Welcome, fellow museophiles! The best museums in Los Angeles are among the finest in the world. From hilltop paradise the Getty Center to the enormous Los Angeles County Museum of Art, you’ll be able to indulge cultural cravings to your heart’s content.
As a Los Angeles local, discovering the many treasures of our area’s museums is one of my favorite LA activities. With more than 100 Los Angeles museums to choose from, the options are almost overwhelming, but not to worry. In this guide, I’ve gathered the very best to make planning your visit easy.
Table of Contents
- 23 Best Museums in Los Angeles
- Getty Center
- Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
- California Science Center
- Museum of Dream Space
- Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA Grand)
- The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (MOCA Geffen)
- La Brea Tar Pits and Page Museum
- The Broad
- GRAMMY Museum
- Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
- Griffith Observatory
- Getty Villa
- Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens
- Norton Simon Museum
- Hammer Museum
- Petersen Automotive Museum
- California African American Museum
- Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
- Hollywood Museum
- Autry Museum of the American West
- Skirball Cultural Center
- Museum of Flying
- Museum of Jurassic Technology
- Museums in Los Angeles FAQ’s
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23 Best Museums in Los Angeles
A tranquil hilltop art institution that will dazzle you with spectacular views inside and out
Hands down one of the best museums in Los Angeles, the Getty Center is my go-to spot anytime I need a little creative inspiration. Built with pale, fossil-laced travertine stone, the striking structures here don’t merely house world-class artworks, they embody the spirit of masterpiece.
Outdoor seating in two cafes overlooks the Getty Center museum gardens, curated as superbly as the collection within. A full-service restaurant located on the plaza level offers views of the Santa Monica Mountains.
Also known as the J. Paul Getty Museum, the expansive collection featured here spans over a millennium of artistic achievement. By displaying modern works alongside European paintings by masters such as Pissaro, Gaugin, and van Gogh, Getty Center exhibits invite the mind to journey through the world of art rather than just bearing witness to it.
💰 Pro Budget Tip: Admission to the Getty Center is free, but there is a $20 parking fee. To get the most for your money, get a same-day pass from Museum Information Desk and pair your Getty Center visit with a trip to the Getty Villa, located on the border of Pacific Palisades and Malibu.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Imaginative exhibitions that honor artistic expression and cultural diversity
As the largest art museum in the Western United States, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is home to nearly 150,000 objects.
Representing 6,000 years of artistic endeavor, the curators are committed to exploring fresh points of view on works both new and old. You’ll find LACMA’s exhibition space as innovative as any of the contemporary art museums in Los Angeles.
One of the best things to do in West Hollywood, LACMA is a centerpiece of museum row. In fact, this Los Angeles, CA institution is within easy walking distance of the La Brea Tar Pits, the Academy Museum, and the Petersen Automotive Museum.
The museum’s three eateries, including a full-service bar, remain open during an ongoing renovation. The work has temporarily closed a few of the main galleries, including the museum’s collection of Islamic art.
California Science Center
Multi-sensory experiences offer insight into humans’ understanding of our planet and beyond
One of the best museums for family visits, California Science Center appeals to minds of all ages. Interactive exhibits include a discovery center area and a touch tank where kids can have a gentle hands-on experience with sea life.
No matter one’s age or stature, staring up at the hulking Space Shuttle Endeavour adds a measure of perspective to the enormity of outer space. It’s one of the best things to do in Los Angeles for science exploration.
One of four museums in Exposition Park, California Science Center is adjacent to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the California African American Museum, and the Los Angeles Coliseum.
🍨 Make time for a treat! Head over to The Coffee Bar and pour a shot of espresso over one of their hand-scooped ice cream flavors for a yummy DIY affogato. Come meal time you’ll find frill-free fare in the cafe and market.
Museum of Dream Space
A series of immersive light and art installations offering one-of-a-kind photo ops
📍 Google Maps | Website | Cost: $32.50 Monday through Thursday, $36 Friday through Sunday, adults; $22.50 / $25 children (3-12,) military, student, senior (60+) | Hours: 11 am – 8 pm Monday through Saturday, 11 am – 6 pm Sundays
The Museum of Dream Space, commonly referred to as MoDs, is a whole new thing. Vibrant, fully interactive, just plain fun, and 100% best when shared.
The first digital art museum in the United States, MoDs is a new-gen experience honed to suit the social media savvy. After snapping a few pics in front of specially placed projections you’ll enter a set of rooms inspired by the infinity rooms of Yayoi Kusama. These spaces are otherworldly, like walking through a dream about a strange planet.
