I came from Canada and as a child, growing up, our family would go to Los Angeles to see my grandparents once a year. Going to Griffith Observatory and Third Street were always the highlights of the trip. Griffith Observatory is really not explainable to someone that has never been there. I still think the best time to visit the Observatory is on Christmas eve at sunset. Looking over the city, through the binoculars with the sun setting behind you and the feel of the night coming alive is something AMAZING. Apart from Disney Land the Observatory is the only place in California I know of that truly casts a 'magic' spell on you. If you are planning a trip to California make sure you include the Griffith Observatory in you 'places to visit' list..
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I've been up to Griffith a few times since the renovations. I've been to the planetarium show, looked at the exhibits, and just admired the view. And what a view: downtown, the city and the ocean in front of you, the mountains and the Hollywood sign behind you. The planetarium show is well done, as are the exhibits. The first time we went up was shortly after they reopened and the shuttle bus was a bit of a hassle (ours broke down), but more recently we've just driven up and been able to park with no problem. The Wolfgang Puck cafe is decent if not exceptional. All-in-all a great experience.
I may be biased, because I love observatories, but the experience at GO was very cool. The view is really great, especially at night. However, what impressed me the most was the video presentation, which included a live narrator, chairs that lean back and a massive dome on which the movie is projected. Overall the experience was well worth the few dollars and the trip to get there.