The famous Hollywood sign – it’s really just letters spelling out the name of a town on the side of a mountain. Nevertheless, due to its’ repeated presence in pop culture, the letters have become symbolic worldwide for the entertainment industry. Ironically, the sign was originally built as an advertisement to sell real estate in an area known as “Hollywoodland.” Today most of us associate the sign with “the place where dreams can come true.”
The sign was originally constructed in 1923 and read “Hollywoodland,” however, the last 4 letters were eventually dropped in the 40’s, with the sign undergoing several changes over the years before reaching its’ current state. Although the sign was meant to be temporary, it was never taken down to the rise of the film industry and its’ recognizable nature worldwide. In 1973, the sign became an official landmark, and continues to be one of the most recognizable American cultural icons.
There are lots of towns out West that use Hillside letters, however, none as famous as Hollywood. Near the summit of Mount Lee in the Santa Monica Mountains, stands the humongous 45 foot tall letters that are over 30 feet wide. Sure, it’s touristy and there are so many more worthwhile things to do in the L.A. area, however, you need to see it at least once!
For the best views of the iconic Hollywood sign, look no further than the Griffith Observatory. Many tourists head straight to the Hollywood & Highland/Walk of Fame area, or Runyon Canyon, not knowing that the Griffith is home to the most stunning views.
The observation deck at the Griffith offers grand panoramic views, both day and night. By day, you will be treated to magnificent views of the Hollywood sign, as well as great views of the LA skyline. By night, it’s a romantic place to stargaze and take in the city lights. Crowded, congested L.A. look so beautiful and peaceful from up here!
If you want to get really up close and personal with the Hollywood sign, you will want to plan for a hike on one of the Griffith’s on-site trails. A moderately difficult hike known as the Mt. Hollywood hike is your best bet for the most up-close views of the Hollywood sign you will find anywhere. This hike climbs through the mountains to the top of the 1,625-foot Mount Hollywood.
You can get so close in fact that you will appear to be standing right beneath the letters in your photos. You can also take all sorts of funny photos where you can make yourself appear to be holding the letters. Bring your camera – there are lots of amazing photo opportunities here! There are several trailheads to start your trek, although the most popular starts from the Griffith Observatory area.
A few great views from the hike
Asides from the famous sign, there are also excellent views of the city, the surrounding mountains, and the gorgeous Griffith building itself. Although L.A. itself is so busy and crazy, there really are so many beautiful natural recreation areas like Griffith Park within a short drive from the city.
It’s crazy to think you can be in the busting city one minute, and 10 minutes later be surrounded by some of the most incredible scenery in the country. So, do yourself a favor, and complete a hike vs. simply gazing at the sign from the deck like the rest of the tourists. It’s a completely different experience to get out there in the mountains and observe the views in a more magnificent setting.
Although most tourists solely come for the outstanding views, the observatory itself is pretty outstanding and should definitely not be overlooked. Best of all, it’s free all the time (except shows). At night, you’ll get a chance to look through a telescope, assuming skies are clear.
The Griffith Observatory was completed with the stipulation that admission would always be free to the public. Since opening in 1935, the Observatory has seen more than 1 million visitors a year, making it the most popular public observatory in the world. Griffith J. Griffith also donated the land around the Observatory (now Griffith Park) to the city as a Christmas gift.
“It must be made a place of recreation and rest for the masses, a resort for the rank and file, for the plain people,” Griffith said on that occasion. “I consider it my obligation to make Los Angeles a happier, cleaner, and finer city. I wish to pay my debt of duty in this way to the community in which I have prospered.”Griffith J. Griffith
Overall, a visit to the Griffith is a must on any visit to L.A., especially for newcomers to the area. There’s just so much to do in one single place here. From taking in the incredible views of L.A. and the iconic sign, to photography, to mountain hiking, to stargazing…it really is one of L.A.’s best treasures. Aside from those wanting to see the famous Hollywood sign, nature lovers, fitness buffs, and photographers will all be more than pleased with a visit to the Griffith.
Interesting Tidbits about the Hollywood Sign
- As stated earlier, the sign was originally built to advertise real estate in the area and was only expected to be up for a year!
- Hollywoodland was changed to Hollywood in 1949.
- When built in 1923, the sign cost $21,000. This is equal to $293,906.80 today!
- The sign was lit in 1984 to celebrate the Olympics in Los Angeles. It was lit again to celebrate the arrival of the new millennium in 2000.
- Many pranksters have tampered with the sign over the years. In 1976, an art student and a few of his friends temporarily changed the sign to Hollyweed after California’s relaxed marijuana law was passed. It was part of a project for his class and he received an A.
- The letters were originally 50 foot tall, but later changed to 45.
- Peg Entwistle, a New York stage actress plunged to her death from the letter H. She was a struggling actress who never received a phone call back. She was named the “Hollywood Sign Girl” by the tabloids. Legend goes that she received a letter the next day for the lead role in a play about a women committing suicide.
- A list of movies in which the Hollywood sign has appeared.
- Visit HollywoodSign.org, the official website of the sign, for a detailed history
How to get to the Griffith
The Griffith Observatory is located at: 2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027. Parking is free, although limited.