The Best Things To Do in 4 of LA’s Top Museums — Besides Look at Art

My parents are architects, so I grew up visiting art museums and cool buildings since before I could walk. As a child, my highlight during museum visits was finding a fountain to throw a penny in as I made a wish. As an adult, I have a bit more appreciation for museums than I did back then.

Whether or not art is your thing, LA museums have a lot to offer. If you appreciate the history and intricacy of different eras of art collections and can spend all day perusing different collections, LA has museums for you. If, on the other hand, you’d rather go get a root canal than spend all day staring at walls, LA museums are still for you!

Here are the best things to do in 4 of LA’s top museums (besides look at art):

The Getty Center, photo courtesy of California Beaches

1. The Getty

  • Why It’s Noteworthy: The Getty is the world’s “wealthiest art institution.” It’s a mecca for art conservation, research, and other art programs. It was founded by J. Paul Getty, a guy who got so rich in 50s in the oil industry that his personal art collection outgrew his own home. He built a new home for himself and his art — the Getty Villa in Malibu — and later, just before he died, added the Getty Center in Brentwood. You’ll feel like money just stepping foot in these buildings.
The Getty Villa, photo courtesy of Diane, Abroad
  • Best Thing About the Getty (Besides Art): the views. Since it’s in the hills, the Getty Center has one of THE best views of LA. The Getty Villa — an hour away from the Getty Center — is also on a hill but it’s overlooking Malibu and the beach. If you ever want to take a picturesque Instagram photo, go read a book with a nice backdrop, or even just watch the sunset, the Getty buildings are for you!
  • Insider Knowledge: Entry to both locations is free, but parking is $15. At the Getty Center, there are tons of parking spots but you have to take a shuttle — and there’s always a line — from the parking lot to the museum. You could avoid the shuttle line by walking instead, but it’s a steep, uphill walk and you might be sweaty by the time you reach the top. For the Getty Villa, you have to buy your parking ticket in advance because the spots are limited.
Urban Lights, photo courtesy of Christian Klugmann


  • Why It’s Noteworthy: LACMA is an LA staple. You’ve probably seen photos of the Urban Light Collection or the “Yellow Strings.” Unfortunately the “Yellow Spaghetti” was removed last month, but the lights are still there for you to run around and take photos. Another favorite LACMA photo-op is underneath the “Levitated Mass” — read: giant rock — that is on display. In addition to world-renowned art exhibits, LACMA hosts a bunch of events from art classes to meet & greets to concerts. It’s located next door to the La Brea Tarpits in the Midwilshire area, which is where a lot of folks in “The [TV] Industry” work and hang out during the week.
Levitated Mass, photo courtesy of Pinterest
  • Best Thing About LACMA (Besides Art): the food. LACMA has — in my opinion — the best food options out of all of the museums in LA. LACMA Café has a ton of amazing options — I sometimes go to LACMA just to eat sweet potato fries. There are also a ton of delicious food trucks lined up in front of the museum on Wilshire. I’m pretty sure I’ve tried all of them.
  • Insider Knowledge: LACMA is free after 3pm on weekdays if you live in LA County and in the summer everyone is welcome to enjoy free, live music on the lawn. I like to have picnics on the lawn, walk through the different buildings, and go up the tall, red escalator — there’s only one, you can’t miss it — and just stare at the skyline view of LA and the Hollywood Hills.
Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor

3. Hammer Museum

  • Why It’s Noteworthy: The Hammer Museum is part of UCLA. I love coming here because of the ambiance. All of their programs and collections are focused on “creative thinkers of our time.” The art exhibits are mostly modern and contemporary traveling exhibits, which basically means that you’ll see something new whenever you go. There is a big emphasis on speaking events and community involvement, which I appreciate. Whenever I’m here, even just walking around the patio, I feel inspired to create something.
Spun Chair, photo courtesy of The Family Savvy
  • Best Thing About the Hammer (Besides Art): the spinny chairs. It sounds silly but it actually tests your trust to be able to sit and spin around in these chairs. They give you the sensation that you will fall, but you won’t. Anytime you come to the museum, you’ll see people of all ages and backgrounds laughing together and playing in the chairs.
  • Insider Knowledge: The museum is always free, but this is one of the few places I’ve found where you can go sit, hang out, get work done, etc. without having to buy something first. There’s a ping pong table in the patio and the people there are always friendly. I like to bring my computer, sit at the tables in the patio, and power through my writing. If you don’t mind spending a few buck though, the Cafe has all day brunch and $5 weekday happy hours. Can’t complain there. There’s tons to do and see in Westwood so once you leave the museum, you can walk around the area, grab an ice cream sandwich at Diddy Riese, and relive the glory days of college as you walk past UCLA students.
The Huntington Library, photo courtesy of Fine Art America

4. The Huntington

  • Why It’s Noteworthy: The Huntington is a research institution, art museum, and botanical garden. Henry Huntington, a rich art collector, created the Huntington Library as a gift for his wife. He basically owned the entire city of San Marino and is responsible for a lot of the development of Southern California in the 19th century. I like to just drive around San Marino and look at the elegance of the old houses. It’s literally being in the presence of “Old Money.”
  • Best Thing About The Huntington Library (Besides Art): the gardens. It has one of the finest botanical gardens in the world. From Japanese Gardens to Chinese Gardens to Cactus Gardens, their collection is from all over the world. I’m not a huge plant person but it’s pretty hard to walk through these immaculate gardens, basking in the LA sunshine without a smile on my face.
The Corpse Flower, photo courtesy of Travels With Nick and Rob
  • Insider Knowledge: The Huntington Library is one of the few gardens in the world that has a corpse flower. It’s an extremely rare plant that grows the size of a person, requires almost no taking care of, takes years to bloom, and when it finally does bloom only lasts for a couple days. It’s basically in a coma and no one knows when it will come to life. If you’re lucky you may visit at just the right moment to watch it. People say that seeing it bloom is a once in a lifetime event because you have to be in the right place at the right time. I must warn you though: it’s a really cool thing to see but not to smell — this flower is also call the “Stink Flower” because it produces a very bad odor in it’s two days of blooming.

So if there’s a museum you want to go check out, but you’ve already seen the art collection, or if you haven’t seen it but have no desire to do so, this list is for you!

What’s your favorite thing to do at a museum? Let us know! #BlueWonderMuseums

Taylor is the newest member of (formerly Blue Wonder Travel). She is a self proclaimed #ArchitectureNovice who loves finding fun things to do in museums, in addition to stare at walls. Learn more about her at and contact her at

© taylordmills 2017

*Local tourist — one who is not an LA native and wants to experience LA like a local. This blog is for you.

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