Make Your Weekend Count: Plan a Visit to One of the Best Museums in Los Angeles

Updated 04/29/19
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Best museums in Los Angeles
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While New York City and Washington D.C. lure culture-seeking travelers to the East Coast with their impressive art and history museums, we're making the case that you should extend your view beyond the well-established landmarks of the Atlantic toward the Pacific. Of course, you can't skip the Metropolitan Museum of Art in N.Y.C or the National Archives in the nation's capital, but you'd be remiss if you looked at Los Angeles as a cultural wasteland.

Boasting fragrant botanical gardens and state-of-the-art stargazing facilities, Los Angeles offers more to travelers than sun-soaked beaches. From the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens to the Griffith Observatory, L.A.'s museums showcase the wonders of the natural world and highlight scientific advancements made in the Southern California region. Keep scrolling to discover the best museums in Los Angeles—they might just convince you to plan a trip to La La land.

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory
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Permanent collection: Perched atop Mount Hollywood in Los Angeles's Griffith Park, the Griffith Observatory boasts sweeping views of the city, making it the ideal location to observe the stars in the city of angels. Wander through the observatory's exhibit halls to learn more about the science behind the cosmos.

Currently on view: The Samuel Oschin Planetarium theater features rotating projections that showcase the stars. In honor of the observatory's 75th anniversary, it's showing Light of the Valkyries, highlighting the wonders of the Northern Lights.

Must-see: You can't miss the Foucault pendulum, which demonstrates the rotation of the Earth, surrounded by stunning mosaic reliefs in the W. M. Keck Foundation Central Rotunda.

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California African American Museum

Permanent collection: Established in 1977, the California African American Museum highlights the art, history, and culture of African Americans with an emphasis on California. Boasting the largest collection of works by African, Diasporic, and African American artists in the Western United States, consider CAAM a must-visit museum on your L.A. bucket list.

Currently on view: Catch Shinique Smith's Refuge, featuring spectacular sculptures made from upcycled objects, before the exhibit departs the museum on September 9, and look forward to Nina Chanel Abney's Royal Flush opening on September 23.

Must-see: The museum's recently acquired Sadie Barnette Untitled (Dog Bone) is a new highlight you won't want to miss.

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Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Must-visit museums in Los Angeles
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Permanent collection: Known for its Instagram-worthy Urban Light installation, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA, for short) is a popular destination for art lovers. Featuring a collection of over 135,000 works, from Picassos to Pollocks, there's an exhibit for everyone at this L.A. landmark.

Currently on view: The exhibit To Rome and Back, on display from June 24, 2018, to March 17, 2019, examines the impact the ancient Italian city had on art from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment.

Must-see: Head to the third floor of the Ahmanson Building to see Mary Cassatt's Mother About to Wash Her Child.

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The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

Permanent collection: Located in Pasadena, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is well worth the drive to visit. You'll want to allot a full day to strolling through the museum's tranquil gardens and art-filled libraries.

Currently on view: Step inside the NASA's Orbit Pavilion to take in the immersive sound experience. The exhibit has proven so popular that the installation's stay has been extended through September 2, 2019.

Must-see: The Garden of Flowing Fragrance is truly stunning, both architecturally and botanically. You'd be remiss if you visited the Huntington Library without walking through this spectacular garden.

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Natural History Museum

Best museums in Los Angeles
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Permanent collection: Generally speaking, The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles is an oft-overlooked L.A. landmark that gets outshone by the Griffith Observatory and LACMA. With permanent exhibits ranging from mammals to minerals, this museum dedicated to the wonders of the natural world offers something for every curious-minded visitor.

Currently on view: The museum's 53rd annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year, on exhibit until January 6, 2019, showcases 99 acclaimed photographs that will challenge your perception of the natural world.

Must-see: The newly completely Jane G. Pisano Dinosaur Hall is an essential stop on any NHM tour. The Tyrannosaurus rex growth series, featuring a baby, juvenile, and sub-adult T. rex is a hall highlight.

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California Science Center

California Science Center
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Permanent collection: One of the few museums in Los Angles offering free admission (with the exception of special exhibits), the California Science Center makes science accessible to all with its permanent collection of interactive displays on everything from ecosystems to air and space technologies.

Currently on view: To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb, the California Science Center is displaying spectacular finds from the pharaoh's burial site in King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh, on view until January 6, 2019.

Must-see: Simply put, the Endeavour Space Shuttle exhibit is awe-inspiring. Even if you don't consider yourself an aerospace admirer, you'll be wowed, trust us.

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