The 13 Best Museums In LA (That You Have To Check Out)
Los Angeles is brimming with fun, exciting, and even educational things to do with friends or family. With the fantastic weather that LA is known for, most people want to be outdoors soaking up the sun and enjoying the beaches or taking hikes in Los Angeles.
On days when it is overcast and rainy, many people want to stay indoors and enjoy more of the cultural scene by museum-hopping. But finding the best museums in Los Angeles to visit can be a daunting task. You will want to check out our list of must-see museums before you make plans. Just remember to find out what the museums' bag policies are before you arrive - you don't want to be turned away because you can't take your bag in with you! Make use of our Los Angeles luggage storage spots and spend the day exploring the best museum the city has to offer.
What Are The Best Museums in Los Angeles?
There are over 90 museums in Los Angeles. While they are all great and provide an enriching learning experience, some of the more specialized museums may not be to everyone’s taste. So, if you are visiting museums with a group, you want to find a few that everyone will enjoy.
Several of these museums are in the Miracle Mile along Wilshire Boulevard. You can easily museum-hop during the day and check out several of the fantastic museums in Los Angeles, many offer special exhibitions and modern art.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
- Address: 5905 Wilshire Blvd, LA (Miracle Mile)
You do need a timed ticket to visit the LACMA. If you are an LA county resident you can get a free ticket on weekdays after 3:00 p.m. The museum boasts several contemporary collections and individual pieces that have greatly influenced the art world.
You do not need a ticket to view the outdoor sculptures. The first sculpture is Urban Light and is comprised of 202 cast-iron street lamps that came from the streets of Los Angeles and have been fully restored.
The second sculpture is Levitated Mass and is a concrete slot that is 456 feet long where a granite megalith that weighs 340 tons sits. Visitors will walk into the concrete slot and go down 15 feet underneath the granite megalith to a chamber and then back up to ground level.
Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
- Address: 1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino
If you are planning to visit this museum on the weekend you will need to make a timed reservation and while reservations are not required for weekday visits, they are recommended. Named after entrepreneur Henry E. Huntington, this is one of the most popular places in LA.
You will want to set aside an entire day to fully explore the Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens. This unique museum is home to several rare book volumes including a Gutenberg Bible as well as amazing art from several different time periods. Blue boy is also on a rotating display.
The botanical gardens are a great place to finish your visit. Sit on one of the benches in the masterfully landscaped Japanese garden and let the peacefulness surround you. The sculptures placed throughout the gardens will also grab your attention and make you want to know more about the artists.
Natural History Museum
- 900 Exposition Blvd, LA (inside Exposition Park)
LA County residents can enjoy the Natural History Museum for free on weekdays between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Step inside the Otis Booth Pavilion with its stunning six-story glass entrance complete with a whale skeleton that is 63 feet long. You do not want to miss the dinosaur hall and its great exhibits.
The mineral hall is one of the highlights and includes mammal fossils and a 3.5-acre nature garden. Learn about the history of Los Angeles from the time of Native Americans to the present day in the Becoming L.A. exhibit. There are fantastic 3D movies to watch that cover almost every topic.
The Beaux-Arts building is still open and is a must-see as it is the first museum building to open in Los Angeles. It opened the same year Exposition Park opened and remained the main building of the Natural History Museum from 1913 until 2013.
- Address: 17985 Pacific Coast Hwy, LA
Admission is free to the Getty Villa but you do have to have a timed ticket to enter. The Getty Villa was originally the home of J. Paul Getty, the oil magnate, and was opened to the public in 1974 to showcase his expansive art collection including several well-known artists, and was the largest art museum.
The collection was eventually split and the paintings and decorative arts were displayed at the Getty Center. The Getty Villa still is home to a massive collection of art including Mediterranean relics. There are over 1,200 items on display at any given time at the villa with many dating back to 6,500 BC.
- Address: 2800 E. Observatory Rd, LA
While the museum located at the Griffith Observatory is only open Friday through Sunday, you can visit the grounds any day of the week. If you have the ability to visit in the evening, when the Los Angeles skyline is lit up, you will want to have that experience.
Inside the museum, you will see the Foucault pendulum and Tesla coil. Sit and enjoy a planetarium show; tickets to this show do cost a small fee. The Griffith Observatory is usually the busiest near sunset when everyone wants to look through the refracting telescope on the roof or the lawn.
California Science Center
- Address: 700 Exposition Park Dr, LA (inside Exposition Park)
Check out the permanent exhibits that explore human innovation and life sciences in a fun, interesting, education-centered way for families to explore. The science center does offer free admission but if you order advance tickets online you do have to pay a service fee.
Do not miss your chance to see the Space Shuttle Endeavour; however, tickets to see this shuttle are about $3 when you visit Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. The shuttle is temporarily housed in the Samuel Oschin Pavilion but will be moved to its permanent home after a massive redesign where it will be displayed fully upright.
Spend a few hours enjoying several interactive, hands-on exhibits geared toward making science and learning fun for kids of all ages. Plan to spend several hours exploring all the California Science Center has to offer and you will not be disappointed. Need more child-friendly activities? We've put together a list of the most fun things to do with kids in LA to get you started.
Norton Simon Museum
- Address: 411 W. Colorado Blvd, Pasadena
Don't miss the Norton Simon Museum, housed inside a Frank Gehry-designed building that is in itself a true masterpiece. Home to the private collection of businessman Norton Simon, this museum has several superior pieces of European art including works by Van Gogh.