Unlike other museums in Los Angeles, you need only an hour or so to visit MoDs. Located in the Beverly Center, this attraction is easy to mix into a shopping trip, or as a part of LA sightseeing day trips to nearby Beverly Hills.
📸 Pro tip: Take advantage of the premium photo packages offered here. Each member of the Museum of Dream Space staff is a professional photographer, and with their guidance, you’re assured some great shots while remaining free to fully embrace the wonder.
Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA Grand)
The flagship location of a lauded Los Angeles, CA modern art museum with absorbing exhibits in a wide range of mediums
Every time I visit, the Museum of Contemporary Art takes my mind somewhere it’s never been. It’s become my personal favorite of the world-class assemblage along Grand Ave in downtown Los Angeles.
Founded by artists, the museum opens an introspective window into the industry’s leading creative minds.
🍽️ MOCA Eats: Operated by a popular local fast-casual chain, Lemonade at MOCA Grand is an excellent spot to get a quick bite.
The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (MOCA Geffen)
Up-to-the-minute exhibitions focused largely on the work of young and emerging artists
MOCA’s second campus, the Geffen Contemporary, enhances the museum’s for-artists-by-artists vibe by focusing on emerging artists.
Located in the Little Tokyo neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles, this avant-garde collection is housed in a former police car warehouse renovated by renowned California architect Frank Gehry.
🕗 Extended Hours: MOCA Geffen and MOCA Grand are open until 8 pm most Thursdays, just be sure to check the website for the most up-to-date listing.
La Brea Tar Pits and Page Museum
An iconic Los Angeles attraction showcasing natural history with a touch of Hollywood flair
This natural history museum is serving drama, mama! That mammoth family has been out here fighting for its life for decades.
Now, papa mammoth is technically mired in a pond, so you’ll want to wander trails through the surrounding park to have a look at some actual tar pits. Interactive exhibits in the adjoining museum go a step further by allowing you the opportunity to feel what it was like to be stuck in the Ice Age muck.
While this spot doesn’t offer any on-site dining options, there are plenty nearby. One of five Los Angeles museums on Museum Row, this attraction is conveniently located just south of Hancock Park in Beverly Grove, a great Los Angeles area for shopping and dining.
🛏️ Need a place to stay? Just 5 minutes away from Museum Row, the Beverly Laurel Hotel offers affordable rooms in a desirable central location.
A famous fixture in the world of contemporary art, featuring dynamic exhibitions drawn from one of the world’s greatest collections
Dedicated exclusively to works created from 1950 through the present, this Grand Avenue contemporary art palace throws open the doors of the creative world to welcome one and all.
Pronounced “Brōhd,” like “road”, this downtown Los Angeles art museum showcases selections from the $2.2 billion collection of world-renowned philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad. Significant pieces from the permanent collection include Two Marilyns by Andy Warhol and Tulips by Jeff Koons.
The Broad’s rotation of special exhibits is often well worth checking out, but you’ll need separate tickets for those so be sure to reserve on the website when planning your trip.
🚇 How to Get There: Downtown Los Angeles can be tricky to navigate and parking gets pricey. The Metro rail is a good way to get around this area. The closest stop to the Broad Museum is the Civic Center / Grand Park Station.
Illuminative explorations behind the scenes of American music history
📍 Google Maps | Museum Website | Cost: $18, Adults; $15, Seniors (65+); $12 Students w/ Valid ID; $12 Ages 5-17; $15 Military w/ Valid ID; Free, 4 years and under | Hours: Hours: 11 am – 5 pm Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday; 10 am – 6 pm Saturday; Closed Tuesday
As an avid music lover and festival-goer, I was the teeniest bit skeptical about how this sonorous art form could resonate in the quiet confines of a museum. Then I walked into the GRAMMY Museum and spent two hours at a single exhibit.
The Recording Academy has done a brilliant job of illustrating the whys and hows of the music industry, from the influences of technological advancement within the art to the cultural impact of music upon the world at large.
One popular area features a huge collection of red carpet looks worn by the industry’s brightest stars on music’s biggest night. Special exhibitions often feature live performances by well-known celebrities who tend to bring their A-game to Academy events.
