11 essential museums to visit in Los Angeles
Don't leave LA—whether you're a resident or a tourist—without seeing these truly great LA attractions.
Top 10 must-see works at LACMA
LACMA holds one of the most impressive collections of art in Los Angeles. Here are 10 art works you don’t want to miss.
Getty Center guide
A visit to the vast Getty Center can be dizzying. Only have a couple hours to spare? Here's how to turn a mid-day break at this LA museum into an enchanting escape.
Best off-the-beaten path museums
Looking for something different to do? From car culture to Cold War propaganda, our offbeat Los Angeles museum guide reveals the city's best lesser-known attractions.
Free museums and admission days
In 1974, oil magnate J Paul Getty opened a museum of his holdings in a faux villa in Malibu, based on the remains of the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum. Derision from critics and ridicule from art experts followed, but no matter—the Getty grew into a beloved local attraction. In 1997, the decorative arts and paintings were moved to the Getty Center, and the villa was closed for conversion into a museum for Getty's collection of Mediterranean antiquities. When it reopened in 2006, part-restored and part-transformed by architects Jorge Silvetti and Rodolfo Machado, the press was rather kinder.There are roughly 1,200 artifacts on display at any one time, dated between 6,500 BC and 500 AD, and organized under such themes as Gods and Goddesses and Stories of the Trojan War. If you're a novice, start in the Timescape room (numbered as room 113), where a wall-mounted frieze maps the different civilizations along with the art and statuary they created.You could easily spend a few hours idly wandering through the galleries, but some exhibits really stand out. In room 101C, look for an amazing Greek perfume container that dates back to around 400 BC: it's incredibly elegant and, despite its age, entirely intact. Room 101 holds a collection of disparate items relating to Greek gods, among them a 2,500-year-old monumental statue of Aphrodite in limestone and marble, and some delicate painted oil jars. The outlandish, stag-spouted drinking horn in room 105 is gloriously absurd. And in ro
Industrialist Armand Hammer founded this museum, primarily to house his own collection. Now, under the ownership of UCLA, the Hammer stages fascinating themed shows of modern art, photography and design. The former have included everything from video installations to American comic art; the latter are often drawn from UCLA's Grunwald collection of graphic arts. The shows are supplemented by the Hammer Projects series, focused on emerging artists; works from Hammer's collections; and an excellent, largely free events program that takes in music, films, symposia and so on. Committed to showcasing the works of underrepresented artists from all over the world, the Hammer's multimedia exhibits rotate frequently, so it's worth checking the calendar often. Admission is free on Thursdays, and the museum's open-air courtyard cafe, Ammo, makes for a great post-gallery pit stop.
Annenberg Space for Photography
Specializing in photography, this newly founded, privately funded space takes an innovative approach to displaying its digital and print works. More than just images on a wall, exhibits at the Annenberg often incorporate videos and/or music, creating a more dynamic experience for the visitor. The free admission and $1 parking help attract a younger crowd to the otherwise more corporate neighborhood. (It is housed adjacent to the intentionally intimidating CAA offices.) Bring a date on a Saturday evening and spend 30 minutes wandering through the gallery before catching a movie across the street at the Century City AMC. During the summer, Saturday evening concerts in partnership with KCRW turn the space into a vibrant hot spot.
Museums in LA
Natural History Museum
The NHM's original Beaux Arts structure was the first museum building in Los Angeles, opening with Exposition Park itself back in 1913. Its massive collection spans more than 35 million objects and specimens (not all of them are on display at any one time), making it second in size only to the Smithsonian's. It's an immense place, so it's well worth planning your visit. Those with only a little time to spare should head directly to the truly dazzling collections in the Gem & Mineral Hall, where the exhibits include a 4,644-carat topaz, a 2,200-carat opal sphere and a quartz crystal ball which, with a diameter of 10.9 in and a weight of 65lb, is one of the biggest on earth. A six-year, $135-million program of renovations wrapped up in 2013, including the addition of 108,000 square feet of indoor space. The Otis Booth Pavilion now welcomes visitors into the museum from the north with a six-story light-filled glass entrance, featuring a stunning, 63-foot-long fin whale skeleton. Twelve new galleries and five exhibits have opened, including "Becoming L.A.: Stories of Nature and Culture," which examines the Los Angeles region's history from Native Americans to the Catholic missions, the Industrial Revolution and the World Wars, to the present day. Outdoors, the Nature Gardens features 3.5-acre urban wilderness with a pond, dry creek bed, beautiful landscaping and other features that attract local critters. The Nature Lab features interactive multimedia and live animal habitats, t
MOCA Grand Ave
The main branch of LA's Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) houses thousands of artworks crafted from 1940 until now. Spend half an hour or an entire afternoon absorbing contemporary pieces from lesser known artists, punctuated by sightings of Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock works. For just $12 ($7 students and seniors), you can have your run of the place, including a free audio tour and access to outdoor installations. If you plan your visit for a Thursday night between 5pm and 8pm, admission to MOCA Grand Ave is on the house.