The permanent exhibitions include artwork from the 20th century and going back to the Renaissance Era. The Goya paintings and three original Rembrandt paintings are on display. It is also home to several Asian pieces that date back over 2,000 years.
Autry Museum of the American West
- Address: 4700 Western Heritage Way, LA (inside Griffith Park)
Gene Autry created a museum that takes you back through the taming of the American West and its impact on not just the United States, but the entire world. There are several permanent collections dedicated to cowboy memorabilia, Native American artifacts and handiwork, and Western art.
The permanent exhibits do rotate often and special exhibits are brought in to highlight more of the American West and the cowboy. The Western Music Association holds special events each month. In November, the American Indian Arts Marketplace is also held at the museum and has over 200 artists.
Petersen Automotive Museum
- Address: 6060 Wilshire Blvd, LA (Miracle Mile)
There are over 300 different types of vehicles in the permanent collection at the Petersen Automotive Museum including one of the original Batmobiles. With only five galleries only about half the collection is on display at any given time.
Check out the unique and very interesting memorabilia dedicated to the automobile including a Discovery Center for kids with interactive, hands-on exhibits and educational programs. The Hot Wheels exhibit is creative and great fun for kids of all ages. If the family is ready for a lunch break, check out the best street food in LA.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
- Address: 5905 Wilshire Blvd, LA (Miracle Mile)
Take the time to visit the biggest art museum in the Western U.S. The LA County Museum of Art is in a huge complex with a comprehensive permanent collection ranging from Asian to Islamic to Latin American art and everything in between and from almost every time period.
The pre-Columbian artwork is especially interesting as are the more contemporary pieces by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. There are several temporary rotating exhibitions so there is always something new to see when you visit this Los Angeles Museum.
Craft and Folk Art Museum
- Address: 5814 Wilshire Blvd, LA (Miracle Mile)
This specialty museum will not hold the interest of everyone. You have to have a deeper interest in folk art and handicrafts in order to appreciate the greatness of this museum. Its doors opened in 1965 and this attraction has since expanded to include rotating exhibitions of craft media and contemporary art.
Join one of the hands-on workshops offered by professional artists as well as educational classes that delve deeper into the folk art movement. Become inspired to try your hand at handicrafts and various art mediums.
USC Fisher Museum of Art
- Address: 823 W. Exposition Blvd, LA (inside Exposition Park)
With a permanent collection of over 1,800 artifacts and objects, the USC Fisher Museum of Art is a great place to spend an afternoon looking at 16th-17th century Northern European art, 18th-century British portraits, 19th century French Barbizon art, and 19th century American landscapes.
There are also 20th century paintings, drawings, and sculptures on display. You do not want to miss St. John the Evangelist by Anthony van Dyck, Venus Wounded by a Thorn by Peter Paul Rubens, and works by Angelica Kauffman dating back to the late 1700s.
Holocaust Museum LA
- Address: 100 The Grove Drive, LA (inside Pan Pacific)
When you are looking for the best museums in LA you have to visit the oldest Holocaust museum in the U.S. It was opened in 1961 and has since grown into a place with educational resources and programs about the Holocaust so those who perished are never forgotten as well as their Jewish heritage.
Admission to the museum is free. Donations are always welcome to ensure the memory of the victims continues to live on, people are educated about the events leading up to World War II and the Holocaust and the stories of the survivors never cease to be told.
What are the best free museums in Los Angeles?
There are several fantastic free museums in Los Angeles and if you are on a budget, you will definitely want to check several of them out. If you are a resident of LA County, many museums offer free admission during certain times.
The California Science Center is one museum that is awesome for families. With several hands-on, interactive exhibits you will love the time spent here.
The Getty Villa is another fantastic museum that offers free admission. The villa is filled with unique artwork gathered by J. Paul Getty throughout his lifetime.
If you're looking for more than just museums, check out our guide to the free things to do in LA.
What are the best museums in Downtown Los Angeles?
Downtown LA is filled with museums of every shape and size, making it a little daunting to try to figure out which ones to explore.
The Holocaust Museum LA is an absolute must-visit. This dark time in world history that attacked Jewish heritage should never be forgotten and the stories of the survivors will leave you in tears.
The Natural History Museum is another downtown museum you do not want to miss. The permanent exhibitions are wonderful but the special exhibits will make you want to come back time and again.
Are there any cheap museums in Los Angeles?
Cheap is a relative term, some would think that free museums are cheap while others would think admission fees under $20 are cheap. There are several museums in Los Angeles that offer free or cheap admission.
The Griffith Observatory offers free admission but the planetarium at the observatory has special film screenings and admission is $7, but children under 5 years are free.
The Petersen Automotive Museum is another museum that offers cheaper prices. Adult admission is $10, seniors over 62 years, military, and students are $5, children over 4 years are $3 and younger children are free.
Whether you are looking for a bit of culture and want a glimpse into the creative world or you are planning to travel back in time and imagine times gone by, the Los Angeles museum scene is the place to be. Check out the best museums in LA and pick the one or ones that best suit what you are looking for including art galleries.
European paintings from times gone by can be found in several of the art museums while others will showcase emerging artists. You cannot go wrong with any of these museums and while you are in LA, check out some of the other wonderful attractions, such as the Getty Center.