The 11 Most Fascinating Museums in Los Angeles

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Museums in Los Angeles
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A museum is solely committed to preserving, collecting, and researching the history of things lost and known and making it accessible to global visitors. Objects with historical, cultural, scientific, and artistic significance are celebrated and studied in the past and modern times. By sharing it with audiences at the local and international levels through its special exhibitions, museums maintain a part of history.

A museum aims to conserve art and, through detailed research, seeks to understand the thought process behind the makers—efforts such as this help broaden the cultural and historical aspects of a particular craft and enrich people’s experience. One can find that there is an abundance of museums in Los Angeles.

Los AngelesCA, is known for several things such as entertainment, Hollywood, the film industry, celebrities, and the luxurious lifestyle. Additionally, some of the best museums in Los Angeles have achieved the same level of fame and recognition.

From the largest art museum in the Western United States, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the famous Griffith Observatory to the Petersen Automotive Museum with iconic and vintage vehicles and the dinosaur hall at the Natural History Museum, there is no lack of good museums in Los Angeles.

People can check out the best museums in Los Angeles that they ought to visit in the list below.

Museums in Los Angeles, CA

Here is a list of the 11 best museums in Los Angeles.

Museums in Los Angeles
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1. Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

ADDRESS: Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles CA

TIMINGS:

  • Open Sunday to Thursday – 10 AM – 6 PM
  • Friday, Saturday – 10 AM – 8 PM

Museums in Los Angeles
Photo by Kaleb tapp on Unsplash. Copyright 2022

No list of the best museums in Los Angeles is complete without the largest museum in the United States, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. This museum, established in 2021, is committed to exhibiting the remarkable film history of countries worldwide and local.

One of the best museums in Los Angeles, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is a modern museum fully committed to preserving and celebrating diverse cinema. Through its many exhibits and programs devoted to the art of moviemaking and those behind it, the museum greets various global audiences.

A host of carefully crafted principles guide the Academy Museum to its direction, such as illuminating the moments and motions of time in Motion Pictures, educating, inspiring, and encouraging learning. These principles essentially direct the exhibitions, publications, development of programs, staff, and the board and committee that make up the museum team.

The David Geffen Theater and the Ted Mann Theater at the museum have a list of screenings, programs, panel discussions, and more available year-round. The agenda behind these is to illuminate the contributions of diverse artists internationally.

Visitors can refresh themselves in the in-house café or buy souvenirs and premium collectibles from the museum store.

2. Autry Museum of the American West

ADDRESS: Griffith Park, Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles CA

TIMINGS:

  • Open Tuesday to Sunday – 10 AM – 4 PM
  • Closed on Monday

Museums in Los Angeles
Photo by Smart Destinations, Flickr. Copyright 2022

The Autry Museum in Griffith Park is a museum focusing on the historical narrative of the Western United States, of their life back then, their culture, and their interconnectedness. It aims to convey the stories of the people through exhibits featuring Native American art, paintings, artifacts, firearms, film memorabilia like costumes, scripts, props, and other displays.

The Autry Museum, a non-profit public benefit corporation established in 1988, was voted the favorite among all museums in Los Angeles by readers of the Los Angeles Daily News. With a colossal collection spanning more than 500,000 in numbers, the Autry Museum has one of the most significant Native American art collections in the US.

One of the best museums in Los Angeles, the Autry Museum has three locations: Griffith Park, the Southwest Museum of the American Indian in the Mt. Washington Campus, and the Autry Resources Center.

The museum regularly hosts a series of events and programs open to the public, like lectures, festivals, family activities, music, and conducts several scholarships and educational outreach programs in a year.

The Autry Museum had a merging with the Women of the West organization that highlighted women’s experiences and their impact on the American West in 2002. In 2003, the Southwest Museum of the American Indian achieved a merger with the Autry Museum of Western Heritage and the Autry Museum of the American West formed.

3. California African American Museum

ADDRESS: Exposition Park, State Dr, Los Angeles CA

TIMINGS:

  • Open Tuesday to Saturday – 10 AM – 5 PM
  • Sunday – 11 AM – 5 PM
  • Closed on Monday

Museums in Los Angeles
Photo by Jeremy Thompson, Flickr. Copyright 2022

Founded in 1977, the California African American Museum (CAAM) has a long history among all museums in Los Angeles. It stands as the first art museum recognized by the California State to emphasize African American history, culture, and role in the development of the American West.

