Los Angeles is full of rich history, much like New York, Chicago, and New Orleans. From its earliest foundation in the late 18th century to the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1940s and ’50s, Los Angeles has earned an indelible reputation as a center of history, culture, and art in the American landscape. What better way to showcase the city than planning a visit to one of the many museums in LA?
Museums in LA You Must Visit at Least Once
The City of Angels has no shortage of entertainment. Los Angeles has plenty to do, from movie theaters to sports arenas to theme parks, and there’s never enough time to do it all. Museums in LA should be part of your itinerary on your next visit, and we recommend these fourteen incredible spots around the city.
The Getty Museum
Housed within the beautiful and opulent Getty Center is the world-famous Getty Museum. With commanding views of L.A. on the outside and thousands of paintings on the inside, guests can spend hours at the Getty Museum and still not see everything there is to see. In particular, visitors should try to see “Iris” by van Gogh, the museum’s most celebrated piece.
The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
Los Angeles is synonymous with the motion picture industry, a business that dates back to the early 20th century. With how closely tied the City of Angels is to the industry, it’s a given to expect a museum or two dedicated to cinematic history. Such is the case with the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Inside, guests can see famous props from the industry’s bygone days, like Bela Lugosi’s cape from Dracula or Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.
The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Like its counterpart on the East Coast at New York‘s Natural History Museum, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is the site of numerous historical artifacts dating back 4.5 million years into the past. With literally millions of items inside, the Natural History Museum has everything from fossilized remains of marine mammals to ancient relics from pre-Columbian civilization.
The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens
Between its library, museum, and wondrous botanical gardens, there’s something to pique any interest at Huntington Library. A collection-based research library, Huntington has various literary, artistic, and natural wonders on its grounds. For example, bookworms and history fans can access over seven million manuscripts from the 11th century, including early drafts from Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Twain.
The Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum
With how close Los Angeles is to the Pacific, you better believe the city has a deep connection to the sport of surfing. At Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum, guests can learn more about the city’s famous relationship to the sport, including exhibits based around influential surfing legends. Though somewhat niche, it’s assuredly one of the best museums in LA.
Possibly the most famous museum in La La Land, the Broad is an art museum you must see to believe. Most of its collection is free to access, with some additional admission fees required for select exhibits. Known for its idiosyncratic architecture, the museum has almost two thousand art pieces in its catalog, including pieces from Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol.
The Museum of Neon Art
Among the best museums in L.A., the Museum of Neon Art is dedicated entirely to neon art. Though that might seem incredibly niche initially, the museum’s collection of neon-lit pieces is awe-inspiring. Specific exhibits worth seeing include the neon sign from the Brown Derby (dating back to 1929) and the original dragon sign from Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art
The largest art museum on the West Coast, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has over 150,000 pieces in its collection. Located directly across from the iconic La Brea Tar Pits, L.A.C.M.A. has pieces based on Impressionist, Contemporary, Surrealist, and Ancient art. In the past, L.A.C.M.A. also featured exhibits centered around celebrated Hollywood directors, including Stanley Kubrick and Tim Burton.
The Walt Disney Carolwood Barn
In addition to pioneering animation in the film industry and building one of the largest theme parks in the world, Walt Disney was also a dedicated fan of trains. While Walt’s love for trains is referenced throughout Disneyland, fans can learn more about his fascination for railroads at the Walt Disney Carolwood Barn. Here, visitors can see Disney’s personal collection of railroad-related memorabilia, right down to the barn once used by the animation giant.
The GRAMMY Museum
Along with hosting the Oscars, Los Angeles is also known as the site of the inaugural Grammy Awards ceremony, a celebration that dates back to 1959. At the GRAMMY Museum, visitors can learn more about the prestigious history of the Grammys, complete with detailed looks at some of the awards’ most cherished winners. As one of the best museums in L.A., the GRAMMY Museum also features constantly changing exhibits, with past examples including past attractions based around Michael Jackson, the Beatles, and Shakira.
The Hammer Museum
Unlike most other art museums in L.A., the Hammer Museum is dedicated to shining a light on overlooked and emerging voices in the art world. In addition, the museum also houses lesser-known pieces from internationally renowned artists from the past, such as Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh. Not only is it a great place, but it’s also completely free to visit.
Autry Museum of the American West
One of the overall best museums in L.A. is the fascinating Autry Museum of the American West. Detailing the eventful history of the American West, the Autry Museum also showcases the diverse range of voices attached to Westward Expansion, analyzing both American settlers’ and Indigenous Americans’ perspectives. Far from being a history museum alone, the museum also analyzes how contemporary society’s understanding of the Wild West has changed over the years, sifting fact from larger-than-life fiction.
Japanese American National Museum
The Japanese American National Museum is not only dedicated to the perseverance of Japanese citizens in America, but it’s also a lasting testament to the hopes and sacrifices of Japanese immigrants who moved to America to start anew. Within the museum’s hallowed halls, visitors will come face to face with stirring exhibits chronicling Japanese Americans’ initial settlement in America in the late 19th century.
The Hollywood Bowl Museum
Another niche museum in the City of Angels, the Hollywood Bowl Museum is among the best museums in L.A. At this venue, guests can learn more about the detailed history behind the world-famous Hollywood Bowl, a concert hall originally opened in 1922. Touring the museum grounds, visitors will educate themselves about the amphitheater’s construction and some of the famous personalities who performed on stage.
Richard Chachowski is an entertainment and travel writer who has written for such publications as Wealth of Geeks, Looper, Screen Rant, Fangoria, and Sportskeeda, among many others. He received his BA from The College of New Jersey and has been a professional writer since 2020. His geeky areas of interest include Star Wars, travel writing, horror, video games, comic books, literature, and animation.
Richard has been an avid consumer of movies, television, books, and pop culture since he was four-years-old. Raised on a diverse mix of Clint Eastwood Westerns, Star Wars, sci-fi and horror films, Alan Moore comics, and Stephen King novels, he eventually turned his various passions into a creative outlet, writing about film, television, literature, comics, and gaming for his high school and college newspapers. A traveling enthusiast, Richard has also managed to create a career out of journeying abroad, venturing to such awe-inspiring places as the Sonoran Desert of Mexico, the rainforests of Costa Rica, and the scenic coastline of Haiti. Upon graduating from TCNJ, Richard set his sights on a career in journalism, writing extensively about the art of traveling and the entertainment medium for various online publications. When he’s not busy making his way through The Criterion Collection, he can be found either reading or planning a trip somewhere (preferably someplace with a scenic hiking trail).