Los Angeles

The Coolest, Weirdest and Best Museums in LA

Yes you can go to a museum again!

Now that LA moved into the yellow tier, things in the city are (finally) starting to look a little more normal again. It’s been a challenging year for everyone including the arts and entertainment industry so we’re stoked that museums are finally reopening with fresh installations and new artists to showcase. You might not be able to spontaneously walk in to a museum right now because reservations are required, but with just a little planning ahead you can have a fun day exploring some of the best museums in LA and see why creatives flock to Los Angeles.

California African American Museum 

DTLA
California African American Museum (CAAM) showcases both contemporary and traditional African American art and how it shapes our cultural landscape today. One of the current exhibitions at the CAAM includes Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth which profiles iconic African American men who have made an impact in history and our culture. The museum is located in Exposition Park which is home to several museums so it’s the perfect excuse to spend a day getting cultured.

What to know before you go: Admission is free but reservations are required and can be made here. The museum is closed on Monday and open from 10am-5pm Tuesday through Saturday and 11am-5pm on Sunday.

Skirball Cultural Center

Brentwood
If you haven’t watched the documentary Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry, you should. And then you should check out the Ai Weiwei: Trace exhibit at Skirball which opens on May 15. The exhibit entails 176 portraits made from LEGO® bricks of citizens who have fought against injustice. Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope is an online exhibit available through May 31 that uncovers some of our country’s biggest issues including healthcare, prison reform, and the opioid crisis.  

What to know before you go: Advance timed-entry reservations are required, including on FREE Thursdays; no walk-ups accommodated. General admission is $12, $9 for seniors, full-time students, and children over 12, and $7 for children 2–12; The museum is free to everyone on Thursdays.

The Hammer Museum

Westwood
The Hammer Museum is one of the smaller museums in LA but it’s still worth a visit. The current exhibit Made in LA 2020: a version highlights a variety of artwork from 30 LA-based artists including sculptures, paintings, films, and installations. Don’t forget to check out their gift shop where you can find unique gifts for your art-loving friends.

What to know before you go: The museum is currently open and requires free, advanced reservations and tickets are released every other Tuesday here. The restaurant is currently closed. The museum is closed on Monday; open from 11am-8pm Tuesday–Friday, and 11am-5pm on Saturday & Sunday.

The Broad

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The 120,000-square-foot space at The Broad is two floors filled with canvases, sculptures, and immersive installations that will give you sensory overload from the moment you step foot inside. It’s hard to believe the entire collection of over 2,000 brightly-colored pieces of art on display—like the giant balloon animal by Jeff Koons or the famous "Campbell’s Soup Can" piece by pop artist Andy Warhol—is all privately owned by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad. The reopening will introduce new installations by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Michel Basquiat, and Kara Walker but sadly, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room (2013) and Longing for Eternity (2017) are temporarily closed. Nonetheless, The Broad is the kind of museum that even non-museum-lovers can appreciate, because the collection’s varied enough that there’s something for everyone. 

What to know before you go: The Broad is reopening on May 26th (museum hours will be announced soon). General admission is always free, but it’s done through a reservation system. Tickets will be released on May 12th.

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

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The Natural History Museum is a collection of culture and nature ranging from a Gems and Minerals exhibit, to a Dinosaur Hall and even an exhibit which explores the history of LA called "Becoming Los Angeles." There’s an exhibit for every type of animal lover, as well as ongoing special exhibits like Rise Up L.A.: A Century of Votes for Women, which gives viewers a look back at the history of female rights. 

What to know before you go: The Natural History Museum is open 9:30am to 5pm on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The museum is closed Monday-Wednesday. Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors over 62, students with ID, and children 13 to 17, $7 for children 3 to 12, free for children under 2.

Getty Center Museum

Brentwood
While the art inside the Getty Center comes from world-renowned artists like Michelangelo and Van Gogh, the lush, perfectly manicured garden outside is equally impressive. The architecture and views from the Garden Terrace alone are worth a visit, just to stroll the museum grounds and take in the spectacular views of the city. Of course, the permanent collection on display is no slouch either, and includes European and American art from the 19th and 20th centuries. The museum’s sister property, the Getty Villa Museum off PCH, focuses on Greek and Roman art—in case it wasn’t obvious from the classic Roman columns and country house design.

What to know before you go: The Getty Center Museum is scheduled to open in May.The Getty Villa Museum is open daily from 10am to 5pm and closed on Tuesday. Admission is free.

California Science Center

DTLA
Geek out at this downtown LA museum that explores some of the natural world’s most fascinating topics, with special exhibitions like Mission 26: The Big Endeavour, and The Art of the Brick. You can also watch a film on the seven-story IMAX screen, or marvel at permanent exhibitions like the 122-foot long space shuttle Endeavour, and the only A-12 Blackbird trainer plane ever built. This place is one giant classroom for kids and adults. 

What to know before you go: Timed entry reservations are required and can be made here. The California Science Center is open daily from 10am to 5pm, and admission (except for IMAX and special exhibits) is always free.

LACMA

Miracle Mile
We’d be remiss not to include LACMA in a museum roundup, because it’s hard to call yourself an Angeleno if you haven’t been here. While the Urban Light installation outside LACMA may be the reason some people visit the museum -- it’s definitely one of LA’s coolest attractions -- there’s a lot of other cool art inside that’s worth checking out. The museum is the largest in the Western US with a collection of over 135,000 works of art that parallel LA’s melting pot of cultures and rich history. It also has a solid (but pricey) outdoor restaurant called Ray’s & Stark Bar, which is great for happy hours or a bite between exhibits. 

What to know before you go: In order to comply with guidelines, LACMA is requiring advanced timed-entry tickets for all guests. Tickets can be reserved here. LACMA is open 11am to 5pm Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, 11am to 8pm on Friday, and 10am to 7pm Saturday and Sunday. LACMA is closed on Wednesday.

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Leila Najafi is a travel writer based in LA. Follow her adventures around the world on Instagram at @LeilasList.
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