We’re lucky to have dozens of excellent museums in Los Angeles dedicated to the realms of art, culture, science, and technology. Here we’ve rounded up some of the most essential spots for both tourists and locals, from LACMA to the California Science Center. Read on for everything you need to know about the best exhibitions to look for, how and when you can snag free admission, and more details.
1. Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Even if you’ve never been to LACMA, you’ll undoubtedly recognize the 202 iron lamps that make up Chris Burden’s Urban Light out front. This is the largest art museum in the western U.S., displaying nearly 152,000 objects across 6,000 years of art history from around the world. This global focus means that visitors will enjoy some of the most creative and all-encompassing art exhibitions in Los Angeles, which are carefully curated to reflect the city’s diverse population and cultural perspectives. As one of the most popular free museums in Los Angeles, it’s hard to pass up.
🎟️ Free admission to the general public on second Tuesdays; free admission to LA County residents on weekdays after 3pm. Learn more about visiting LACMA.
📍 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles
2. Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
This massive building opened just a few years ago, but it’s already earned a spot among the most prominent museums in Los Angeles. The seven-story building is the country’s largest museum dedicated to movie making, with stunning film exhibitions that appeal to ardent cinephiles and casual moviegoers alike. Consider fitting in a screening or panel discussion at one of the the Academy Museum’s two theaters, or plan your visit to spend some extra time at a special exhibition.
🎟️ Tickets and special exhibitions:
- General admission tickets to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
- General admission + John Waters: Pope of Trash (exhibition ends Aug. 4, 2024)
- General admission + The Art of Movie Making: The Godfather (exhibition ends Jan. 5, 2025)
- General admission + Director’s Inspiration: Agnès Varda (exhibition ends Jan. 5, 2025)
- General admission + Significant Movies and Moviemakers (exhibition ends Mar. 17, 2024)
📍 6067 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles
3. The Broad
This spectacular free L.A. museum showcases one of the world’s leading postwar and contemporary art collections, comprising 2,000 works. Guests are treated to a magnificent roster of rotating temporary exhibitions, designed with the public in mind to create ongoing interest in the art of our time. The Broad added two of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms to the permanent collection several years ago, and the boundless, glimmering galaxies continue to be top of mind for most visitors.
🎟️ Free admission with timed-entry reservation. Learn more about visiting The Broad.
📍 221 S. Grand Ave, Los Angeles
4. Natural History Museum
L.A.’s Natural History Museum is one of the oldest and most highly-regarded cultural institutions in the city, located right in the heart of Exposition Park. Embark on a brilliant tour of the history of our planet with impressive specimens in the Age of Mammals exhibit, the Dinosaur Hall, and the Gem and Mineral Hall. Importantly, the museum thoughtfully connects its teachings with the immediate local environment in Los Angeles — visit the Nature Gardens and Nature Lab to see this in practice.
🎟️ Free admission for L.A. County residents on weekdays from 3-5pm. Learn more about visiting the Natural History Museum.
📍 900 Exposition Blvd, Los Angeles
5. Getty Center
The Getty Center campus is a breathtaking expanse of exquisite gardens, city views, and a gorgeous white-tiled complex. Here you’ll find the Getty Museum, which displays everything from 14th Century Venetian art to antique 18th Century furniture. Leave time to explore the evolving 134,000-square-foot Central Garden, a work of art in its own right by Robert Irwin.
🎟️ Free admission with timed-entry reservation. Learn more about visiting the Getty Center.
6. La Brea Tar Pits and Museum
California kids will remember learning about the La Brea Tar Pits in school, and if you grew up in L.A. you might’ve been lucky enough to take a field trip here. This famous area is the world’s only Ice Age fossil site being actively excavated in an urban area, and provides an unparalleled opportunity to see beautifully-preserved specimens up close and personal. Since the early 1900s, paleontologists have performed over 100 excavations, and many of their discoveries are on display in the La Brea Tar Pits museum.
🎟️ Free admission for L.A. County residents on weekdays from 3-5pm. Learn more about visiting the La Brea Tar Pits.
📍 5801 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles
7. CA Science Center
Exposition Park’s California Science Center is a world-class science museum that’s especially popular among kids and families. Exhibitions include World of Life, which examines everything from single-cell bacteria to complex living organisms; Ecosystems, which takes visitors through over 200 species of live plants and animals; and of course Air and Space, which is all about atmospheric flight and space travel. That’s where you’ll find the famous space shuttle Endeavour, only very recently hoisted into a vertical “liftoff” position to demonstrate the full shuttle stack.
🎟️ Permanent galleries are free and do not require a reservation. Learn more about visiting the California Science Center.
📍 700 Exposition Park Dr, Los Angeles
8. Petersen Automotive Museum
The sculptural silver and red shell around the Petersen Museum is a stylish home for over 400 rare cars. As the most car-centric city in the world, Los Angeles itself plays a noticeable presence in the exhibits, which follow the city’s influence in developing the automobile as we know it today. Gearheads aren’t the only ones who will appreciate this deep dive, because any guest will love getting up close and personal with these gleaming state-of-the-art vehicles.
📍 6060 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles
9. Japanese American National Museum
This groundbreaking museum in Los Angeles presents the Japanese American experience within the context of America’s cultural heritage. Discover beautiful arts exhibitions, extensive public programming, and spectacular documentary screenings that dive into hard-fought lessons and personal stories about people of Japanese ancestry in the U.S.
📍 100 N Central Ave, Los Angeles
10. GRAMMY Museum
For those of us who love to dive into the glamour of Los Angeles, it’s hard to pass up the GRAMMY Museum. Music lovers will jump at the chance to see Michael Jackson’s iconic red leather jacket from the “Thriller” music video; a lineup of red carpet fashion; and the Mono to Immersive Experience Room, which takes you through the history of recorded sound.
📍 800 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles