Ongoing art exhibitions
Best performing arts centers
The West Side's most glittery theatrical venue is home to a good-sized main stage, the Gil Cates Theater, and the cozier Skirball Kenis Theater. The company offers a mix of new work and local premieres, frequently with big-name (though sometimes second-tier) Hollywood talent. Special nights include Wine Down Sundays, Lounge Fridays and Talk Back Tuesdays, where a special drinks or coffee reception is held before the performance. Saturday mornings often feature great kid-oriented shows.
Mark Taper Forum
Distinguished as the first non-New York theater to win consecutive Pulitzer prizes two years in a row (for The Kentucky Cycle and Angels In America), this 739-seat theater holds a high standard for its year-round program of plays—and as a result, tends to draw keen, theater-literate audiences.
This 1930's warehouse-turned-theater (complete with an exposed beam ceiling, swoon) hosts performances of all kinds, including music, theater, dance and film. Indie rock bands and local talent are often on tap here, and it's one of the best small music venues on the Eastside. The theater's owners are steeped in the arts as well, from actors to set designers to welders—it's no wonder they fill Bootleg's calendar with such varied and quality shows.
Best museums in Los Angeles
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Chris Burden’s Urban Light, a piece made up of 202 cast-iron street lamps gathered from around L.A. and restored to working order, has quickly become one of the city’s indelible landmarks. But you’d be selling yourself short if you don’t venture beyond the photo-friendly installation; LACMA’s collections boast modernist masterpieces, large-scale contemporary works (including Richard Serra’s massive swirling sculpture and Burden’s buzzing, hypnotic Metropolis II), traditional Japanese screens and by far L.A.’s most consistently terrific special exhibitions. Just a heads up: The eastern half of LACMA’s campus (home to its permanent collection) is mostly closed as it gears up for a massive redesign due to be completed in 2024, but you’ll still find about a half-dozen sizable special exhibitions located in the Resnick Pavilion and BCAM.
What’s now called the Getty Villa (a coastal mansion filled with antiquities that’s absolutely worth a visit, too) served as the decades-long home for the J. Paul Getty Trust’s extensive art collection. But in 1997, the Getty Center opened. The end result is a remarkable complex of travertine and white metal-clad pavilions that houses ornate French furniture, recognizable Impressionist pieces and rotating exhibitions. Its relative inaccessibility is more than compensated for by free admission and panoramic views, from the hills and the ocean in the west all the way around to Downtown in the east.
Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
The bequest of entrepreneur Henry E. Huntington is now one of the most enjoyable attractions in the Los Angeles region. It’s also a destination that demands an entire day should you attempt to explore it in full: Between the art, the library holdings and the spreadeagled outdoor spaces, there’s plenty to see, and most of it is best enjoyed at lingering leisure rather than as part of a mad day-long dash. From a Gutenberg Bible to an exquisitely landscaped Japanese garden, nearly every inch of the estate’s grounds and collection is essential.
Three words: Infinity Mirror Rooms. Downtown’s persistently popular contemporary art museum has two of Yayoi Kusama’s immersive, mirror-laden rooms (and the standy queue to prove it). Elsewhere in the free museum, Eli and Edythe Broad’s collection of 2,000 post-war works includes artists like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger and Jeff Koons. Outside, the museum’s plaza features a lovely olive tree grove that sits in from of Otium, the museum’s signature restaurant from French Laundry alum Timothy Hollingsworth. Find out more in our complete guide to the Broad.
Natural History Museum
The NHM’s original Beaux Arts structure was the first museum building in L.A., opening in 1913 with Exposition Park itself. The more recent Otis Booth Pavilion welcomes visitors into the museum with a six-story glass entrance featuring a stunning, 63-foot-long fin whale skeleton. Highlights include the gem and mineral hall, spectacularly presented dinosaur and mammal fossils, the 3.5-acre urban nature gardens and “Becoming L.A.,” which examines the Los Angeles region’s history from Native Americans to the present day
The vista from this hilltop landmark is stunning, particularly at night when Los Angeles twinkles below. Inside you’ll find a bevy of exhibits, including a Foucault pendulum (directly under Hugo Ballin’s famed mural on the central rotunda), Tesla coil and planetarium show. Give yourself plenty of time before the 10pm closing to gaze through the 12-inch refracting telescope on the roof, otherwise you can look through the far less crowded modern, reflecting telescope on the front lawn.