17985 Pacific Coast Hwy, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272, USA
Photo by Lisa Corson, AFAR Media
Getty VillaJ. Paul Getty’s original museum is as much about the transporting setting as it is about the pieces inside. When the billionaire oil tycoon decided to open a museum for his extensive collection of antiquities in 1974, he modeled it after an ancient Roman villa that had been buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The estate’s painted ceilings, Roman columns, and marble floors feel at one with the 44,000-strong collection of Etruscan, Greek, and Roman pieces (don’t miss the bronze statue of Herakles, circa 300 B.C.E.). When you stand amid the 64-acre ground’s bronze statues, frescoes, and reflecting pool, the expansive view of the Pacific Ocean offers one of the few clues that you’re in California. A regular stream of theater performances, readings, and academic talks in the open-air amphitheater keeps things heady day and night. Pro tip: Although it’s free, entrance to the Getty Villa requires an advance, timed-entry ticket, bookable online. Don’t miss the 40-minute tours on Thursdays and Saturdays of the four Roman gardens, which cover a fascinating array of mythology and history.