9 Must-Visit Museums in Los Angeles

There’s a little bit of something for every museum lover in Los Angeles.

A person walking in front of the Broad Museum in Los Angeles California

Los Angeles is home to a number of world-famous museums, including the Broad Museum, which is one of the city’s most iconic buildings.

Photo by JB/Unsplash

When most people think of Los Angeles, they often imagine Hollywood: celebrities, studio tours, and the Walk of Fame. But the City of Angels has another trick up its sleeve: It also happens to be home to one of the most exciting museum scenes in the country. In fact, L.A. has more museums per capita than any other city in the world.

Whether you’re into classical art, contemporary artists like Yayoi Kusama, or things that are on the more (*ahem*) risqué side, there’s a museum in Los Angeles for you. As an added bonus, many of them have beautiful outdoor spaces to enjoy Southern California’s mild climate. Picnic, anyone?

These are the nine best museums in Los Angeles (in no particular order).

“Tulips” by Jeff Koons is one of the many pieces of contemporary art on display at The Broad.

Though admission to the Broad is free, reservations are required in advance.

Photo by Michael Gordon/Shutterstock

1. The Broad

  • Location: 221 S. Grand Ave, Los Angeles | Find on Google Maps
  • Hours: Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m.–6:00 p.m., Fridays, Tuesdays, and Wednesday 11 a.m.–5 p.m., Thursdays 11 a.m.–8 p.m. Closed on Mondays.
  • Admission: Free

Founded by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, the Broad Museum officially opened its doors in 2015. There are more than 2,000 works at the Broad, and it’s considered to have one of the best contemporary art collections in the world. Here, visitors can find pieces by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Takashi Murakami, and Andy Warhol. Additionally, there are two of Yayoi Kusama’s famous Infinity Rooms that are permanent installations at the museum: Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away (2013) and Longing for Eternity (2017). Advanced reservations are required to see both.

Read more about The Broad.

The pool at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles, California

The grounds of the Getty Villa are just as beautiful as the art on its walls.

Photo by Edgar Torabyan/Unsplash

2. The Getty Villa

  • Location: 17985 Pacific Coast Hwy., Pacific Palisades | Find on Google Maps
  • Hours: Wednesday–Monday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
  • Admission: Free, but reservations are required

The Getty Villa is arguably one of the most beautiful museums in Los Angeles. It was formerly the home of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, who modeled the building off Herculaneum’s ancient Roman Villa of Papyri. The Getty Villa holds over 44,000 pieces, most of which are ancient Etruscan, Greek, and Roman works of art that were once part of the oil magnate’s personal collection. The property’s elaborate painted ceilings, marble floors, and Roman columns are just as beautiful as the art on display. But the most impressive thing is not exactly the art—it’s actually the property itself. Make plenty of time to explore the Getty Villa’s multiple gardens, fountains, and world-famous pool. Half an hour away, the foundation also runs the Getty Center, which houses art from the medieval period to today.

A person standing in a mirrored display at the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale, California.

The Museum of Neon Art celebrates the rich and storied past of Los Angeles through vintage neon signage.

Photo by Audrey Shattuck/Unsplash

3. Museum of Neon Art

  • Location: 216 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale | Find on Google Maps
  • Hours: Thursday–Saturday 12 p.m.–7 p.m., Sundays 12 p.m.–5 p.m.
  • Admission: $10 per person

Bright lights, big city! It’s hard to miss this museum (especially at night). The Museum of Neon Art was originally founded in downtown L.A. in 1981, but reopened at its current location in Glendale in 2016. Keep an eye out for the warm glow of its neon sign. The space is completely devoted to electric and light-based arts and their evolution through the years. The museum is a bit science-y and goes into the technical details of how neon, electric, and kinetic art work. Some gems from their collection include the neon signs from the Brown Derby (a now defunct chain of restaurants in L.A. known for their derby hat-shaped buildings) and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

4. Tom of Finland House

  • Location: 1421 Laveta Terrace, Los Angeles | Find on Google Maps
  • Hours: Thursday and Saturdays 2 p.m.–4 p.m.
  • Admission: Accessible by tour only, $20 per person

The Tom of Finland House is not your traditional museum in any sense of the word. The home is located on an inconspicuous residential street in Echo Park and is completely devoted to hyper-masculine, NSFW, gay art. The museum is run by the Tom of Finland Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the art of Touko Valio Laaksonen (aka Tom of Finland), who is considered to be one of the most influential erotic gay artists of all time—he’s perhaps best his known prints for of leather clad hunks. The museum is home to more than 100,000 works of art and it also says it’s the largest repository of erotic art in the world. Visitors to the museum can only access it by booking a tour.

