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7 Must-See Museums in Los Angeles

Discover these outstanding museums on your next trip to Los Angeles.

U.S. News & World Report

7 Must-See Museums in Los Angeles

J. Paul Getty Museum Central Garden created by artist Robert Irwin as viewed from above in Los Angeles California.

Art lovers, rejoice.(Getty Images)

Los Angeles may be known for its beaches and entertainment industry, but visitors to the City of Angels also have access to an almost overwhelming number of museums. "What's my favorite? It's like choosing your favorite child," says Jamie Foley, vice president of global communications at the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board.

With more than 100 museums to choose from, how do you maximize your time and see the essentials? U.S. News consulted some of the city's local experts to determine which museums you should visit on your next trip to Los Angeles.

The Getty Center

California oil baron, art lover and philanthropist J. Paul Getty created a Los Angeles legacy when he released his art collection to the public at The Getty Center. "They have a really vast collection, ranging from drawings to manuscripts to photography to sculpture to impressionist works like Van Gogh and Picasso," says Jeanne Mills, chief concierge at the Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills.

At the main complex located in the Santa Monica Mountains near Bel Air, visitors ride a tram up a massive hill to the white travertine complex, which consists of six buildings surrounding a peaceful garden overlooking the city. The Getty Center's second location in Pacific Palisades, Getty Villa, is a recreated Roman villa that showcases antiquities from Greece and Italy.

The Getty Center welcomes visitors from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, with extended evening hours on Saturday. Admission is free, but parking in the covered garage is $15 per car.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Angelenos are familiar with the forest of early 20th-century lampposts facing Wilshire Boulevard, known as Urban Light. The exhibition's warm glow welcomes visitors to the West Coast's largest art museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or LACMA. The museum is known for its Impressionist collection, works of art from a range of cultural and historical periods, rotating selection of exhibits, and interactive pieces like the Rain Room, where visitors are surrounded on all sides by droplets but never get wet.

"It's also a great place to go and hang out, even if you don't want to go to the museum," says Jessica Berger, concierge at the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills. "They have events like jazz night, where you can bring a picnic and listen to music."

The LACMA is open every day of the week, though hours vary. General admission is $15, but entrance to special exhibitions is $25. Children 17 and younger can visit for free.

California Science Center and Natural History Museum

California Science Center and Natural History Museum.(Courtesy of California Science Center and Natural History Museum)

A day at these museums begins and ends in Exposition Park, which actually comprises several museums, including the California Science Center and Natural History Museum – both of which are family favorites.

The California Science Center is home to the space shuttle Endeavour and an Imax theater, in addition to a variety of science and technology exhibits. "It's a really fantastic, interactive, educational and fun experience that both children and adults love," says Casey Duggan, chief concierge at the Viceroy Santa Monica.

Next door, the century-old Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County draws kids in with its Dinosaur Hall, draped in giant T. rex fossils. Permanent exhibits on the history of Los Angeles and California, as well as exotic mammals and birds complete the stunning displays. Outside, the Butterfly Pavilion is a seasonal treat.

The California Science Center is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is free. The Natural History Museum welcomes visitors every day from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; general admission is $12 for adults, $5 for children ages 3 to 12 and free for children ages 2 and under.

Petersen Automotive Museum

Petersen Automotive Museum.(Courtesy of Petersen Automotive Museum)

What better place to learn about legendary vehicles than Los Angeles, a city known across the world for its car culture? "You can find cars from all different eras, and even a Pixar imagination center where kids can make a car," Berger says. Everyone can also get involved in a digital scavenger hunt. "Apparently it's pretty hard," Berger warns.

The Petersen Automotive Museum, located a few miles east of Beverly Hills, opens daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults, $7 for children ages 3 to 12 and free for children under 3 years old.

Museum of Neon Art

Museum of Neon Art.(Courtesy of Foto Works)

At the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale, visitors can take in the brilliant blaze of a bizarre pop art collection and vintage illuminated signs. "I highly doubt that people even thought that this was a thing," Duggan chuckles.

But in many cases, the MONA is as much a museum about the history and preservation of iconic Los Angeles as it is about the signs themselves, many from landmark institutions that have disappeared in time. "MONA gives a great history of the signage, advertising and art of neon from the very beginning," Duggan says.

The MONA is open Thursday through Saturday from noon to 7 p.m., and Sunday between noon and 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and free for children 12 and under.

The Museum of Jurassic Technology

The peculiarly titled Museum of Jurassic Technology is perhaps the hardest museum to summarize, but it's maybe the most intriguing museum to visit in Los Angeles. And it has nothing to do with the film "Jurassic Park." Instead, the Museum of Jurassic Technology houses a collection of scientific and natural curiosities that you might have found in a mad scientist's home in the 16th century. Here, exhibits cover subjects that range from mobile home parks to the dogs of the Soviet space program. One part freak show fairy tale, one part self-conscious wink, this is a museum that must be experienced and will never be understood.

The Museum of Jurassic Technology is located in Culver City. It opens its doors to visitors on Thursdays from 2 to 8 p.m., and Friday through Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults and free for children 12 and under.

To experience more of what Los Angeles has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.

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