The kids are back in school and most likely will attend a field trip or two this year to see the La Brea Tar Pits or the California Science Center. However, Los Angeles has dozens of visit-worthy museums, some offering free admission.
If you want to make it a family affair, or simply a chance to explore your own passions or interests, here are a few museums to explore.
For more information, there’s also a list of free museum days at socalmuseums.org/free.
Autry Museum of the American West
4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles, 90027
Hours: Tuesday–Friday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday–Sunday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Mondays. In preparation for the Autry’s 30th anniversary celebration, the museum will be closed on Saturday, Oct. 13.
Guided tours: Weekends, 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Gold Panning: Weekends, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Admission: Adults: $14; Students (with current ID) and Seniors (60+): $10; Children (3-12): $6; Children under 3: Free.
Open and free on the second Tuesday of every month.
The Autry is a museum dedicated to bringing together the stories of all peoples of the American West, connecting the past with the present.
Located in Griffith Park, the Autry features world-class galleries filled with Native American art and cultural materials, film memorabilia, historic firearms, paintings, and more. The Autry’s collection of more than 500,000 pieces of art and artifacts includes the Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection, one of the largest and most significant collections of Native American materials in the United States. Historic Southwest Museum Mt. Washington Campus is open Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 234 Museum Drive, Los Angeles, 90065. Free Admission.
221 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 90012
Hours: Tuesday-Wednesday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday-Friday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Mondays, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Admission to The Broad is free. Some special exhibits require advance purchase tickets. The best way to get into The Broad is to obtain timed entrance tickets. The standby waiting line can be long depending on day and time of your visit. Advance tickets are available on The Broad’s website.
The “must-see” exhibits at The Broad are two of Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirror Rooms,” which are currently on view at The Broad. Each room is free to visit but a separate reservation is required for each room. My favorite room is “The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away” (2013). There are no words to describe this amazing work of art. “Longing for Eternity” (2017) is also worth the visit.
The Broad is a contemporary art museum founded by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, and is home to more than 2,000 works of art in the Broad collection, which is among the most prominent holdings of postwar and contemporary art worldwide.
Info and reservations: www.thebroad.org.
The Getty Villa
17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades, 90272
Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Tuesdays.
Admission is free, but a timed-entry ticket is required. Parking is $15.
A visit to the Getty Villa offers exposure to Greek and Roman art in a setting that recreates a first-century Roman villa. Home to the J. Paul Getty Museum’s antiquities collection, the two-floor museum displays art that spans the 7,000 years from the end of the Stone Age to the fall of the Roman empire. The J. Paul Getty Museum’s antiquities collection includes approximately 44,000 Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities.
The earliest objects are Neolithic clay figurines, dating back to the sixth millennium BC, and marble vessels and figurines from the Cycladic islands and Cyprus, dating from the Bronze Age. There are also significant holdings of Greek bronzework, sculpture from southern Italy, and an original Greek bronze statue of the Hellenistic period known as “The Victorious Youth.”
The Getty Villa itself is a recreation of an ancient Roman country house and offers a taste of life in the first century A.D.
Chinese American Museum
425 N Los Angeles St., Los Angeles, 90012
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Closed Mondays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day,
Suggested Admission: $3 Adults; $2 Seniors (60 and over) and students (with ID).
I stumbled upon this tiny gem of a museum during one of my downtown “wanderings.” There is a new main entrance for the museum. Enter the Chinese American Museum (located in the historic Garnier Building) through the courtyard facing Union Station. The museum is housed in the oldest and last surviving structure of Los Angeles’ original Chinatown, the 7,200 square foot museum was opened in 2003 at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, a 44-acre public park honored as Los Angeles’ “birthplace” and the site of its original Chinatown. Exhibits include “Journeys” which narrates Chinese immigration to the United States with an emphasis on community settlement in Los Angeles. The display is outlined into four distinct time periods. Each period is defined by an important immigration law and event, accompanied by a brief description and a short personal story about a local Chinese American and their experiences in that particular historical period.
The Sun Wing Wo General Store and Herb Shop is a recreation of an actual store that was housed in the Garnier Building in the 1890’s. The Sun Wing Wo store opened in 1891 and remained in this building until 1948. On one side of the gallery, people can find merchandise sold at the general store such as food, clothing, furniture, firecrackers, and dishes; they can also find western products that were popular at the time such as cigars and perfumed soaps. The store also provided banking, postal, and letter writing services for the community. On the other side of the gallery, the museum recreated the herb shop where Chinese could practice Chinese Medicine.
Info: www.camla.org or 213-485-8567.
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles, 90007
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Closed: Jan. 1, July 4, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Admission is free the first Tuesday of each month (except July and August) and every Tuesday in September. Adults: $12; Seniors (62+): $9; Students (13-17 or college with valid ID): $9; Children (3-12): $5; Under 3: Free.
The original Beaux Arts structure was the first museum building in Los Angeles, opening in 1913. Its massive collection spans more than 35 million objects and specimens.
The museum is immense, so it is a good idea to download the museum’s layout and plan your visit in advance.
If your time is limited you might want to head first to the Gem & Mineral Hall, where the exhibits include a 4,644-carat topaz, a 2,200-carat opal sphere and a quartz crystal ball with a diameter of 10.9 in and an impressive weight of 65lbs.
Other highlights include three old-school diorama halls and the effectively creepy and hauntingly crawly “Insect Zoo.”
The NHM’s new “Dinosaur Hall” is extraordinary. Inside are more than 300 real fossils, and 20 complete dinosaurs and ancient sea creatures. The centerpiece of the exhibit is the T. rex growth series with the only trio of different aged T. rex specimens in the world.
Info: https://nhm.org, (213) 763-DINO.
William S. Hart Mansion and Museum
24151 Newhall Ave., Newhall, 91321
Fall-Spring hours: Public Tours Wednesdays-Fridays, Noon to 3 p.m. Tours are offered every hour, with the last tour starting at 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Hart Mansion and Museum is close to home and offers visitors an inside look at one of the Santa Clarita Valley’s most famous residents.
A member of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the William S. Hart Museum is the former retirement home of the famed silent film actor and director. Hart, a successful Broadway actor who became the silent screen’s first western hero and one of the biggest box office stars of the 1920s. The larger-than-life actor made more than 50 silent films between 1914 and 1925.
Hart’s Spanish Colonial Revival Style Mansion exhibits an impressive collection of Western artworks by noted artists Charles M. Russell, Frederic Remington and Joe de Yong, as well as mementos from early Hollywood, personal furnishings and effects, and artifacts representing multiple Native American cultures.
The museum also includes an historic 1910 Ranch House that exhibits Hart’s tack and saddle collection, personal furnishings, and additional Hollywood mementos.