The front entrance of the Museum of Jurassic Technology located in Culver City, California

Expect the unexpected at Culver City’s Museum of Jurassic Technology.

Photo by Walter Cicchetti/Shutterstock

5. The Museum of Jurassic Technology

  • Location: 9341 Venice Blvd., Culver City | Find on Google Maps
  • Hours: Thursday and Friday 2 p.m.–8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 12 p.m.–6 p.m.
  • Admission: $12 per person

It’s safe to say there are probably no other museums in the world quite like the Museum of Jurassic Technology. The experience begins as soon as visitors enter the museum, where they encounter a labyrinth of cramped exhibitions that begin and end without warning and are illuminated only by a few dim lights. The exhibits are a wild collection of seemingly random things and objects. Travelers might see a room dedicated to the string game Cat’s Cradle, an exhibit about global folk remedies, or a collection of inexplicably rotten dice that once belonged to a magician. But it’s not exactly about the exhibitions at the Museum of Jurassic Technology, rather, it’s about the experience.

A Japanese-inspired pavilion by a pond at the Huntington Library in Pasadena, California.

The Huntington Library does it all: it’s a library, a botanical garden, and an art museum.

Photo by Justin Audia/Unsplash

6. Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens

  • Location: 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino | Find on Google Maps
  • Hours: Wednesday–Monday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
  • Admission: $25 per person Monday–Thursday, $29 per person on the weekend

For a little taste of both indoor and outdoor fun, head over to the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. The Library sits on over 207 manicured acres—130 of which are carefully maintained botanical gardens. There are 16 different themed areas on the property, including Desert, Japanese, and Chinese gardens. But after visitors get their fill of the outdoors, they can head inside, where the stunning art museum portion of the library holds American and European classical and contemporary art, as well as rare books. Fun fact: The Huntington Library was actually used as a filming location multiple times in the show The Good Place to represent, well, the Good Place.

The front entrance of the Japanese American National Museum located in Los Angeles, California

The Japanese American National Museum was founded in 1985 thanks to the efforts of a group of Japanese American World War II veterans and Little Tokyo businessmen.

Photo by LnP images/Shutterstock

7. Japanese American National Museum

  • Location: 100 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles | Find on Google Maps
  • Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday–Sunday 11 a.m.–5 p.m., Thursday 12 p.m.–8 p.m.
  • Admission: $16 per person

Located in the heart of Little Tokyo, the Japanese American National Museum is the largest museum in the United States dedicated to Japanese American history and culture. The museum has over 60,000 artifacts and often hosts creative exhibitions that range from the impact of Hello Kitty to Japanese internment camps. But JANM is far more than just a museum—it’s also a community hub and advocacy organization that’s devoted to sharing the history of Japanese Americans to the broader community.

The entrance of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, California

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is dedicated to the art and science of making films.

Photo by Elliott Cowand Jr./Shutterstock

8. Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

  • Location: 6067 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles | Find on Google Maps
  • Hours: Wednesday–Monday 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
  • Admission: $25 per person

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is one of the newest to hit the museum scene in Los Angeles. Initially projected to open in 2020, its debut was delayed due to COVID-19, but it eventually launched in 2021. The Academy Museum’s collection is massive—it holds more than 13 million objects related to film history, some of which dates back to 1927. Some items of interest in the museum include: an E.T. from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz (1939), and the May Queen dress worn by Florence Pugh in Midsommar (2019). The Academy Museum is currently showing a temporary exhibition, John Waters: Pope of Trash, about the work of the famously brilliant (and notoriously filthy) director; it will run through August 4, 2024.

The entrance of the Medieval Torture Museum

The Medieval Torture Museum also has branches in Chicago, Illinois and St. Augustine, Florida.

Courtesy of LittleT889/Wikimedia Commons

9. Medieval Torture Museum

  • Location: 6757 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles | Find on Google Maps
  • Hours: Sunday–Thursday 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.–12 a.m.
  • Admission: $30 per person

For a truly off-the-wall museum experience in Los Angeles, look no further than the Medieval Torture Museum, which is located just off Hollywood Boulevard. The institution bills itself as the “largest interactive historical museum in the U.S.” and is filled with an “unprecedented collection of cruelty.” Inside, visitors will find the usual suspects like stocks, shackles, and the rack, as well as more, uh, inventive contraptions like boots made to slowly crush feet as well as mutilate a person’s private regions. “Our exhibition is designed not only to present historical artifacts, but to convey the feelings and emotions of those who lived in that era,” owner Eugene Grach said in an April 2023 interview with the Hollywood Reporter.

Mae Hamilton is a former associate editor at AFAR. She covers all things related to arts, culture, and the beautiful things that make travel so special.
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