She's back and she looks marvelous. Closed since Jan. 6, 2002, the restored and tastefully enlarged Griffith Observatory reopens on Nov. 3. Mayor Villaraigosa announced the date before almost a hundred media types this morning, recalling when he piled in the car with his mother, sisters, brother and cousins to visit the observatory as a boy. Most kids who grew up in the Los Angeles area took school field trips to see the planetarium show (or later brought dates to the Laserium show, which is not part of the new Observatory.) What's new is a 44,000-square-foot lower level with cool new exhibits, a theater and a Wolfgang Puck cafe with outdoor tables that have a view to rival the Getty's. The planetarium has been redone with cushy seats and a state-of-the-art Zeiss sky projector.
Getting to see the new observatory won't be easy or inexpensive at first. Admission remains free, but you will need a timed ticket for at least the first few months. Hikers and bikers can make their reservation 48 hours ahead. If you don't walk or bike, you have to catch a shuttle bus at the zoo or at Hollywood and Highland. The price tag for the bus makes the Observatory a much more costly outing than a trip to the Getty, where a car parks for $8. To reach the Griffith Observatory, everyone over 12 has to pay $8 each; ages 5-12 and over 59 are $4. Tots younger than five ride for free. There was some defensiveness in the air this morning about the cost, but Villaraigosa said there would be "gridlock" up on the hill without the buses for the first several months. The renovation did not add to the 199 parking spots that were there before. Mostly, however, there was exuberant praise for the new space and the restoration by architects Brenda Levin and Stephen Johnson. "Our greatest public space," City Councilman Tom LaBonge enthused. Yes, he represents the park.
Reservation info and hours after the jump.
Make reservations to visit the Griffith Observatory:
* On the web: www.GriffithObservatory.org.
* By phone: 1-888-695-0888 8 am to 6 pm.
* In person at the Griffith Observatory Satellite: 4800 Western Heritage Way in Griffith Park.
Hours for the Observatory will be:
* Noon to 10 pm, Tuesdays through Fridays.
* 10 am to 10 pm, Saturdays and Sundays.