Guide to L.A.’s Top Museums

By Shalea Klepner

If you’re staying local during the winter break, now would be a great time to go on a museum-hopping adventure. Many of the country’s finest museums are scattered around the Los Angeles area and conveniently accessible from USC. Each museum features something unique, including paintings, photography, sculpture, and new media, and showcases various time periods from ancient to classical to contemporary. I have listed some of my favorite museums as well as fun places to eat and explore after your visits.

The Broad Museum in Downtown LA – photo by Peter Alfred Hess on Flickr

Broad Museum is Downtown Los Angeles’ highly anticipated
newest museum. The Broad is located next to Walt Disney Concert Hall on Grand Avenue. The museum currently features artworks from Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons, Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, and a special installation by Yayoi Kusama.

MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) in Downtown Los Angeles is located across the street from the Broad Museum, which makes for a fun, double-museum day visit. The MOCA’s permanent collection includes works from Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollack. Its featured exhibitions are always fun, thought- provoking, and always changing.

The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, located in the Little Tokyo Historic District, is the sibling museum of MOCA  on Grand Avenue. Pro tip: present the ticket stub from your first MOCA visit and receive free admission to the other MOCA museum, if visited on the same day.

Japanese American National Museum is located next door to the Geffen Contemporary and works to preserve Japanese history and culture. The museum features artifacts and artworks from over 130 years ago, including letters from Japanese-American children and adults living in internment camps. They also feature exhibits representing more contemporary culture, for example the 2014 Hello! Kitty exhibition.

After your visit to the Geffen and Japanese American History Museum, grab a bite at the Japanese Village Plaza or one of the restaurants across the street. Pick up some Japanese snacks at Marukai Market, browse for hard-to-find books at Kinokuniya Bookstore, or head off for ramen or shabu-shabu at either Daikokuya, Shin-Sen-Gumi, Shabu Shabu House, or any of the other yummy restaurants in the area. To get to this location from USC, take the Metro Gold Line from Union Station and get off at the Little Tokyo Arts District Station stop.

Sculpture garden of the Norton Simon Museum – photo from Wikimedia Commons

The Norton Simon
in Old Town Pasadena might not be as well known as the other museums on this list, but it is certainly an often-overlooked gem in Southern California. The museum features a collection of European paintings and sculptures from the 14th-20th century, including works by Rembrandt, Van Gogh and other masters. The museum is located just a few blocks from the major shopping and eating area in Old Town Pasadena, which is fun to explore after a museum visit. My Old Town food and shopping picks are 85 C Bakery (delicious and trendy Taiwanese cakes and pastries), Old Focals (for all your retro eyeglass needs), and the Indiana Colony Market (the large shared space that houses Cool Haus, Pressed Juicery, and the Pie Hole).

LACMA (Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art) is one of Los Angeles’ most visited museums, and for good reason! The museum’s many galleries offer something interesting for every museum goer. Their Frank Gehry exhibit runs until March 20th, 2016—definitely a must-see! After your visit, check out the La Brea Tar Pits and George C. Page Museum, and then stop for lunch or dinner in Little Ethiopia, the neighborhood that surrounds LACMA.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Getty Museum is another classic Los Angeles museum! Along with their many galleries, their Central Garden is lush with beautiful flowers and a large pond. Perched high above the city, the Getty offers gorgeous 360 views of Los Angeles. Admission is free, but the views are priceless! Getty Villa is the Getty’s sibling, located in
Pacific Palisades. The museum focuses on art from ancient Greece and Rome, and you will surely marvel at the lush and sumptuous gardens and pools outside.

At Huntington Gardens in San Marino (just southeast of Old Town Pasadena), you can spend an entire day walking through their numerous lush gardens and museums. Pack a picnic and enjoy lunch with beautiful scenery. If you enjoy tea and tiny sandwiches, reserve a table in advance at the elegant Rose Garden Tea House.

Descanso Gardens, located in La Cañada Flintridge, also offers beautiful garden views with a modest entrance fee. Not technically a museum, unless you consider mother nature a work of art!

Quick Mentions:

USC Pacific Asia Museum features art from all around Asia and includes a lovely koi pond and garden. To get here, take the Metro Gold Line to Memorial Park Station.

Skirball Museum is family friendly, eclectic, and features a mix of contemporary and historical Jewish cultural exhibitions.

Pacific Design Center is home to a third MOCA museum as well as commercial design showrooms.

The Hammer Museum might be located in UCLA territory, but a visit to this small, artist-centric museum is worthwhile and refreshing.

Featured image by Prayitno on Flickr

Shalea just graduated this fall with a major in Cinematic Arts Critical Studies, with a minor in Korean Studies. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she is delighted to have made so many USC friends from around the world. In her free time, she enjoys baking cupcakes, listening and dancing to music, improv acting, and eating delicious food.