With great vision and advocacy, the founders of the CAAM created a museum centering on California and the critical role that African Americans played in history. The museum aims to research, collect, preserve, and present exhibits to enrich the public’s knowledge of the history of the western United States.

As the museum was formally opened in 1981, it resumed work and housed exhibits temporarily. And then, in 1984, the California African American Museum had a permanent location, the one which is now situated south of Downtown Los Angeles, in Exposition Park. CAAM, along with other museums in Los Angeles, such as the Natural History Museum and the California Science Center, holds significant positions.

With an area housing more than 5000 exhibits, CAAM’s permanent collection ranges from portraits and paintings, modern and contemporary art to historical objects, all of which primarily belong to Californian and Western US history. There are also artworks belonging to African Americans from different parts of the United States and those from the African diaspora.

4. California Science Center

ADDRESS: Exposition Park Dr, Los Angeles CA

TIMINGS:

  • Open daily – 10 AM – 5 PM

Museums in Los Angeles
Photo by Fabio Achilli, Flickr. Copyright 2022.

The California Science Center has been one of the best museums in Los Angeles since its formal opening to the public in 1998. People can date back the center’s history to 1912 when it was opened as a State Exposition Building that exhibited industrial products and agricultural-based resources. With the end of World War II, the State Exposition Building was renovated to educate the public about science and its role and contributions in life.

The California Science Center of today was transformed from the California Museum of Science and Industry in 1998 to a new institution of learning to reflect the objectives better.

The center consists of exhibits and galleries such as Creative World and World of Life, an IMAX Theater, and a conference center, providing free admission.

The California Science Center became an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in 2000. In 2002, as part of the Air and Space exhibits, the center received artifacts on loan from the Smithsonian Institution and NASA.

The center has a permanent collection named Ecosystems, which consists of hands-on exhibits and live animal and plant species such as a kelp tank filled with marine life.

5. Craft Contemporary

ADDRESS: Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles CA

TIMINGS:

  • Open from Wednesday till Sunday – 11 AM – 5 PM
  • Closed on Monday and Tuesday

Museums in Los Angeles
Photo by Chris McInnis, Flickr. Copyright 2022.

Formerly known as the Craft and Folk Art Museum, the Craft Contemporary museum was founded in 1973 with a mission to educate and empower the public. As one of the not-for-profit and non-collecting museums in Los Angeles, Craft Contemporary focuses on contemporary art and craft and its varied potential.

Craft Contemporary was initially established as The Egg and the Eye in 1965 and first featured exhibits of wood sculptures, Native Alaskan sculptures, and individual handmade pieces. The gallery, influenced by the growing popularity of Pop Art and Minimalism during that time, celebrated ethnic identity and focused on hand-crafted art and multi-sensory experiences. The gallery was newly named the Craft & Folk Art Museum in 1973 and granted non-profit status.

The museum board did the name change to Craft Contemporary in 2018 to reflect the current mission and emphasize the craft of making and is now one of the best museums in Los Angeles.

Craft Contemporary has regular exhibitions showcasing emerging yet underrepresented artists’ styles and vibrant works. Educational programs and workshops guided by professional artists follow the displays. The museum aims to foster a relationship between people and art and cultivate creativity with such programs.

6. GRAMMY Museum at L.A. Live

ADDRESS: W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles CA

TIMINGS:

  • Open Sunday, Monday, Wednesday to Friday – 11 AM – 5 PM
  • Saturday – 10 AM – 6 PM
  • Closed on Tuesday

Museums in Los Angeles
Photo by Mic JohnsonLP, Flickr. Copyright 2022.

The GRAMMY Museum, founded in 2008, was established in conjunction with the Grammy Awards. It was founded with a mission to inspire, explore, celebrate, and educate the public about music as an art, its genres, and the cultural significance it holds.

As one of the many non-profit museums in Los Angeles, the GRAMMY Museum devotes itself to helping develop a better understanding of the significance of music with interactive exhibits, public programming, grants, and several initiatives. The museum, through these programs, pays homage to the legacy of music and celebrates the aspects that go into music-making.

The GRAMMY Museum has exhibits that explore every genre in music, with programs such as performances, films, and lectures. Most performances are held in the Clive Davis Theater. The museum helps recognize accomplishments in music, the creative and the recording processes, the contributions of well-known artists, the history of the legendary GRAMMY awards, and more.

As a museum dedicated to celebrating all forms of music, it also includes diversity, inclusion, accessibility, and fairness over its exhibits and initiatives, both in-person and virtual.

