The Griffith Observatory may get all the press, but high up in the San Gabriel Mountains is another space-gazing outpost equally worth a visit. The Mount Wilson Observatory, on a summit 5,712 feet above Pasadena, is a haven for astronomers both amateur and professional. Founded in 1904 by George Ellery Hale, who was looking for a place to continue his studies of the sun, the isolated grounds and beautiful natural setting are ideal for pondering the universe's metaphysical mysteries and magic. Guests can schedule a public viewing to use the observatory's incredible 60-inch nighttime telescope and view the 100-inch tower telescope. Or bring a picnic and take a free weekend walking tour of the grounds and a small museum where you can learn about Mount Wilson's 60- and 150-foot solar telescopes, and the instruments that led scientists to first recognize that the sun is not the center of our Milky Way galaxy after all.

—Molly Lambert