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Do a deep dive into dinos in Dinosaur Hall and other exhibitions dedicated to the past, present, and future of our natural world
📍 Google Maps | Museum Website | Cost: $15, adults, $7, children 3-12, $12, seniors & students, Free for children 2 & under | Hours: 9:30 am – 5 pm, closed Tuesdays | 👉 Natural History Museum Ticket w/ Self-Guided Audio Tour
Dating back to the opening of Exposition Park in 1913, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is one of the area’s oldest cultural institutions and one of the top museums in California.
Albeit that history pales in comparison to that of the inhabitants of Dinosaur Hall, which include a trio of T.rex and a plesiosaur called Polly, the only pregnant plesiosaur fossil ever discovered.
Another great museum for families, the Natural History Museum keeps the kiddos engaged with creatively educational activities in the Discovery Center. Grown folks gravitate to the sparkle and shimmer of the 2,000+ specimens on view in the Gem and Mineral Hall.
Food and drink options are limited in this Los Angeles County museum, but you’ll find a variety of grab-n-go items in the NHM Grill. There are plenty of picnic tables, but if you’re up for a mealtime stroll there’s no better place for it than the Exposition Park Rose Garden.
💰 LA Local Loophole: L.A.County residents can get free Museum Admission at onsite ticket windows from 3–5 pm Monday through Friday.
An iconic Griffith Park attraction with incredible views in every direction
The most-visited public Observatory anywhere in the world, Griffith Observatory is a don’t-miss LA icon. Perched high on a hill in Griffith Park, the observatory has a phenomenal view over the city (especially at sunset) and is a fantastic place to see the famous Hollywood sign.
There are a couple of obvious big-ticket items here – more eyes have peered through the lenses of Griffith’s enormous refracting telescope than any other on Earth! Even so, the most popular attraction is the Samuel Oschin Planetarium. Narrated by live storytellers, presentations in the state-of-the-art dome surround you with wonder.
While you’ll need to purchase tickets to the planetarium, the telescope and permanent exhibits such as the museum’s collection of celestial jewelry are free to visit anytime the building is open. The Café at the End of the Universe offers casual dining options from Wolfgang Puck Catering.
👉 Pro tip: To get a look at Griffith Observatory from the valley below, check out Barnsdall Art Park. On top of a nice viewpoint for the observatory, the park features a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and gorgeous views of the sunset over Los Angeles, CA.
Antiquities and architecture create an ambiance of opulence that carries the mind to Ancient Greece
What the Getty Center is to recent times the Getty Villa is to way back when. Nestled in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains where the posh suburb of Pacific Palisades meets the Malibu coastline, this fastidious recreation of an Italian country home whisks guests back some 2,000 years and half a world away.
One of the best things to do in Malibu, The Villa’s permanent collections focus exclusively on Greek, Etruscan, and Roman decorative arts. Rotating exhibitions complement distinctly European surroundings by showcasing works of a similar age crafted by cultures around the globe.
The Mediterranean-inspired menu at the Villa Cafe highlights local, seasonal ingredients. There’s also a lovely afternoon tea service in the garden on Thursdays and Saturdays (reservations required.) Those options are on the pricier side, so hit up the Coffee Kiosk for more popularly priced provisions.
🏖️ Pro tip: In spring and summer, make the most of your time and money by visiting Getty Center in the morning and the Villa in the early afternoon, then spend a few hours lounging on a beautiful LA beach.
Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens
A seamless blend of art and nature in 130 acres of exquisitely curated gardens
📍 Google Maps | Museum Website | Cost: $25 weekdays, $29 weekends, adult; $21/$24, seniors (65+), active military, students; $13, youth 4-11; Free, children under 4 | Hours: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday – Monday, Closed Tuesdays
Plenty of museums complement their collections with a lovely outdoor area, but this destination turns that concept on its head. The 83,000 living specimens planted here are the stars, complemented by a lovely art museum and top-notch library showcasing rare illuminated manuscripts.
Located in San Marino, just outside the neighborhoods of Los Angeles, CA, the Huntington offers ample enchantment for a full-day visit. Guests can enjoy ample refreshments in the gardens’ two cafés, coffee show, or milk tea pavilion.
🏛 Weekend Warrior Bonus: While the gardens aren’t a place you’ll want to rush away from, Saturday visitors can make the most of their trek eastward of Los Angeles, CA by coupling this attraction with a visit to nearby Norton Simon Museum, open until 7 pm.