7. The Hollywood Museum

ADDRESS: N Highland Ave, Hollywood, Los Angeles CA

TIMINGS:

  • Open from Wednesday till Sunday – 10 AM – 5 PM
  • Closed on Monday and Tuesday

Museums in Los Angeles
Photo by Mark Stephenson, Flickr. Copyright 2022.

The Hollywood Museum, opened in 2003, has one of the world’s largest collections of Hollywood memorabilia and is known as Hollywood’s official museum. This great museum is housed in the famous Max Factor building and has various exhibitions detailing the history of Hollywood. As a popular tourist destination, the Hollywood Museum is one of the most visited museums in Los Angeles.

As one of the finest museums in Los Angeles, the museum has held numerous special events, such as the Lucille Ball exhibit and the From Russia With Love recital.

The museum’s collection includes more than 10,000 authentic exhibits such as posters, scripts, props, photos, costumes, and more from fan-favorite movies and shows. There are also costumes of renowned stars on display like Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Sylvester Stallone, Michael Jackson, Angelina Jolie, and Beyoncé. The museum has memorabilia from films and shows like Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, Jurassic Park, Rocky, Harry Potter, High School Musical.

The Hollywood Museum has its exhibition space spread all over the four floors of its building. The lowest level houses creepy exhibits, and visitors can check out Hannibal Lecter’s jail cell and iconic mask, Frankenstein and his bride, mummies, and several horror film objects. The upper floors have photos, car collections, costumes, posters, props, and other memories.

8. Los Angeles County Museum of Art

ADDRESS: Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles CA

TIMINGS:

  • Open on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday – 11 AM – 6 PM
  • Friday – 11 AM – 8 PM
  • Saturday, Sunday – 10 AM – 7 PM
  • Closed on Wednesday

Museums in Los Angeles
Photo by Fido, Flickr. Copyright 2022.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is the largest art museum among all museums in Los Angeles and all of the western United States. The museum tells and showcases worldwide artistic expression and history with an art collection spanning greater than 100,000 in numbers.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), in 1961, separated from the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science, and Art, with more focus on art, and became known as the institution it is now.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art focuses on experimentative and new art that is interpretative and unexpected. The culture and the people influence the works. As one of the best museums in Los Angeles, it is also home to large Islamic art collections.

With a mission to exhibit meaningful collections and make them accessible to global audiences, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art conducts annual events, initiatives, and programs. With partnerships and collaborations with worldwide institutions, the museum keeps evolving with time. And through these, collections are shared, and knowledge of art and ideas from different points in history is gained.

A few known collaborations of LACMA are that of the museum with Autry Museum of the American West in 2018, the Yuz Museum Shanghai, Qatar Museums in 2019, and the Arizona State University in 2018.

9. Museum of Contemporary Art

ADDRESS: S Grand Ave, Los Angeles CA

TIMINGS:

  • Open from Wednesday till Friday – 11 AM – 5 PM
  • On Saturday, Sunday – 11 AM – 6 PM
  • Closed on Monday and Tuesday

Museums in Los Angeles
Photo by joey zanotti, Flickr. Copyright 2022.

The Museum of Contemporary Art was established in 1979 and is the sole artist-founded among all museums in Los Angeles CA. With a collection of approximately 7500 contemporary art objects, the history of MOCA is diverse and full of publishing, noteworthy exhibitions, and educational programs.

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) aims to collect and preserve the art of today, the past, and those in the future and make them accessible to individuals. The museum is not bound by any strict definition of art and regularly questions and adapts to the changing perspectives of art and contemporary expression.

As one of the innovative museums in Los Angeles, MOCA is dedicated to collecting and presenting distinct forms of art that are open to interpretation and are primarily created after 1940. The museum offers to preserve artworks so that future generations can appreciate its various forms and identify the challenges it faced in its time while also supporting newer creations.

The museum has three locations in the Los Angeles area, MOCA Grand Avenue, MOCA Pacific Design Center, and The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. The MOCA Grand Avenue location houses the main galleries and the MOCA Store. Visitors can also check out the Lemonade Café adjacent to the museum’s entrance for refreshments and food.

The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA opened in 1983 and is located in North Central Avenue, Los Angeles CA. The museum also has a seminal artwork known as the Double Negative by Michael Heizer in the Moapa Valley in Nevada.

10. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

ADDRESS: W Exposition Blvd, Los Angeles CA

TIMINGS:

  • Open Wednesday to Monday – 9:30 AM – 5 PM
  • Closed on Tuesday

Museums in Los Angeles
Photo by Matthew Dillon, Flickr. Copyright 2022.

