Many locals and visitors know Griffith Park as the place to go hiking, or for the Griffith Observatory, but there’s more than meets the eye at this gem in the Santa Monica Mountains. A lot more.
2.) You can go horseback riding: Everyone knows about the hiking at Griffith Park, but did you know you can explore the beautiful mountain scenery on the back of a horse? Experience the Hollywood sign like never before at Sunset Ranch, and even enjoy a 2 hour evening tour of Mt. Hollywood followed by a catered BBQ with live country music.
3.) Griffith Park offers it’s very own train rides: Located on the Burbank side of Griffith Park, Travel Town is a free museum offering visitors a chance to not only ride in a miniature train, but also to experience these locomotive wonders in person.
4.) A lot of movies and TV shows have been filmed at the Griffith Observatory: The most famous movie to be filmed at the Griffith Observatory was of course the 1955 James Dean classic Rebel Without A Cause, but many more movies and tv shows have used this beautiful setting which overlooks the city as a backdrop. Some of the more well known ones? The Terminator with Arnold Schwarzenegger (opening scene when The Terminator is welcomed by the three punks), Jurassic Park (Griffith Park acts as the visitors center of Jurassic Park), Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (Madison shoots all three of the Angels on top of the Observatory), and 2008’s Yes Man (when Zooey Deschanel teaches her aerobics class).
5.) Fern Dell Canyon was once the site of an Indian village: The area bound by Los Feliz Boulevard, Red Oaks Drive, Fern Dell Place and the Los Feliz Estatesa was actually designated a landmark by the city when archaeologists found artifacts that proved it was once the site of a Tongva/Gabrielino Indian village. Yes, it’s true. Fern Dell Canyon is the site and it’s pretty historic!
6.) There’s an abandoned zoo inside Griffith Park: It’s true, the “old zoo” as it’s referred to is a big attraction. Opened in 1912, the zoo was built on the site of Griffith J. Griffith’s ostrich farm and featured a wide array of animals. Closed in 1966, the animals were moved to a brand new zoo 2 miles away and pretty much everything else was left for ruin. Today, graffiti, cages, and animal enclosures remain. It’s a bit eerie to navigate the old zoo site today, but you can actually hike through the old cages and caves and even grab yourself a picnic.
7.) There was once an airfield inside Griffith Park: Imagine that! Planes landing in the middle of the Santa Monica Mountains. Well, it’s true. Located south of the LA River, The Griffith Park Aerodome was used by aviation trailblazers and the Air National Guard at one point. It was eventually abandoned and removed in 1939 and is now the site of the Gene Autry Museum.
8.) Griffith Park features a barn where Walt Disney first thought of Disneyland: Situated in Travel Town today, you can actually visit the barn where Disneyland founder Walt Disney once imagined a site that would one day become the most famous amusement park in the world. The barn, named the “Carolwood Barn” for the street it originally sat on, actually used to be in Holmby Hills until 1999 when it was moved to Griffith Park. It’s since become a huge attraction for millions of visitors of Los Angeles every year. After all, who wouldn’t want to see where it all started?
9.) A fire claimed the lives of 29 people in 1933 inside the park: During an incredibly dry summer in 1933, workers were brought in to clear dry brush and build trails in hopes of preventing a fire in the Park. Unfortunately, while an estimated 3,780 workers were doing their job, a small fire broke out at 2pm in a pile of debris in Mineral Wells Canyon. In the end, 29 workers lay dead, although others say the number is much higher. It remains one of the deadliest fire disasters in US history even today.
10.) Griffith Park has its very own secret garden: Hidden in the hills of Griffith Park, a garden known as “Amir’s Garden” offers visitors five-acres of shady and plush gardens to appreciate. After a brush fire scorched the area, Amir Dialameh, an Iranian immigrant who had formed a deep appreciation with the Park, worked the area for over 30 years clearing tree stumps and eventually creating an area that today is filled with pine and jacaranda trees, rose bushes, geraniums and more. Throughout the years, it has been visited daily by hikers, horseback riders and appreciative fans. Although Amir died in 2003, volunteers continue to keep the garden in pristine condition. You’ll need Directions to get there though as it’s a bit off the beaten path.