What do you do in Los Angeles after you’ve spotted the stars, seen THE Sign, and brushed off the sand? How about a museum! With over 100 museums to choose from, you’ll get a dose of culture while giving yourself a break from all that sun.
Whatever your interests, art, architecture, entertainment, libraries, gardens, automobiles, or history I guarantee there is a museum in LA for you. I’m nowhere near making a dent, but I’ve checked off a few…
LA is a large city and many of it’s museums are spread out, but the area known as Museum Row on Wilshire Boulevard’s Miracle Mile has five wonderful museums all within steps of one another. If you were motivated it would be entirely possible to get a taste of all of them within one day.
They are: The LA County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Craft & Folk Art Museum (CAFAM), The Labrea Tar Pits, The Peterson Automotive Museum, and the Wende Museum exhibition of the Berlin Wall.
It would take multiple visits to see everything the largest art museum on the West Coast has to offer, but if you’re short on time you can enjoy some of LACMA’s outdoor exhibits, like Chris Burden’s Urban Lights, Levitating Mass, or choose just one of the Museum’s many buildings and focus on that.
There is definitely something magical about Urban lights. The solar powered installation is made from 202 restored cast iron street lamps from 1920s and 30s Los Angeles. This is an incredibly popular place to take photos and hang out, so expect crowds.
The boys loved Penetrable by artist Jesús Rafael Soto, an interactive art installation just outside the entrance to the Ahmanson Building. Made of simple yellow tubing hanging from a steel grid, this installation was meant to be touched!
My older son and I visited the temporary Guillermo del Toro exhibition last year and loved it. You’ll want to check the Museum’s website for information on current and upcoming exhibitions.
The Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles is famous for many things, but one of them is not waking! In fact, “Nobody walks in LA”, or at least that’s how the song goes, so it makes perfect sense that there would be an automotive museum in the heart of Museum Row!
At the Peterson Automotive Museum, you’ll find cars and motorcycles representing the history of the automobile, including racecars, concept cars, movie cars and custom built cars. My favorite part was viewing the movie cars including, the bat cycle, Stephen King’s Christine, lightening McQueen and Herbie the Love Bug!
La Brea Tar Pits
Can you believe that at one time the bustling area that is now Museum Row was once the home of dire wolves, saber-tooth cats, and mammoths? It’s true! Of course that was 50,000 years ago, give or take a few thousand years…
The La Brea Tar Pits and the George C. Page Museum offer a glimpse into what life was like in the LA basin long before people came along. A few things to keep in mind: There is an entrance fee to the museum, but viewing the outside exhibits is free. You won’t see dinosaurs here, as they’d already been extinct for 65 million years when animals started becoming entrapped in the tar pits.
Craft & Folk Art Museum (CAFAM)
The Craft and Folk Art Museum is housed in an adorable little building just opposite the Labrea Tar Pits. You can’t miss its cheerful black and yellow design. The exhibitions are revolving and feature current day artists with a unique twist or smaller exposure.
The museum offers crafting opportunities and we had the good fortune to visit during a Japanese paper making demonstration.
CAFAM is special because it is a place to both see art and make art.
The Berlin Wall
Did you know you can view part of the Berlin Wall in LA? The largest remaining stretch of the original Berlin Wall is located just across from LACMA on Wilshire Blvd.
The Wall is part of the Wende Museum collection. Street artists from around the world were invited to paint blank segments of the Wall to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Wall coming down.
Paley Center for Media
Located in the heart of Beverly Hills, just one block off of Rodeo Drive, the Paley Center for Media exhibits explore the connections between media and society.
During our visit we saw the Cartoon Network exhibition: 25 Years of Drawing On Creativity. We loved learning about the creation of some of our favorite cartoons! A visit to the Paley Center will give you access to their collection of over 160,000 programs covering almost 100 years of television and radio from around the world. The museum’s exhibits are revolving, so you’ll want to check the website to see what’s on.
The Broad Museum located in DTLA is easily one of my favorite museums. Entry to the museum is free, and the collection of contemporary art is top notch! Not only that, the building itself is a work of art.
Advance reservations are required, however if you don’t have them there is a stand by line. Check the website for instructions on how best to visit and for information on current exhibitions.
The Getty Villa
Located on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, the Getty Villa is dedicated to the antiquities, and features 7000 years of ancient art. Even if antiquities aren’t your thing, The Villa itself is a site to see.
Built in the early 1970s it was modeled after the Villa dei Papiri, a roman country home that was located in Herculaneum, Italy. Herculaneum, along with Pompeii, was buried in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD.
The Getty Center
If you’ve been to LA you might have noticed the Getty Center, a large white building perched on the hillside above the 405.
While the Getty Villa features antiquities through the fall of the Roman Empire, the Getty Center features American and European art from medieval times to the present. Not only is it considered an architectural masterpiece, but it’s surrounded by beautiful gardens and on a clear day the view of Downtown Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean are spectacular.
The Huntington Botanical Gardens has something for everyone! Museums, a library and acres of beautiful and unique gardens, including a fabulous children’s garden!
Entrance tickets are all inclusive, but because the Huntington has so much to offer it would be tough to see everything in one visit.
The Neutra VDL House
Architecture lovers won’t want to miss a visit to the Neutra VDL House located on Silver Lake Boulevard.
Built by the famed Modernist architect Richard Neutra 75 years ago, the VDL house was named a National Historic Landmark in 2017. Tours of the home and garden are available, and are given by architecture students.
Tips & Advice:
- Try to time your visit to LACMA for sundown and you’ll see Urban Lights in action.
- The Peterson Automotive Museum has a dedicated children’s area and parking lot.
- If you’re short on time skip the George C. Page Museum at the Tar Pits and just view the outdoor exhibitions.
- Be sure to check out CFAM’S calendar of crafting events for both children and adults.
- Walk all the way around the Berlin Wall, so you don’t miss the fabulous art painted on the backside.
- Entrance to The Paley Center for Media is free, as is parking in the building below.
- Visiting the Broad? Consider eating lunch at Otium. Easily one of the best lunches I’ve had in LA.
- Entry to both the Getty Villa and the Getty Center is free, but both charge a $15 parking fee. Entry to the Villa requires an advance reservation.
- The Huntington Gardens aren’t technically in LA, but it’s worth the trek!
- Admission to the Neutra House is $15 and tours are available on Saturdays from 11 am -3 pm.
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