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FREE Museums and Cultural Centers in Los Angeles

Don’t pay for cultural activities — so many museums are FREE!

A view of the Los Angeles skyline in the background includes rows of palm trees in the foreground.
Photo by Venti Views on Unsplash

Need ideas for in-person summer activities to keep the kids busy? Do mom and dad need an evening out around L.A. this summer? Are you interested visiting museums, but your budget is tight? Are you planning a visit to L.A.? These museums and other events are FREE, either all the time or on certain days or times. There are also organizations that provide free or reduced-price admission to many museums for special groups. Read on for details!

Most of these museums are well-known, but a few obscure gems are also listed here that you may not have heard about before.

Free Always

California Science Center

General admission to the permanent galleries and the Space Shuttle Endeavour are free at the box office, but there is a $3 service fee if timed tickets are reserved online. Parking is $15. The museum is open daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Located in Exposition Park.

California African American Museum

General admission is free. No reservations are required. Parking is $15. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Located in Exposition Park.

A giant bright blue metallic sculpture is featured, a giant replica of a balloon animal shaped like a dog. A view of a gallery inside The Broad Museum.
The Broad. Photo by Roberto Contreras on Unsplash

The Broad

General admission is free and reservations for timed tickets are required. Parking under the museum is $17 for 3 hours with museum validation. The museum is closed Mondays.

The Nethercutt Museum

Self-guided tours are free. The Nethercutt Collection is a separate facility across the street that is available only through a scheduled guided tour with a $10 ticket. Parking is free. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from Thursday to Sunday. This classic auto museum and is not very well-known, but it is worth the drive to the North San Fernando Valley (Sylmar).

A black and white image of an architechtural view of the Getty Museum.
The Getty. Photo by Keegan Houser on Unsplash

The Getty Center and Getty Villa Museum

Admission is free to both locations with a timed-entry reservation. Parking at the Getty Center is $20; $15 after 3 p.m.; $10 on Saturdays and for evening events. The Getty Center is located in the Sepulveda Pass and is closed Mondays. Parking at the Getty Villa is $20 and $15 after 3 p.m. The Getty Villa is located in Pacific Palisades and is closed Tuesdays. Park at both locations for one price if you have reservations for both on the same day. Evening special events, including concerts and talks, are also free.

Joe Davies Heritage Airpark

Admission is free to this outdoor aircraft museum in the City of Palmdale. Excellent for aircraft enthusiasts. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Parking is free.

An arial view of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.
Griffith Observatory. Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

Griffith Observatory

General admission is free, with capacity controls during busy times. Planetarium shows are available with purchased tickets at the box office. The Observatory is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Paid parking is available in the main lot and on park roads, with free parking near the Greek Theatre (not available during shows or events). Located inside of Griffith Park.

Hammer Museum at UCLA

Admission is free with no reservations needed. Parking is available under the museum for $7 for three hours with museum validation. Many evening special events are also free, including a summer concert series (reservations required), films and talks. The museum is closed on Mondays.

Fowler Museum at UCLA

Admission is free with no reservations needed. Parking is available in UCLA Lot 4 for a flat daily rate of $14 or less for two hours and under. The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

An antique locomotive is parked in an outdoor travel museum.
Travel Town. Photo by Oxana Melis on Unsplash

Travel Town Museum

Admission is free to this railroad museum, although miniature train ride is available with purchased tickets. Indoor and outdoor exhibits are open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Parking is free. Located inside of Griffith Park.

Exposition Park Rose Garden

Free L.A. City park, open 9 a.m. to sunset daily. Closed from January 1 to March 15 each year for maintenance. Located in Exposition Park.

MOCA — The Museum of Contemporary Art

General admission to two locations (MOCA Grand Avenue and The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA) is free with advance timed-entry tickets available online. Both locations are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. No parking validations are available. Both locations are located in Downtown Los Angeles.

Free Days/Times or Special Events

Some museums require planning ahead to reserve the free dates and times, and others have an open “donation” policy on certain days when no payment is required.

A view of a garden features many cactus plants next to a walkway with families in attendance.
The Huntington. Photo by Oxana Melis on Unsplash

The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens

Free day is the first Thursday of every month. Advance reservations are required, with availability starting the last Thursday of the month for admission the following week. Paid admission is never required to dine at 1919 Cafe (indoor and outdoor dining with partial view of gardens) or Red Car coffee shop. Parking is free. Located in San Marino.

Skirball Cultural Center

Free general admission and current special exhibitions every Thursday with advance reservation for timed entry tickets. Parking is free. Located in the Sepulveda Pass.

Cayton Children’s Museum

The museum offers a “pay-as-you-wish” donation for L.A. County residents, but advance reservations are required. Visitors from outside of L.A. County pay $16 per person, including children over age 1. The museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Parking for the first 90 minutes is free in adjacent City of Santa Monica Structures 7 and 8. Located in the Santa Monica Place Mall, close to the beach and pier.

A black and white image of an art installation at night, featuring rows of illuminated streetlamps. At LACMA.
LACMA. Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

LACMA — Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Residents of L.A. County receive free admission Monday-Friday after 3 p.m. Children and teens residing in L.A. County are always free. All visitors are free on the second Tuesday of every month. With registration for the NextGenLA membership, L.A. County teens aged 17 or younger are always free and may bring one guest for free. Timed tickets with online advance reservation are highly recommended. Parking is $20. Located in Hancock Park.

Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

Although admission to the museum is not free, the Foundation offers many events, talks and programs that are free of charge. Recent and upcoming events include the Annual Fourth of July Celebration, Mrs. Reagan’s Birthday Celebration, and speakers such as William Barr, David Mamet, Congresswoman Liz Cheney and others. Parking is free. Located in Simi Valley.

American Museum of Ceramic Art

The first Friday of every month is pay-what-you-can with timed advance reservations. Parking is free. Located in Pomona.

Craft Contemporary

Sundays are pay-what-you-can days. Street parking is available. Located on Wilshire Blvd. between La Brea and Fairfax.

MOLAA — Museum of Latin American Art

Admission is free on Sundays. Advanced reservations are encouraged. Museum and street parking are free. Located in Long Beach.

A museum exhibit features assembled dinosaur bones.
Photo by Crisoforo Gaspar Hernandez on Unsplash

Natural History Museum — Los Angeles County

Los Angeles County residents receive free admission from 3–5 p.m. daily. Parking is $15. Located in Exposition Park.

Special Programs — Reduced Price and Free Admissions

Museums for All

Individuals receiving food assistance through SNAP benefits are eligible for free or reduced-price admissions to more than 900 museums across the U.S. by presenting their EBT card. Admissions is $3 or less per person for up to four people per EBT card. Local museums participating include: La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, Kidspace Children’s Museum, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, as well as many others in L.A., neighboring counties and throughout California.

Teen Tix

Teenagers aged 13–19 years old can obtain a free TeenTix Pass. This entitles the teen to purchase a $5 day-of-show ticket to many organizations in the L.A. area. Certain organizations also allow a 2 for $10 Deal, which allows an additional person of any age to attend for $5. Participating organizations include the Pasadena Playhouse, Skirball Cultural Center and the Geffen Playhouse.

Many of these and other museums also offer free admission for active or retired military personnel, teachers, and other groups, so don’t forget to check before you pay.

Enjoy your summer activities with FREE art and the outdoors in Los Angeles!

© 2022 Upp Gloggen, Inc.

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Maria Luisa Palma

Maria Luisa Palma

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Contrarian, Critic, Disruptor. All my edges are sharp but I love a good laugh. Advocate for independent thought. General misfit known for ongoing rants.