A Visit To The Theme Building Observation Deck at LAX

Will and Sean are into cycling. Alexandra is into donuts. I’m into airplanes.

As mentioned earlier this month, the Observation Deck on the Theme Building at LAX is once again open to the public. On Saturdays and Sundays from 8-5 you can watch planes take off and land on all four runways at once to your heart’s content. I did just that on Sunday and had to tear myself away after almost two glorious hours breathing in the alternating jet exhaust and restaurant grill smells.

The Theme Building is all sparkly and new after it’s stucco fixing retrofit. The place is so fab retro, that even if you aren’t a plane junky, the building itself is a hoot. Behold the elevator to the O Deck.

Going Up!

And some some left over artifacts tickle the memory spots.

I love airports and airplanes and all things flight related, in fact, the first time I met fellow blogger Will Campbell was in March of 2007 when he posted about the A-380 making it’s inaugural flight to LAX. I joined him and many others on the grassy knoll near the In-N-Out to watch that behemoth land on 24R. Now Qantas flies that baby regularly to LAX. I didn’t see it land on Sunday, but it was parked down the way.

Size Does Matter

On the observation deck, you can walk all the way around and get great views of all parts of the airport. I have to admit I was taking so many pictures of airplanes, I only took two photos of the deck itself! It wasn’t crowded but there was a fairly steady stream of people coming and going, most with kids.

There are four free (OMG FREE!) scopes you can use to get an up close and personal view of the planes landing and taking off.

But the guy sitting on the bench over there came with his own binocs. I’m 99.9% sure he’s one of the many plane spotters out there who love an awesome location like the Observation Deck to do what they love most. He was fully prepared: Binoculars, notebooks, lunch, hat. Though he could have used a bit of sunscreen as that place reflects a TON of light off the various angles and facets of the Theme Building.

Looking North
Looking West

But let’s get to why we are here! Huge jets are fun to watch. 747s have always been my favorite and I got treated to plenty of arrivals and take offs of those big beauties.

Come on big boy!
Oh yeah!

Watching them take off always makes the laws of physics seem impossible.

"Climb, baby, climb!"

(By the way, if you know where the quote from the above image comes from, you’ll win my undying admiration. Tell me in the comments!)

The Air Force made an appearance as well.


The Observation Deck is a blast. I would bring a picnic next time and stay for even longer. The Deck itself is free, but parking is not. I recommend sunscreen if you are staying longer than a few minutes as it is BRIGHT up there. Bring binoculars, bring a camera, bring your love of flying!

See you up there…

14 thoughts on “A Visit To The Theme Building Observation Deck at LAX”

  1. That’s a very cool observation area. Love the architecture. Is the Theme Building original to LAX, or a later addition? *googles*

    And … wow, is that one of those ash tray things? I haven’t seen those in ages.

  2. Elio, the building was opened in 1961 and was designed by the William Pereira and Charles Luckman firm. Pereira also designed the original campus of LACMA, the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco, the Geisel Library at UCI, as well as the original campus plan for UCI as well as the master plan for Irvine.

    Pereira was a big sci-fi fan, so you can see where he might have been inspired for the Theme Building. Interestingly, his brother, Hal, was an art director in Hollywood. Hal Pereira designed the famous spaceships in the 1953 “War of the Worlds” that land in LA and destroy City Hall.

    In the book “Looking For Los Angeles,” there’s a really interesting essay on the Pereiras and the destruction of Bunker Hill’s residential neighborhoods to make room for office towers.

  3. Nice photos!

    Sometimes I watch landings at a tiny park near Sepulveda and Lincoln but that deck looks like a cool place with much better views.

    Thanks for sharing.

    “Climb, Baby, Climb!”
    -Airport 1975

  4. Great photos! They make me want to see the Observation Deck for myself, though admittedly I might be a little scared for my pale Irish skin. I’m a little pink even now, just from looking at the photos.

  5. I’ve often seen the building but either I’m on my way someplace or just returned–but it looks like a great place to take visitors (to justify going to the airport).
    I don’t know if they still have it, but the Proud Bird restaurant used to have headphones in the cocktail lounge where you could listen to the control tower communications live….now THAT used to make me choose the Proud Bird for drinks after work (when I worked in El Segundo).
    I haven’t seen the A380 in flight, but when heading to the south of France for vacation I’d often fly into Toulouse and would drive s-l-o-w-l-y past their facility there which is where the wonderful bird was assembled.
    And I confess, my loyalty is to Airbus all the way, but chacun son goût, n’est-ce pas?

  6. Great post!

    I remember checking out the “O Deck” right before they closed it. Glad to see its open again. I just wish the glass was at waist level, but this will do.

  7. How cool! My last few trips to LAX earlier this month were so hectic we didn’t have time to stop in, now I wish we had.

Comments are closed.