With over 300 museums in Los Angeles and its surrounding area – more than any other U.S. city – you are almost certain to find something in the Los Angeles museums list below to heighten the enjoyment of your southern California vacation, getaway or holiday. The list is not exhaustive, but it highlights some of Los Angeles most popular museums. You may also want to investigate nearby Orange County and San Diego museums (links are in the “Related Posts” section at the bottom of this article) to see if anything there strikes your fancy.
The Armand Hammer Museum of Art & Cultural Center at UCLA, Los Angeles – Works by Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, and other masters are part of permanent collections shown on a rotating basis. (hammer.ucla.edu/index.htm)
Autry National Center’s Museum of the American West, Los Angeles – Eight galleries of art and artifacts depicting historical and fictional episodes explore the distinct stories and interactions of cultures and peoples and their impact on the complex, evolving history of the American West. (autrynationalcenter.org)
California African American Museum, Los Angeles – In Exposition Park, this state-run museum was renovated in 2005 and offers permanent fine arts and history collections as well as changing exhibits that document the 20th century African-American experience. (caam.ca.gov)
California Science Center, Los Angeles – In Exposition Park, this public-private partnership between the State and the California Science Center Foundation consists of an IMAX movie theater, the Sketch Foundation Gallery Air and Space Exhibits, the Weingart Exhibit Gallery and a Science Court and Plaza. (californiasciencecenter.org)
Getty Center, Los Angeles – This stunning Richard Meier-designed structure offers breathtaking gardens and European masterpieces and also presents lectures, films, concerts and special programs. The complex includes a restaurant (reservations required), two cafeterias and two outdoor coffee bars. The center is accessible by public transportation. On-site parking is subject to availability and often reaches capacity on holidays and summer weekends, so try to come early in the day. Admission is free, but there is a charge for parking. (getty.edu/visit/)
Getty Villa, Malibu – The Getty Center’s recently renovated coastal counterpart displays Roman and Greek antiquities in an exquisite venue, the only reconstruction of a Roman Patrician country home in the U.S. Easy access, however, is not its strong suit. Given the location, driving is the only convenient way to visit, and strict admission policies require that you reserve a timed-entry ticket in advance. While admission is free, parking costs $7 (cash only). Also, be advised that you must be north-bound on the PCH in order to turn into the driveway. (getty.edu/visit/)
Guinness World Records Museum, Hollywood – Enjoy displays chronicling world records for amazing facts, feats, and achievements with film, special effects and animated displays. (guinnessattractions.com/hollywood.aspx)
Heritage Square Museum, Los Angeles – Established in 1969, this living history museum reflects the settlement and development of Southern California from 1850 to 1950 and consists of eight Victorian-era structures of historical and architectural importance. (heritagesquare.org/)
Hollywood History Museum, Hollywood – Located just steps away from the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the historic Max Factor Building, this is the ultimate destination for movie fans. (thehollywoodmuseum.com)
Hollywood Wax Museum, Hollywood – Some Los Angeles museums are probably more correctly classified as tourist attractions, but there are engaging likenesses of past-and-present Hollywood stars here. (hollywoodwax.com)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles – With more than 150,000 works of art from ancient times to the present, LACMA is considered one of the premier visual arts museums in the western U.S. (lacma.org)
Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, Los Angeles – This architecturally intriguing museum recently opened at its new Pan Pacific Park location (in 2010), but it’s actually the oldest Holocaust museum in the United States. Open every day of the week and free to visit, the museum’s collection and exhibits are designed to commemorate and educate. (lamoth.org)
Madame Tussauds – Located in the heart of Hollywood, adjacent to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, this is the first Madame Tussauds wax museum attraction to be built from the ground up in the company’s 200-year history. More than 100 figures are on display in 11-themed areas, many of which are related to movies and celebrities. Visitors are able to actually touch and approach these Madame Tussauds figures and even pose for photos with them. (madametussauds.com/hollywood/)
Mission San Gabriel Arcangel, San Gabriel – The wealthiest of all the early missions, the parish continues to be an evangelizing and hope-filled presence for the poor, recent immigrants, youth and families. The Mission church, museum, grounds and gardens are open seven days a week from 9:00am to 4:30pm. Please visit the website for admission and further details. (sangabrielmission.org)
Mission San Fernando Rey de España, Mission Hills – Founded September 8, 1797, this was the 17th California mission and the fourth to be founded in three months as Father Lasuén hurried to close the gaps in El Camino Real. Interestingly, California’s first gold discovery occurred on this mission’s property in 1842, preceding the famous California Gold Rush by about six years. (missiontour.org/sanfernando/index.htm)
Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles – Financed by private donations and developed with pieces acquired from private collections, MOCA is a premier showcase of modern art (created after 1940). Its permanent collections and thematic exhibitions include paintings, sculpture and environmental works. (moca.org)
Museum of Flying, Santa Monica – Temporarily closed pending the funding and construction of new facilities. (museumofflying.com)
Museum of Tolerance, Los Angeles – A visit to this educational arm of the Simon Wiesenthal Center can provide a breathtaking journey through 20th century history, enlighten thinking about what leads people to hate and provide insights into how ordinary people have changed the world with extraordinary actions. The museum strongly recommends advance reservations. (museumoftolerance.com)
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles – Founded in 1913, this is a national powerhouse in research, exhibitions and education, safeguarding more than 33 million artifacts. It is the largest natural and historical museum in the western U.S. (nhm.org)
Nethercutt Museum, Sylmar – One of the more interesting Los Angeles museums (located in the San Fernando Valley), the Nethercutt displays more than 130 classic luxury automobiles, including some of the world’s greatest special interest automobiles like Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance winners. (nethercuttcollection.org/)
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena – One of the world’s finest art collections, reflecting the extraordinary effort and vision of its founder, it stands as a tribute to Human Civilizations, the visual arts and the nobility of individual accomplishment. (nortonsimon.org/)
Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles – The automobile and Los Angeles are linked together in a historical experience at this expansive and innovative automotive museum. (petersen.org)
Travel Town Museum, Los Angeles – Located in Griffith Park, this outdoor museum focuses on railroad transportation history (1880-1930s) in the western U.S. with particular emphasis on southern California and Los Angeles. (laparks.org/grifmet/tt)
Wells Fargo History Museum, Los Angeles – In 1852, Henry Wells and William G. Fargo founded a company that has become a legendary part of America. Take a look at Wells Fargo stagecoaches and more in five major exhibits covering more than 150 years of Wells Fargo history, including a video presentation in the museum theater. (wellsfargohistory.com/museums/museums_la.htm)
Zimmer Children’s Museum – Located in the “museum row” area of the Miracle Mile (along with other entries from the above Los Angeles museums list, including LACMA and the Petersen Automotive Museum), this unique children’s museum encourages cultural awareness and celebrates diversity through entertaining hands-on exhibits and activities. (zimmermuseum.org)
If that list of Los Angeles museums doesn’t have what you’re looking for, be sure to check out the links below to information about other museums in nearby Orange County and San Diego.
Photo of Getty Center by fadedpictures via flickr (Creative Commons); Photo of Hollywood Wax Museum by kiwanja via flickr (Creative Commons); Photo of Museum of Contemporary Art by Clinton Steed via flickr (Creative Commons); Photo of Norton Simon Museum by tata_aka_T via flickr (Creative Commons).
Note: Information in this article was accurate
when it was published, but hours, prices, etc.
change constantly. Please confirm details
with local contacts before traveling.