One of the best ways to get to know any new city is to visit the cultural landmarks and museums which best characterize the diversity and breadth of it. In a city as expansive as Los Angeles, it is impossible to visit every single landmark or museum in one day. However, one of the best ways to tackle visiting these places is to decide on a small section of the city, and go check out all the historical sites, museums, and landmarks for that particular spot. Then, do the same thing on your next day off. If you do this occasionally all year round, you’ll be an expert on Los Angeles in no time.
Here is just a sampling of the best landmarks and museums to sink your culturally curious teeth into when you are ready to explore the city’s many cultural sides.
1. The Getty
This is one of the most impressive locations in all of LA. The Getty sits above the city, and on the clearest days, you’ll see all the way to the coast. It’s a convenient location to access, residing above the 405 freeway. Housing some of the most impressive art collections and exhibits, it’s a superb spot to grab lunch and take in the expansive views on a relaxed day.
This museum is one of the most photographed and filmed locations in all of Los Angeles (particularly the outside of it). The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or LACMA, is best known for the outdoor “Urban Light” piece that brightens the night on Museum Row. Inside, the museum provides patrons impressive artistic exhibits as well as film screenings.
Placed in two locations in Downtown Los Angeles, the Museum of Contemporary Art is a locals’ favorite. Residing amidst the urban landscape of the downtown area, this museum continues to astound with unique collections that showcase the diversity of the world of modern art including unique installations and exhibits with a global emphasis.
4. The Broad
Marked by a spectacular building, The Broad is one of the newest editions to the cultural landscape of Los Angeles, and it has quickly become one of the most popular. Snag a ticket prior to your visit; otherwise, you may find yourself waiting in a standby line for a couple hours. However, when you do get inside, you’ll be in awe of the contemporary art collections.
5. Walt Disney Concert Hall
You may think that this location is only for those who love classical music. However, in recent years, the Walt Disney Concert Hall has fashioned its schedule to suit the tastes of diverse audiences. Their season schedule often includes film screenings with live orchestration, non-classical artists, and a host of other special events.
6. Autry Museum
If you are looking for one of the most family-friendly museums to go to soon, this is your spot. The Autry Museum continues to offer its trademark collection of western ephemera, Native American art, and even a bit of Hollywood western history. The museum has year round events that both adults and children alike will certainly enjoy.
7. Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens
The Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens draws a crowd from around the world on a yearly basis. It is one of the largest cultural sites in all of Los Angeles sitting on over 100 acres in the San Gabriel Valley. Plan to spend your entire afternoon walking the many gardens, having lunch somewhere on the grounds, and browsing through its classical art galleries.
8. La Brea Tar Pits
Other than the Autry, this is another excellent choice for a family outing. Located in the well known Museum Row of Los Angeles, where museums like LACMA also reside, the La Brea Tar Pits showcases the oldest examples of California’s ancient history. The site offers an interactive experience to immerse yourself in the past.
9. Griffith Observatory
If you are a local, you might be more familiar with the Griffith Observatory because you have hiked around it several times. Well known for its dome shape, the Observatory is the ideal spot for two reasons: It easily provides some of the most expansive views in all of the city and the exhibits showcase the best of astronomical wonders.
10. Heritage Square Museum
Ever wonder what it would be like to go back in time to a period in Los Angeles’ history where houses were ornate and made in that old time, Victorian style? If so, this is your spot. This museum is entirely outdoors, and a walk through Heritage Square in Highland Park will transport you to the past as you gaze upon beautiful Victorian homes.
11. Japanese American National Museum
This is a jewel in Los Angeles that provides the history of Japanese American experiences throughout United States history. The museum offers a variety of exhibits as well as special events such as documentary screenings. Residing in the heart of the Little Tokyo district, this museum will immerse you in the diversity of the city.
12. Olvera Street
Another superb location to understand both the history as well as the diversity of Los Angeles is at Olvera Street. In fact, Olvera Street is the oldest location in all of LA with its history dating back to the 18th century. Spend an afternoon walking through the outdoor shops, eating at one of the many Mexican restaurants, or listening to live, traditional Mariachi.
13. The Arts District
Arguably the most immersive cultural experience in the city is currently happening in the Arts District in Downtown LA. More recently garnishing national attention for its collection of various galleries within just a few city blocks, The Arts district is the best area to browse museums, shop, and dine. The area is an Instagram dream, so come ready to take lots of selfies!