rapidly with engines and rail stock being donated as they were no longer viable for service.
rare shay enginefor steep mountains
There's a building focused on the service offered during train travel's golden age, a particular obsession of mine, 1930s-1960s exquisite travel. They detail the Harvey Restaurants and service provided on the trains and at stops. Harvey ran an empire of food and hotel establishments across the southwest for train travelers and his standards were high. Just the dinnerware in this collection makes me jealous, as eating off them would be a great escape to a more refined time.
Also a model train club was allowed to setup shop here, and it's a pretty nice display. I really dig trains, ok?
In addition to all of the above they have a "fair train" which is a pretty large scale train for transporting people around as a novelty that circles the museum, and I took a ride on that (it does cost though).

Los Angeles Live Steamers

After I left the museum, I walked back past my car to the Live Steamers club. On certain weekends, it is open for the public at a fee. You should check their website for real opening times. LA Live Steamers. It's pretty cool and they have a lot of operating track and scale buildings in the site. I enjoyed it a lot.
Griffith Observatory is over the mountain to the south. It was NOT walkable for me. I drove around and parked on pay parking down the hill from the observatory. It's a "pay for your stall number" type thing.

The walk was steep, but the observatory is great. It's a science museum, and there's no entrance fee! I didn't take a ton of pictures except for the Tesla Coil. Contrary to the opinion of conspiracy theorists, is not the answer to energy transmission. It takes more energy than using wires, and you cannot shut anything off in the range of the coil (which is pretty limited), so unless you want every light and electronic device on all the time, it's not very practical. There are a ton of astronomical displays and the lower level is full of star gazing awesomeness exhibits. I need to go back; I really didn't explore this place enough.


The park is really large and has a lot of things to offer. It's even walking distance to Mt Sinai and Forest Lawn cemeteries where the vast majority of the stars are buried.

The trails are for hiking but are pretty strenuous. There are rattle snakes around the lesser traveled areas, so wear some high ankle boots to be safe and hike at your own risk where signs are posted. The sites, the observatory, the views - it's a great park. You can easily spend 3 days here seeing different things. Griffith Park is a true gem of Los Angeles to be treasured.

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