Norton Simon Museum
Thought-provoking galleries brimming with masterworks from a star-studded roster of painters and sculptors
📍 Google Maps | Website | Cost: $15, Adults; $12, Seniors (62+); Free, Students & Children (under 18) | Hours: 12 pm – 5 pm Thursday/Friday/Sunday/Monday, 12 pm – 7 pm Saturday, Closed Tuesday & Wednesday
So ok, minor confession time: I hadn’t been to the Norton Simon Museum until recently. Which it turns out is much to my chagrin, because the collection here is phenomenal. Van Gogh? Check. Picasso? Check. Gaugin, Degas, Monet, Kandinsky, Modigliani? Check x 5. I could go on, but won’t because it’s all the better if y’all just come see for yourselves!
While this Los Angeles County museum may not boast the square footage of some contemporaries (or, technically speaking, an address within the city limits of Los Angeles, CA,) the curators have made the most of each space. Each gallery seems to pose a question you’ve never considered, teasing new understanding and perception into being at every turn.
Outside the galleries, you’ll find two sculpture gardens and a pleasant Garden Café.
🚗 How To Get There: Located a few miles northeast of Los Angeles in Pasadena, this is a location you’ll probably want a car to visit. From Central LA you’ll take the 110 E or the 134 E from Hollywood. Alternatively, the APU/Citrus College Station of the Metro gold line is just under a mile’s walking distance from the museum.
Insightful exhibitions highlighting artists that challenge the status quo and stimulate expanded perspectives
Now, I love museums, but I have plenty of friends that feel differently. It might surprise you that some of those folks are in fact artists… or, if you know a bit about, say, Banksy, it might not. Which I get, the “traditional” museum experience doesn’t necessarily make room for avant-garde thinking.
Enter Hammer Museum. Here they’re passionate about uplifting artists who compel the audience to look at things from a new angle and to get creative. The spaces are lively and welcoming, almost more like an art gallery opening than a museum. Be it the work of an established master or a brand-new emerging artist, you’re going to see something you didn’t expect.
A non-profit organization run by the University of California, Los Angeles, the Hammer is committed to accessibility, offering free art classes, screenings, lectures, and more.
🍽️ Don’t miss Lulu’s! The Hammer’s onsite restaurant is a real treat. The seasonal, sustainability-driven menu features a daily changing menu for lunch and supper as well as a selection of à la carte items.
Petersen Automotive Museum
An extensive collection of things that go ‘vroom’ housed in a stylishly futuristic structure
From vintage vehicles like 1930’s hot rods to entertainment industry icons like Doc Brown’s Delorean and electric supercars of the future, Petersen Automotive Museum is a Los Angeles, CA mecca for motorheads. Reminiscent of a high-end showroom, the sleek, modern interiors are complemented by an iconic red and silver exterior.
You’ll find ample parking in the onsite garage – for a price. $17 with validation is steep, but Petersen is conveniently located for visits to other popular destinations where parking may be in short supply. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Academy Museum of Motion Pictures are right across the street, and the famous Tar Pits are just about a 5-minute walk east.
Alternatively, you could always skip the parking price tag and choose a place to stay in Los Angeles that’s nearby.
🏁 🍽️ Fuel Up at Meyers Manx Cafe. The Petersen’s onsite restaurant serves coffee and casual fare for breakfast and lunch.
California African American Museum
Poignant exhibits that illustrate the art, history, and culture of African Americans
As the first African American museum of its kind to be fully supported by a state, the California African American Museum is itself emblematic of the cultural treasures within. Made up of over 6,000 objects including paintings, historical objects, and mixed media works, the permanent collection illustrates the importance and excellence of African American culture.
An anchor of Exposition Park since 1984, the museum is currently undergoing renovations. While the main galleries are all receiving upgrades, limited exhibitions are on display in the atrium.
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
Illustrative explorations of cinema that will reinvigorate your appreciation for the art form
Now, as a kid, the Academy Awards were basically my Superbowl, so I am admittedly among the target market for this one. Rest assured, it does not disappoint! This museum transports guests into the world of cinema as easily as a click of the heels took Dorothy to Oz… in the very same ruby slippers you’ll find displayed here.
As a leading authority on the art form, the Academy knows that at the heart of every great film is a great story. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Museum doubles down on this understanding, using the stories of great filmmakers worldwide to weave a larger tale, the life story of film itself.
🍸 Let’s Do Lunch! Film fans and foodies alike love on-site restaurant Fanny’s, where a chef-driven menu and finely curated cocktails are served with a flair of decadence that harkens back to the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Carefully preserved movie memorabilia from some of the biggest names in Hollywood history
If your favorite flicks feature bombshell blondes and blockbuster special effects, then check out one of the best things to do in Hollywood – the Hollywood Museum.
