An uneventful morning was just fine with us, as we checked out of the hostel and went to Griffith Park. At the end of the day it was time to celebrate my dad's birthday again at Dal Rae.
Knowing that we were going to go to the Griffith Observatory, and it didn't open until noon, we worked our morning around that and slept in a bit before having breakfast. After checking out of the hostel, we went to get the car (which was the only one on the whole lower level; the same thing happened last year) and drove out to Griffith Park.
Mt. Hollywood Trail
Knowing there was going to be a crowd and that there might be rain in the afternoon, we arrived at about 10:30am, parked a little ways down the hill from the already-full parking lot, and started on the trail to Mt. Hollywood.
Last time we went on the Mt. Hollywood trail we saw some people, but not a lot. Different story this year; there were several groups of people going both up and down. Along the way we got great views of both Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign, which meant many breaks to take photos. The clouds were out and the air a little hazy, so it was a bit of a challenge to get good shots of the city itself, but we tried anyway.
When we got to the top of Mt. Hollywood, there were a lot of people in the observation area, including tourists like us and people taking a break from jogging up the hill. After resting a bit, we started back down the trail, getting back a little after the observatory opened. On the way we saw not only a lot of cars still streaming in, but traffic being diverted to other streets; parking early ended up being a good strategy.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is typically very busy for the Griffith Observatory, and that day was no exception. It wasn't as bad as the last time we were there (which was not only the week between Christmas and New Year's, but it was also less than two months after they reopened following a four year renovation), but there were walls of people inside.
The first order of business was to procure tickets for a planetarium show. The line for the box office was quite long, but we only had to wait behind a couple people for the kiosk; wonder why they don't tell more people they don't have to wait in the line.
The planetarium show was well-attended and entertaining, but I was wondering how much they were going to be able to use the star projector with the title being Water Is Life. They did manage to do so, which is good, since it's a very nice projector. They did some latitude changes and changing of the seasons, and showed some planetary movement. The water theme returned with descriptions of how much water may be on other planets and moons in the solar system.
Lunchtime. Since we were already there, we ate at the café downstairs, and Melody was able to score four seats right together. After that, we separated to explore the observatory. By this time it had started to sprinkle, so the roof area was closed. We did, however, go through the rest of the building and walked the grounds.
Back to Downey, Dal Rae
We anticipated heavy traffic on the drive back to Downey so it was no surprise that it took us a while to get back. My Aunt Frances was already there, and after some chatting and relaxing we got into a couple cars to drive to dinner.
Members of my family are familiar with Dal Rae since my dad celebrated his 88th birthday there earlier in the month. It's an old-fashioned steak house with great food and excellent service. My parents have been going there for decades, and the restaurant has become their go-to place for special dinners.
The menu was smaller than usual, since it was the holiday season, but we had no trouble narrowing down what to eat. Melody and I shared a wilted spinach salad and a Christmas duck plate. Crème brûlée for dessert. Plus the relish tray, bread basket, and warm garlic toast. More than enough to eat! The waitress was very welcoming and conversational, and took good care of us.
After that we were all ready to just relax and call it a night after we got back to the house.