Los Angeles Museums


Whether you’re the type to wear a lab coat on a daily basis or the type who knows way too many details about way too many movies, there’s a museum for you in Los Angeles. As one of the most culturally diverse cities in the country, LA takes as much pride in its own history as it does the history of the world. From exhibits that depict the origins of life in phenomenal detail to unparalleled collections of artwork, each museum is as much a tour through history as it is a shrine to every culture. Ardent fans of the entertainment industry will love visiting the museums that specialize in collections of movie, television and music memorabilia, as well as the ability to see archived footage of some of the most popular moments on screen.

California Science Center

700 State Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90037; Tel. 323.724.3623

Part of a larger Los Angeles museum complex near the USC campus in Exposition Park, the CSC is 245,000-square-feet of interactive fun for the whole family. The first thing that catches the eye is the spellbinding 50-foot “Hypar” kinetic sculpture in the main lobby. Daredevils in the clan can take a wobbly high-wire bicycle ride–it’s like pedaling E.T. home after a night of partying with Robert Downey Jr. There is a chick hatchery and Tess, a 50-foot replica of the human body and its inner workings. If your brain starts to short-circuit, get lost in a screening at the IMAX theater, which has spellbinding giant-screen films on everything from monkeying around in Africa with Jane Goodall to a 2001 space-walking odyssey with NASA’s finest.

Getty Center

1200 Getty Center Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90049; Tel. 310.440.7300

Perched high above the Sepulveda Pass as an unofficial northwest gateway into the city, this Los Angeles museum received most of its early publicity because of Richard Meier’s stone and glass design. Ironically, from below, the Center actually looks more like a hospital or convention center than a world-class art museum. But it’s about the art, and once in the womb of this creative mothership, the peaceful grounds, airy exhibition spaces, and extensive collection all makes for a breathtaking SoCal afternoon.

Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens

1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino, CA 91108; Tel. 626.405.2141

Tucked away in the Pasadena, this pristine oasis is a mystery to most Angelenos. The library and art collections at this Los Angeles museum are featured acts to be sure, but the gardens are the real star. Afternoon tea in the lush foliage is as nice an afternoon as can be found in L.A. This is where the Angels of the city come to frolic.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036; Tel. 323.857.6000

A defeat of a recent bond measure unfortunately scrapped an ambitious plan to completely renovate this deserving L.A. museum. Even though most Angelenos bash (or simply ignore) Los Angeles’ primary art museum, the rest of the globe continues to consider it fit enough to send its world-class art exhibits. Added features at LACMA include free Friday night jazz concerts in the courtyard and Friday and Saturday night screenings in a great classic-film series.

Museum of Contemporary Art

250 S Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90012; Tel. 213.626.6222

Even though most locals probably have no idea this oasis of modern art exists in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, it is a major force in contemporary art in this country. Case in point: In the summer of 2002, the first major Andy Warhol exhibit in more than a decade made LACMA its only North American stop. The museum’s permanent collection, covering work after 1940, is nothing to scoff at, with major pieces by de Kooning, Hockney, Lichtenstein, Pollock, and Rauschenberg.

Museum of Jurassic Technology

9341 Venice Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90232; Tel. 310.836.6131

This obscure LA attraction is to museums what the Blue Man Group is to theater. It is the offspring of a collision between science and the ridiculous, and its unusual, offbeat exhibits are nothing if not unique. What other museum features exhibits on the Stink Ant of the Cameroon and Selected Collections from Los Angeles Area Mobile Homes and Trailer Parks?

Museum of Tolerance

9786 West Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035; Tel. 310.553.9036

The Simon Wiesenthal Center sponsors this high tech, hands-on experiential L.A museum that has a dual purpose: to focus on the dynamics of racism and prejudice in America and to continue to shed light on the history of the Holocaust. Along the way, visitors encounter moving, creative exhibits that force them to reflect on their own humanity. With more than 100,000 children visiting every year, its mission is surely making a difference. A truly unique experience.

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

900 Exposition Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036; Tel. 213.763.DINO (3466)

Okay, so the faded and dusty stuffed beasts, fowl, and varmints in this Los Angeles Museum’s distressed dioramas should be a clue that it has seen better days. There is a kitschy quirkiness, however, to this largely ignored part of Exposition Park. Don’t miss the Megamouth shark encased in glass in one of the lobbies that was captured off the coast decades ago… spooooky. And you won’t miss Sue – the largest T-Rex ever found towers over visitors.

Norton Simon Museum of Art

411 W Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91105; Tel. 626.449.6840

Norton Simon was one rich dude. We know this because the Botticellis, Rembrandts, Van Goghs and Matisses we all have in our houses are on calendars, in cheap frames, and on cards in our Masterpiece board game, Mr. Simon’s are originals. Throw in 2,000 years of Asian sculpture and this guy was to art collectors what Basquiat was to taggers. A 1999 Frank Gehry renovation has made this Los Angeles museum even more accessible.

Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits

5801 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036; Tel. 323.934.7243 (PAGE)

Settled quietly beside the stretch of Wilshire Boulevard known as the Miracle Mile and flanked by Art Deco towers, the La Brea Tar Pits stand as a sticky reminder of Los Angeles’s extensive prehistory as well its role as a large producer of petroleum products, such as asphalt. The park is home to several pits of liquid asphalt bubbling with methane. These ominous pits dot Hancock Park, a grassy urban oasis and home to both an extensive archaeological project and the fascinating George C. Page Museum of La Brea Discoveries. The Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits is home to the most extensive collection of ice-age fossils in the world. Visitors to the site can watch both their excavation and classification through observation windows. Kids will also find the interactive exhibits filling the museum fun and educational; and the recreation of a Pleistocene forest in the center of the museum should not be missed. A film about the site and the Los Angeles basin as a whole can be seen every 15 minutes inside the Page Museum’s theatre. The park also provides a serene afternoon getaway complete with meandering paths that lead to each of the site’s active asphalt pits (those with sensitive noses might want to keep to the museum).

Petersen Automotive Museum

6060 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036; Tel. 323.930.CARS

Honk, if you love this L.A. museum. This popular attraction features the best things found on four wheels, from the Caped Crusader’s Batmobile to Austin Powers’ “Shaguar.” Its SoCal history of the automobile is groovy, baby, offering the lowdown on everything from lowriders to high-end luxury rides.