A stroll down Hollywood Boulevard may offer the quickest way to learn about the Los Angeles’ movie industry, but take the time to discover the lesser-known side of the sprawling metropolis while on vacation. A visit to key Los Angeles museums reveals a city dedicated not only to producing entertainment, but preserving high art and ancient history as well.
1. Getty Center
Located in the trendy Brentwood neighborhood, the Getty Center draws over a million annual visitors with its huge collection of pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, and decorative arts. Designed by architect Richard Meier and opened in 1997, the renowned center also houses a vast collection of American, Asian, and European photographs from the 19th and 20th centuries. Take some time to plan your itinerary and explore the sculpture garden, or have your picture taken with Van Gogh’s “Irises”–once the most expensive painting ever sold. Pack a few light snacks for a picnic in the garden, which offers panoramic views of the city.
2. California Science Center
Advertised as one of America’s largest hands-on science and learning venues, the California Science Center features over a hundred permanent exhibits designed to entertain and educate visitors of all ages. You’ll want to see the ecosystems exhibit with over 400 plant and animal species, as well as the space travel wing displaying a glider from 1902 and the original Gemini capsule used by American astronauts in 1996. The huge center features a number of themed areas, with interactive displays about subjects like the human circulatory system, developments in modern communications, and the impact of earthquakes. The center offers plenty of buttons to push and levers to pull, so use an itinerary planner for ensuring a fun day for families with small kids.
3. Los Angeles County Museum of Art
As the largest art museum in the western United States, the popular LACMA houses more than 120,000 works. The museum’s galleries display major pieces by Rembrandt, Cassatt, and Cezanne, as well as several thousand years’ worth of decorative arts from China and Japan. Designed by architect Renzo Piano, the museum campus also contains a wing holding the personal collection of philanthropist Eli Broad, which includes masterpieces by Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol. In addition to the many exhibits, the museum offers a range of lectures and classes, as well as several long-standing music and film programs so plan your Los Angeles itinerary accordingly. One of L.A.’s major places to visit, this art venue draws a million visitors each year.
4. Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits
The city’s Hancock Park formed around the famous La Brea Tar Pits, the only active Ice Age excavation site in the world. Seeping out of the ground for thousands of years, natural asphalt trapped and preserved animal fossils at this location near the heart of modern Los Angeles. The museum displays well-preserved remains of dire wolves, mammoths, and saber-tooth cats, the original inhabitants of California’s prehistoric savannahs. Stuck in gooey tar rising from below present-day Wilshire Boulevard, thousands of animals died agonizingly slow deaths by starvation or suffocation. You’ll find an outdoor display of a mammoth family meeting their cruel fate in tar as a life-size recreation of the city’s ancient past.
5. Petersen Automotive Museum
California’s ode to transportation, the Petersen Automotive Museum holds more than 150 rare and classic cars, trucks, and motorcycles. Spread over four floors, the exhibits cover a total area of about 28,000 sq m (300,000 sq ft). Car lovers race to get inside this huge venue, drawn by its realistic streetscape dioramas designed to immerse visitors in the history and development of modern transportation. Beyond cars, the museum tells the story of Los Angeles as the birthplace of strip malls, drive-in movie theaters, and gas stations. Exhibits change on a regular basis, so you’re sure to see something different every time you visit.
Featured image by Prayitno