Art and Cultural Museums

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), which includes the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, both have an astounding array of permanent collections from Near Eastern art to avant-garde exhibitions.The Autry National Center in Griffith Park provides an immersion in art from the American West, while Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station boasts a whopping eight acres that are host to a number of contemporary art galleries.

The GRAMMY Museum at L.A. Live provides four floors of cutting-edge exhibits, interactive experiences and films.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley gives visitors a chance to tour through Air Force One and see an exact replica of the Oval Office and a piece of the Berlin Wall, while The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda contains special exhibits as well as the actual birthplace (childhood home) of the 37th U.S. President.

Free Museums

So many Los Angeles museums offer free days that it's easy to enjoy some of LA's greatest treasures without spending any money for admission. The Getty Center (modern art) in Brentwood and Getty Villa (ancient art) in Malibu offer extensive collections of paintings, drawings, sculpture, American and European photographs and personal items (such as jewelry, books, etc).  The Getty Center offers showstopping views of the westside of Los Angeles.  Note: Both museums charge $15 for parking and there is no other option for parking nearby.  You can take public transit to the musreums to avoid this charge. 

California Science Center in Exposition Park near Downtown Los Angeles offers fun and informative exhibits presented in interactive worlds (note: special exhibits and admission to the IMAX theater are not included in the free admission to the museum).  The Hollywood Bowl Museum documents great moments in classical music, jazz, and rock & roll. The Travel Town Museum in Griffith Park is dedicated to the preservation and celebration of railroading in the western United States and is a great place to take the kids, while Paley Center for Media addresses the cultural, creative, and social significance of tv, radio, and emerging platforms  through exhibits, public presentations as well as by providing access to an international collection of nearly 150,000 programs covering almost 100 years of tv and radio history, including news, public affairs programs and documentaries, performing arts programs, children's programming, sports, comedy and variety shows, and commercial advertising.  Programming from some seventy countries is represented in the collection. Admission is free but a voluntary contribution of $10.00 for adults; $8.00 for students and senior citizens; $5.00 for children under fourteen is requested.

The Nethercutt "Collection" and "Museum" (2 neighboring attractions)  in the Sylmar district of Los Angeles, in the northeastern San Fernando Valley, houses over 250 European and American pre World War II antique and classic automobiles, as well as a working Wurlitzer Theater Organ and a 1912 Pullman railroad car in exquisite settings.  The "Collection" requires a reservation.  Finally, Los Angeles-area art walks in areas such as Downtown L.A., Venice, San Pedro and Long Beach are free museums unto themselves, giving both locals and visitors an opportunity to get the true flavor of a community, not to mention a much-needed art fix.

Sculpture Gardens

Year-round good weather usually makes a visit to Los Angeles' sculpture gardens a very pleasant one. The Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden at UCLA covers five acres and includes more than 70 sculptures, while the Fran and Ray Stark Sculpture Collection at The Getty Center includes 28 modern sculptures from the collection of legendary film producer and his wife. The 21st Century Plaza Sculpture Garden in the Warner Center district within the San Fernando Valley community of Woodland Hills is a rarity in that its installations rotate on a regular basis. Finally, the Norton Simon Museum’s sculpture garden is a sublime little oasis (a mere 79,000 square feet of lawns and flowers) where a placid pool reflects lush greenery and important sculptures.

Performing Arts

Downtown’s Ahmanson Theatre continually puts on Broadway hits, while the nearby Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is home to the LA Opera and the Ballet at the Music Center. The Mark Taper Forum showcases new plays in the avant-garde world, while the Hollywood landmark Pantages Theatre hosts major Broadway shows like Wicked. In the city of Pasadena, to the north of Los Angeles, Danza Floricanto boasts being the oldest Mexican folk dance troupe in Southern California and paints a wide landscape of its Mexican heritage. Smaller, independent theaters include the Actor’s Art Theatre and Hollywood Fight Club.

Concert Venues

The Hollywood Bowl has featured just about every music genre imaginable in its natural amphitheatre under its iconic shell since 1922 while Griffith Park’s Greek Theatre also gives music fans a chance to enjoy their performances al fresco. L.A. Live is a 4-million-square-foot development in downtown Los Angeles adjacent to STAPLES Center and includes the NOKIA Theatre and the smaller Club NOKIA. Universal City’s Gibson Amphitheatre has been the place for contemporary music since opening in 1972. And downtown Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall, which was designed by internationally renowned architect Frank Gehry, is the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Los Angeles Master Chorale.

Television Show Tapings

Watching sitcoms, talk shows and game shows live has become a part of the essential LA experience. The best way to get tickets is to order in advance through vendors such as Audiences Unlimited or hollywoodtickets.com, both of which feature sitcoms and talk shows. www.tvtix.com is also a good resource for talk shows, and On Camera Audiences specializes in reality TV shows.

Olvera Street

This world-renowned Mexican marketplace has celebrated the roots of Los Angeles since the 1920s and is lined with historic buildings, authentic Mexican restaurants and vendor stalls selling everything from leather goods to artwork, clothing, imported crafts, candles, traditional Mexican wares and colorful souvenirs.