In Los Angeles, it can be hard to figure out a low-cost activity to do with the family. With summer kicking off, the kids are home more and you’re hoping you can kill a few hours doing something fun — and away from the TV — without breaking the bank. But movies cost more here; so do restaurants, haircuts, jeans, sporting events and more. So, what to do? Museums may be your answer.
While your children might let out a slight whine at the thought of learning more during their summer break, museums can be a great escape from everyday life for all generations. The museums in L.A., in particular, offer a little something for everyone — from gorgeous art to once-in-a-lifetime traveling exhibits, residents can take in the wonder of these local institutions any time of the year.
Here are five to get you started on exploring the educational and cultural opportunities that thrive in our city and nearby — all at a low cost or better yet, free. Have a few favorites of your own? List them in the comments!
1. The Getty
One of the world’s largest arts organizations, The J. Paul Getty Museum houses European paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography, and more from medieval times through today. All about art and architecture, its venues include the Getty Villa and the Getty Center, the latter being in Los Angeles. Contemporary and modern sculpture is featured throughout the grounds. A Family Room has five activity areas for kids, and visitors can attempt to sketch famous works in the Sketching Gallery. In addition to the wonderful art, there are beautiful outdoor gardens for the entire family to enjoy.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays and Sundays; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, extended summer hours. Closed Mondays.
Discounts: Admission is free. Parking costs $15, or $10 after 3 p.m.; pay once, park twice on the same day.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the West with a collection spanning 130,000 objects that touch on nearly the entire history of art. Since 1965, LACMA has been best known for its Asian, Latin American, and Islamic art. The museum also hosts a wealth of public programs that attract 1 million visitors each year. LACMA’s website divides its calendar of events among family events, music, tours, talks, and free stuff, so be sure to check it out. You can even take one-day workshops and courses, such as Collage in Fine Art. As a final bonus the La Brea Tar Pits are next door.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends. Closed Wednesdays.
Discounts: Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, and free for ages 17 and younger as well as members. Active-duty military personnel get in free Memorial Day through Labor Day. Additionally, admission is always free after 3 p.m. on weekdays for L.A. County residents.
The Museum of Contemporary Art has four locations: MOCA Grand Avenue, The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, MOCA Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, and Double Negative in the Nevada desert. MOCA is the only artist-founded museum in L.A., with about 7,000 compelling pieces of contemporary art including works from Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Mark Rothko. The Geffen Contemporary also hosts live outdoor music in an ongoing series with NTS Radio that’s free with RSVP and all-ages.
Where/hours: Check out the MOCA website for addresses and hours of each location. Michael Heizer’s seminal artwork “Double Negative” is on display 24/7.
Discounts: Sponsored by Wells Fargo, admission is free every Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. at Grand Avenue and The Geffen. Meanwhile, it’s always free to get into Pacific Design Center and Double Negative.
4. Norton Simon Museum
One of the most fascinating private art collections in the world, the Norton Simon Museum began as the Pasadena Art Institute, founded in 1922. It has an interesting history in Pasadena’s Carmelita Park, where its 22-room Victorian house was maintained throughout the Great Depression by the sale of grandstand seats for the Tournament of Roses Parade. The museum changed and grew with various collections, including those of Norton Simon, who collected European art from the Renaissance to the 20th century and also amassed 2,000-year-old South and Southeast Asian art.
Hours: Noon to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Closed Tuesdays.
Discounts: 5-8 p.m. first Fridays are free for all visitors. Otherwise, admission is $12 for adults and $9 for seniors. Free for all others, including students, kids, active military personnel, and museum members.
5. The Huntington
The Huntington is one of the best research libraries in the world, founded by Henry E. Huntington. Huntington had an affinity for books, plants, and art, which can be seen among the 6-million-item library, 120-acre botanical gardens, and three art galleries. Education programs at The Huntington include activities for preschoolers to intensives for K-12 teachers. You may have sent your kids on one of the many field trip programs through The Huntington — there are 11 of them and they’re all free, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to see here. The gardens of this San Marino gem are spectacular and there are several large lawns to relax with the family and escape the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles life.
Where: 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except for Tuesdays (closed).
Discounts: First Thursdays are free, but you must have a ticket in advance. Reservations for Free Day go “on sale” the 1st of the previous month, so be sure to hop on this deal quickly.
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M. Erik Clark is the Managing Partner of Borowitz & Clark, LLP, a leading consumer bankruptcy law firm with offices located throughout Southern California. Mr. Clark is Board Certified in Consumer Bankruptcy by the American Board of Certification and a member of the State Bar in California, New York, and Connecticut. View his full profile here.