With permanent exhibitions dedicated to Marilyn Monroe, Ghostbusters, and Back to the Future, the museum offers a vast collection of memorabilia that shows off showbiz.
🛏️ Need a place to stay? What better place to stay if you love silver screen lore than a Hollywood legend? The Hollywood Roosevelt, just a 5-minute walk west of the Hollywood Museum, is as fabulous as it is famous.
Autry Museum of the American West
A vast collection of multicultural artifacts relating stories of the Old West
📍 Google Maps | Website | Cost: $14, Adults; $10, Students & Seniors (60+); $6, Children (3-12); Free, Veterans & Active Military | Hours: 10 am – 4 pm Tuesday through Friday, 10 am – 5 pm Saturdays & Sundays, Closed Mondays
Tackling an interesting and sometimes complicated challenge, the Autry Museum tells stories collected by people throughout the history of the Western United States. The museum’s collection contains more than 600,000 artifacts from a wide array of cultures and periods, displayed in exhibits that illustrate the history of the Western United States.
Now known as the Autry National Center, the organization oversees three institutions: the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, the Museum of the American West, and the Institute for the Study of the American West.
Located in Griffith Park, the museum hosts several popular events, including food truck gatherings and outdoor movie screenings.
🎖 Supporting the Troops: The Autry offers free admission to all U.S. veterans and active duty service members.
Skirball Cultural Center
A Los Angeles, CA, cultural touchstone that is rooted in Jewish heritage and devoted to celebrating discovery and hope
📍 Google Maps | Website | Cost: Entrance is free, Noah’s Ark is $12, general admission; $9, students and seniors; $7, ages 2 – 12 | Hours: 12 pm – 5 pm Tuesday through Friday, 10 am – 5 pm Saturdays & Sundays, Closed Mondays
Located in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA, the Skirball is a spiritually restorative place for sharing, forming connections, and finding a common purpose.
Guests love the award-winning Noah’s Ark experience, an 8,000-square-foot wooden ark filled with animals lovingly crafted from recycled or repurposed materials. Other ongoing exhibitions include an archeological Discovery Center for kids and changing selections from the Skirball’s permanent collection, one of the world’s largest collections of Judaica.
Menus at Zeidler’s Café or casual grab-and-go Judy’s Counter offers options to suit dietary restrictions.
Museum of Flying
A Santa Monica local gem presenting antique aircraft and the California Aviation Hall of fame
Stepping into the hangar at the Museum of Flying feels akin to stepping back in time to the LA heyday of Howard Hughes. An easy and relaxed visit, this spot is a great choice for those with an interest in aviation, or anyone who loves exploring destinations off the beaten path.
This unique Los Angeles area museum is located in Santa Monica. Highlights of the collection include a Douglas A-4 “Skyhawk” and a North American Navion, a civil aircraft marketed to pilots returning from World War II.
Museum of Jurassic Technology
A quirky assortment of curiosities displayed in a spooky Victorian-style home
📍 Google Maps | Website | Cost: $12, general admission; $10, seniors/students/educators/unemployed; $3, persons w/ disabilities & active military; Free, child under 12 | Hours: 2 – 8 pm Thursday & Friday. 12 – 6 pm Saturday & Sunday
Don’t be fooled by the word ‘Jurassic,’ there are no dinos on display at this intriguing Los Angeles, CA destination. There are hand-carved peach pits, and long-winded explanations of metaphysical theories that somehow make less sense the more attention you pay them. Plus a handful of uncomfy-yet-accurate tidbits that exist in the shadowy cobwebbed corners of history.
As a bonus treat, complimentary tea and cookies are served in the second-floor courtyard.
Museums in Los Angeles FAQ’s
What museums are free in Los Angeles?
The Getty Center, Broad Museum, MOCA, and California Science Center are some of the most popular free museums in Los Angeles, CA.
What is the biggest museum in Los Angeles?
The biggest museum in Los Angeles is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Known as LACMA, this is also the largest art museum in the western United States.
How many museums are in Los Angeles?
There are over 100 museums in Los Angeles, CA, including over 30 free museums.
Is the Getty Villa free?
Admission to the Getty Villa is free. However, there is a $20 per car fee to park in the onsite lot.
There you have it, 23 of the best museums in Los Angeles. While you’re here, be sure to check out our epic list of the best things to do in California!
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy all your LA adventures!
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