Top 10 Free Things to Do in L.A.’s Griffith Park

Explore the top 10 free things to do in the largest urban park in the U.S. — Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Its 4200 acres still remain much as they were in 1886 when the park was deeded to the city — with wild quail, coyotes, and raccoons roaming the sagebrush, California oaks, and California poppies. Yet the park has thoroughly modern museums and other attractions, many of them free and most of them family-friendly.

Listed below are 10 of the top free things to do in Griffith Park excerpted from the travel guide, Free L.A.: The Ultimate Free Fun Guide to the City of Angels. Those with a * next to it, are especially family-friendly.

Autry National Center of the American West

4700 Western Heritage Way, LA 90027

Happy trails lead to the hills of Griffith Park where you’ll find one of the nation’s largest museums of its kind, whose mission statement is to interpret the West and show how it influenced America and the world. Dedicated to legendary radio and television star Gene Autry’s dream of preserving and displaying Western history and art, the museum also recounts the stories of settlers and their descendants who changed and were changed by the American West.

  • FREE: Every 2nd Tue

Fern Dell

4730 Crystal Springs Dr, LA 90027

Relax in one of the smallest natural gardens you’ll find in the city. Tucked away in the nation’s largest municipal park is an area shaded by hundreds of leafy ferns—hence the name Fern Dell. Offering a wonderful respite from the summer heat, the cool haven has bubbling brooks, little waterfalls, and flowers. Look for the historic Gabrieleno Indian Site. Located west of Los Feliz Bl & Riverside Dr, the entrance to the made-in-the-shade space is through Western Ave.

Full Moon Hikes

Upper Merry-Go-Round Parking Lot

Guided by the full moon and intrepid Sierra Club trail experts, hike your way up to the Mt. Hollywood peak. The trek is not for the meek so check with the club’s Angeles Chapter to see if the hike is appropriate for you.

  • FREE: 7PM Fri closest to full moon
  • PARKING: FREE Upper merry-go-round lot
  • KID-FRIENDLY: Ages 8+ Must be with an adult

Griffith Park Observatory

2800 E Observatory Ave, LA 90027

Train your eye on the triple domed icon perched atop Mt. Hollywood. Better yet, visit the art deco “hood ornament of Los Angeles” and discover the architectural, artistic and scientific offerings it’s made to the city since 1935. After a $93 million renovation
completed in 2006, the observatory continues its galactic reach.

  • FREE: Admission to main exhibits

LA Live Steamers Railroad Museum

5202 Zoo Dr, LA 90027

Whether you think the rolling stock has something to do with boiling broth or your family’s bought you a very special striped engineer’s cap for your “hobby,” the entertainment factor of riding 1/8-scale miniature steam, diesel or electric train cannot be beaten. This entire facility—trains, buildings, bridges, and landscaping—was built and is run by museum members.

  • FREE: Rides (Donations accepted) 10:30AM to 3PM Sun
  • KID-FRIENDLY: Ages under 15 must be accompanied by an adult

Mt. Hollywood Hiking Trail

5 Mile Hike: Fern Dell Bl
2.5 Mile Hike: Charlie Turner Trailhead
LA 90027
323.913.4688 (Park Rangers)

Canvass the park’s most popular hiking trail and soak up the splendor. One of the reasons for the trail’s popularity is the utterly amazing panoramic views of LA, encompassing the Pacific Ocean, Hollywood Sign, and eastern San Fernando Valley. You’ll likely work up a sweat climbing the 500-ft elevation gain to the top of the 1,625-ft Mt. Hollywood, but the scenery along the way will be worth it.

  • FREE: Always
  • HOURS: Dawn to Dusk

Picnic Grounds

4730 Crystal Springs Dr, LA 90027
323.913.4688 (Park Rangers)

Pass the potato salad. Picnic areas are peppered throughout Griffith’s hills, each suited to how you envision your afternoon outing. Mineral Wells is smaller, intimate, out of the way. Pecan Grove, near the freeway, suitable for quick getaways. Park Center is good sized with a playground. The Old Zoo picnic area still holds the old animal cages plus picnic tables and grills.

  • FREE: 1st come, 1st served, except Crystal Springs which must be reserved for a fee
  • HOURS: 6AM to 10PM daily

Shane’s Inspiration Playground

4800 Crystal Springs Dr, LA 90027

Celebrate the spirit of play for children of all abilities at the first Universally Accessible Playground in the Western US and the largest in the nation: This “boundless playground” was built to be accessible to all and has served as a model for 40 similar playgrounds in SoCal and even Sri Lanka. Bring your imagination as you blast off in a space shuttle bound for the stars, taxi down a runway getting ready for take-off or venture through an accessible “gangway” onto a ship where maps and a periscope await.

  • FREE: 5AM to 10:30PM daily

Travel Town Museum

5200 Zoo Dr, LA 90027
323.662.9678 (Train Ride Info)

Ready to get your “woo WOOO!” on? Chug over to this fabulous, self-described “railroad petting zoo” and track down one of the best collections of historic rail memorabilia around. Explore locomotives, cabooses, freight and passenger cars, trolleys and more from a bygone era. Ride the rails on a small-scale train. Schedule a FREE docent-guided tour of select cars.

  • FREE: Admission (Donations accepted) Call for hours.

Walt Disney’s Carolwood Barn

5202 Zoo Dr, LA 90027

Visit the very place where the great Imagineer mulled over ideas and projects that have made so many people’s dreams come true. Wander through the quaint structure originally built in 1950 on Walt’s Holmby Hills property and designed after his childhood family barn (complete with an authentic sag over the door for character), in Marceline, Missouri. Explore his workshop where he remotely controlled his 1/8-scale Carolwood Pacific Railroad on 2,615 feet of track and relaxed with his miniature train cronies.

  • FREE: 11AM to 3PM 3rd Sun
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