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Home to film studios, world-class entertainment, and stunning visual arts, the twinkling lights of Los Angeles attract millions of visitors each year. Considered the “Creative Capital of the World,” LA is bursting at the seams with culture and diversity.
The best way to experience LA’s creative side is by visiting one of the many museums within the city. With literally hundreds of museums to choose from, you can find everything from world-renown art galleries to bizarre, off-the-beaten-path museums.
We’ve put together a list of the best museums to visit during your trip to Los Angeles. Although you might not be able to visit every single one, you’ll at least have an idea of what La La Land has to offer!
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As one of LA’s iconic landmarks, LACMA is possibly the most popular museum to visit in Southern California. The art installations start even before you walk through the front door! Chris Burden’s 202 iron street lamps stand in front of the museum and have become one of the most prominent symbols of LA. Once inside, you’ll find yourself amid the greatest historical and contemporary works, including Burden’s other famous sculpture, Metropolis II.
Los Angeles is teeming with art galleries, and the Broad is no exception. The museum contains over 2,000 post-war art pieces straight from the private collection of Eli and Edythe Broad. Although you’ll find contemporary artists from all over the world, the highlights include Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, and Jeff Koons. After you visit, stop by the outdoor museum plaza, an $18 million landscaped garden featuring groves of olive trees.
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With over 35 million species and artifacts in its collection, LA’s Natural History Museum is the largest of its kind in the United States. The exhibits cover 4.5 billion years of history, from Ethnology and Entomology to Mammalogy to Mineralogy – and everything in between! While it might take you all day to see everything inside the museum, you can’t miss a visit to the animal habitat and dinosaur rooms.
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Have you ever wanted to climb into a real space shuttle? Or play a game of chess with a robot? Well at the California Science Center, you can do both of those things and more! Although the museum is targeted towards younger visitors, adults, and interested learners of all ages will enjoy exploring the world of science at the California Science Center. Visitors can also learn about ecosystems, experiment with hands-on projects, and examine the natural wonder of life.
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Located on the beautiful Miracle Mile of LA, the Peterson Automotive Museum is guaranteed to delight car lovers from around the world. With a vast collection of over 250 cars, you’ll find everything from vintage Hollywood vehicles to high-performance race cars. There is even an exhibit on “celebrity” cars, like Lightning McQueen from Disney’s Cars and Herbie from Herbie: Fully Loaded.
Access even more cars on this private guided tour of the Vault at the Peterson Automotive Museum!
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The natural asphalt tar pits nestled in the heart of downtown LA is possibly the only museum of its kind! Over the last 150 years, paleontologists and excavators have been digging out dozens of fossils and animal bones that were buried deep beneath the bubbling tar pits. Many of these fossils are on display in the museum. However, you can still admire the giant black pits, many of which have fascinating animal displays in them, to get a feel for a piece of LA history.
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Hollywood Boulevard is home to one of the creepiest museums in all of California. The Museum of Death contains a surprisingly large collection of violent and gruesome memorabilia. You’ll find crime scene photos, used body bags, and even paintings from creative serial killers. There is even a Charles Manson exhibit, where you can find photos and objects taken from the crime scene. While it’s a fascinating museum, it’s definitely not for all ages (or for the faint of heart)!
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Located on the ground floor of the FIDM campus, the FIDM Fashion and Perfume Museum showcases centuries of design and fashion. The collection contains over 12,000 items, including movie theater costumes and fine jewelry. However, the rotating exhibits in the past are just as intriguing. Over the next year, they will host an exhibit on TV show costume design and the Mona Lee Nesseth fan collection.
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No trip to LA would be complete without recognizing the talents of some of the biggest superstars! The Grammy Museum was created to honor the nominees and winners of the world’s most famous musical award, the Grammys. Inside, you’ll find costumes, instruments, and other memorabilia that was featured in the award show. You can even go inside a sound booth to try and record your own versions of your favorite songs!
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If you’re looking for the best profile picture for your social media account, then the Museum of Selfies has you covered. Pose in front of breathtaking backdrops, or fool your followers with mind-bending optical illusions. There’s even a Game of Throne’s style Iron Throne made entirely out of selfie sticks! No matter what pose you strike, don’t forget that you’re the star in the Museum of Selfies!
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Mixing magic with creative art, the Museum of Illusions is a must-see during your trip to LA. There are over 30 larger-than-life interactive murals and exhibits, many of which you can pose or play with yourself. Walk inside an upside-down house, pose on top of a skyscraper, and even run along the sides of dinosaurs.
How many museums are in Los Angeles?
Los Angeles is bursting with museums and galleries; 841 to be exact! It’s considered to have the highest number of museums per capita! There are traditional art, science, and natural history museums, but is also one-off museums you won’t find anywhere else in the world!
How many free museums are in Los Angeles?
Los Angeles is home to many free museums, some of which are the most popular places to visit in the city. The Broad, California Science Museum, and the Getty Center are just a few museums that have free entry all year. It’s also common for other museums to offer free admission one day a month.
What are the hours of Los Angeles museums?
Most museums in LA are open from 9, or 10 am until 5 or 6 pm. It’s common for museums to be open on Saturday or Sunday. However, you might find that some museums close one day a week, usually on a Monday or Tuesday.
What can I bring into Los Angeles museums?
Many art museums, like MOCA or LACMA, prohibit the use of flash, tripods, and selfie sticks. In addition, most museums also do not allow eating or drinking inside, although bottled water is usually okay to bring in.
Although there are plenty of things to see and do in Los Angeles, museum visits might be one of the best ways to soak in its diverse culture.
LA is home to large-scale museums, like LACMA and the Natural History Museum, but also to smaller, quirky places like the Museum of Death and Museum of Selfies. No matter where you choose to visit, you can rest assured that you’re seeing something you won’t find anywhere else in the world!
That’s because like it’s museums, Los Angeles is one of a kind. There’s something for every taste, and for every type of traveler!
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Emma Johnson lives to travel! Born in Washington D.C., Emma is a hotel connoisseur and a staff writer at Hotel Jules. An army brat, Emma got the travel bug early and has never been able to stop. Now, she has proudly visited 70+ countries and plans to visit every country in the world! Passionate about her ukelele (obviously) and her family, Emma eventually wants to retire in Thailand and write a book about all of her travel experiences.