The Natural History Museum, along with the William S. Hart Museum in Newhall and the La Brea Tar Pits in Hancock Park and Wilshire Blvd, is a part of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County. With a collection of 35 million specimens and artifacts and more significant numbers, the NHMLAC has the most extensive cultural and natural history collection in the Los Angeles area.

The Natural History Museum aims to educate its visitors and make them aware of the changes in the natural world and the responsibility that each of us, as individuals, have towards building a sustainable world. The aim is to explore nature and the diverse culture in Los Angeles and worldwide, making NHM one of the best museums in Los Angeles.

The Natural History Museum celebrates heritage and history and connects nature and science with people and communities. As one of the oldest museums in Los Angeles, the Natural History Museum acts as a hub of education, enjoyment, and culture in Exposition Park and transcends social and political boundaries.

With exhibitions showcasing the earth’s history, such as the Dinosaur Hall, the Gem and Mineral Hall, the Age of Mammals, and a discovery center, the museum also keeps in mind the undergoing transformation of the world. As it examines the relationship between people and the environment in the changing times, the museum looks at the convergence of nature and culture beyond Los Angeles.

11. J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum or The Getty, established in 1974, is one of the best museums in Los Angeles, aiming to foster an understanding of art and enjoyment among the masses. The museum has two campuses, the Getty Center in the Brentwood site in the Santa Monica Mountains and the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades.

The Getty Center and the Getty Villa have art from different periods, ranging from ancient Greece and Rome till the middle ages and early 20th century.

The Getty has continued to inspire and educate visitors with their special exhibits, engaging collections, family and educational programs, and resources available at their locations at the Getty Center and the Getty Villa with free admission.

Museums in Los Angeles
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  • Getty Center

ADDRESS: Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles CA

TIMINGS:

  • Open Tuesday to Sunday – 10 AM – 5:30 PM
  • Closed on Monday

The Getty moved to its current location in Brentwood, sitting atop the Santa Monica mountains, in 1997 and known as the Getty Center since then. The Getty Center features European paintings dating back to the early 20th century, sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, drawings, international photographs, and more exhibits.

  • Getty Villa

ADDRESS: Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades, CA

TIMINGS:

  • Open from Wednesday till Monday – 10 AM – 5 PM
  • Closed on Tuesday

The Getty Villa, the original museum, has art displays and antiquities like illuminated manuscripts, paintings, and drawings from Ancient Greece, Rome, Italy, the Medieval or the Middle Ages, and Modern art. With permanent collections and temporary exhibitions, the museum has exhibits from 4000 years and back.

Visitors can refresh themselves at the nearby coffee kiosk and buy souvenirs from the museum store.

Noteworthy Mentions

Several could not be included in the list of the best museums in Los Angeles. So, here are some noteworthy mentions.

Museums in Los Angeles
Photo by Parker Michael Knight, Flickr. Copyright 2022.

1. Norton Simon museum

ADDRESS: W Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA

TIMINGS:

  • Open from Thursday till Monday – 12 PM – 5 PM
  • Closed on Tuesday and Wednesday

KNOWN FOR ITS:

The Norton Simon Museum is known for art exhibits such as sculptures and paintings from the South and Southeast Asian regions.

2. MOCA Pacific Design Center

ADDRESS: Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA

TIMINGS:

  • Open Tuesday to Friday – 11 AM – 5 PM
  • On Saturday, Sunday – 11 AM – 6 PM
  • Closed on Monday

KNOWN FOR ITS:

The MOCA Pacific Design Center is known for its rotating exhibitions.

3. Griffith Observatory

ADDRESS: E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles CA

TIMINGS:

  • Open on Fridays – 12 PM – 10 PM,
  • On Saturday, Sunday – 10 AM – 10 PM
  • Closed Monday to Thursday

KNOWN FOR ITS:

Visitors should check out Samuel Oschin Planetarium at the Griffith Observatory.

4. Battleship USS Iowa Museum

ADDRESS: S Harbor Blvd, Los Angeles CA

TIMINGS:

  • Open daily – 10 AM – 5 PM

KNOWN FOR ITS:

The USS Iowa Museum tells the maritime history of the US, such as during World War II and the Korean War.

5. Petersen Automotive Museum

ADDRESS: Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles CA

TIMINGS:

  • Open daily – 10 AM – 5 PM

KNOWN FOR ITS:

The Petersen Automotive Museum showcases classic vehicles and the car culture in Los Angeles.

This concludes the list of must-see museums in Los Angeles.

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