5 Top Los Angeles Museums for Families

Jocelyn Murray August 6, 2011 1 Comment


Tots and Travel Recommended

From dinosaurs, mammoths and saber-toothed cats, to human inventions, life cycles, the sun and planets, to beautiful works of art, Los Angeles is a mecca for museum enthusiasts. The following five museums (listed alphabetically) are some of the best Los Angeles has to offer families, engaging and entertaining every age group. Come visit them for yourself and embark on an extraordinary voyage from the prehistoric past, to the depths of outer space, and all that is in between.

California Science Center

California Science Center

The California Science Center features plenty of hands-on and interactive exhibits (photo courtesy of Richard Kim)

The California Science Center features fantastic hands-on exhibits and interactive galleries that are fun and educational for the whole family. Its exhibit galleries center around a variety of human inventions and advances, as well as the life processes of living things. A few highlights include their newest exhibit gallery – Ecosystems – that examines the diverse ecosystems of our planet from the harshest environments in the deserts and poles, to forests, rivers and islands. It includes an aquarium and a touch tank.

Children will find the Rot Room in the Ecosystems gallery fascinating as they observe decomposition – an important part of the life cycle – first-hand. Here viewers can see roaches, sow bugs, millipedes and fungi transform a log into a mass of rotten wood, or examine maggots feasting on a dead organism. The Family Discovery Room in the Ecosystems gallery takes a closer look at how pets and pests use our homes to survive, including mice and cockroaches. Several hands-on activities make learning fun while engaging children’s attention.

The Creative World gallery explores the effects of various inventions and innovations on our lives, from communication, to structures and transportation. Younger children (under 8 years of age) will love the Discovery Room in this gallery that is modeled after a city street and includes an interactive Construction Zone, a hands-on Hardware Store for building structures and other gadgets, and a child-sized TV studio with costumes, puppets and a camera, and plenty of Discovery Boxes with more hands-on fun.

The World of Life gallery examines the connections between all living things in the five life process exhibits: Energy Factory, Supply Network, Control Center, Defense Line and Life Source. The Discovery Room (for children under 8) features an up close look at animals including lizards, spiders, hermit crabs, and hissing cockroaches.

California Science Center - High Wire Bicycle

The High Wire Bicycle thrills guests as they learn about the center of gravity law from 43 feet above the ground.

The Science Court features special exhibits, interesting demonstrations, an exciting High Wire Bicycle, Motion-Based Simulator and the Ecology Cliff Climb. The IMAX Theater with its seven-story IMAX screen showcases wonderfully entertaining and educational films and makes a visit to the California Science Center complete. With over 100 hands-on exhibits in the free exhibit hall galleries, this museum is one of the best Los Angeles has to offer families. The California Science Center also has FREE admission every day of the year (only closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day), so there is no excuse not to visit.


California Science Center is located at 700 Exposition Park Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90037 (323) 724-3623. For more information visit www.californiasciencecenter.org

Getty Center

Getty Center patio

The Getty Center's architecture is stunning (photo courtesy of Roman Fuchs)

The Getty Center houses an exquisite collection of European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts and photographs in a stunning architectural setting that makes the most of sunny Southern California’s natural light and the museum’s breathtaking surrounding vistas. The Central Garden – with its tree-lined walkway, meandering stream spilling into a pool with floating azaleas, sumptuous and fragrant landscaping – is a living work of art in itself, making a visit to this haven an invigorating sensory delight.

Getty Center Central Garden

The Central Garden at the Getty Center is a living work of art (photo courtesy of Vanderven)

The Getty Center’s lush and opulent grounds include fountains in the Museum Courtyard and the Central Plaza, a cactus garden, shaded retreats, and spectacular views of the Santa Monica Mountains, the Pacific Ocean, and Los Angeles. This museum is a refuge from hurried city life, and a great place for families to visit.

In addition to the exhibitions there are free guided tours of the galleries, free lectures, conferences, courses and demonstrations to help participants examine various art subjects and techniques in greater detail. The Getty Center also features an array of enriching films and performances including dance, music and theater.

Families will enjoy the year-round activities designed with children in mind. There are art-making workshops, hands-on gallery activities, storytelling, drawing classes and more. During the summer, some of the best children’s musicians from across the nation perform in the free Garden Concerts for Kids series at the Central Garden. This is a perfect venue for introducing children to wonderful art and music while watching them grow in inspiration as the world before them blooms.

Admission to the Getty Center and to all exhibitions is FREE—no tickets or reservations are required for general admission.


The Getty Center is located at 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, California 90049 (310) 440-7300. For more information visit www.getty.edu

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

The Griffith Observatory has been drawing visitors since 1935.

Set high on a hill overlooking the Los Angeles Basin, downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and the Pacific Ocean, the Griffith Observatory has been drawing visitors since its opening in 1935. This fantastic family venue features a planetarium, theater, public telescopes and dozens of exhibits inside and outside the building.

The Samuel Oschin Planetarium is the best in the world featuring hourly live presentations that take visitors on an expedition throughout universe with the use of the new dome, star projector, digital laser projectors, sound system and lighting. The Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon showcases a 20-minute inspirational film hosted by Leonard Nimoy about the observatory’s history, renovation and future.

The new Gottlieb Transit Corridor is a massive 150-foot-long, 10-foot-wide glass-walled passageway, immersing visitors in the motions of the Sun, Moon, and stars across the sky while demonstrating how these motions are linked with time and the calendar.

Guests can gaze through the observatory’s optical and solar telescopes free of charge, including the 12-inch Zeiss telescope and triple-beam solar telescope. There are coin-operated telescopes along the south and west perimeters of the building that allow viewers a close look at the Los Angeles Basin and adjacent mountains.

Griffith Observatory Tesla Coil

The Tesla Coil captivates viewers with its lightning-like electrical discharges.

The observatory has two fantastic exhibit galleries – Wilder Hall of the Eye and Ahmanson Hall of the Sky, as well as the new multi-level Gunther Depths of Space and new exhibits on the lawn and terraces. Exhibit highlights include the largest astronomical image in the world -The Big Picture, fascinating meteorites – Pieces of the Sky, and the Tesla Coil which has thrilled viewers for generations with its lightning-like electrical discharges.

The Foucault Pendulum in the W.M. Keck Foundation Central Rotunda is a big hit with children who seem mesmerized by its gentle movement. The 240-pound brass ball demonstrates the Earth’s rotation as it swings with the Earth turning beneath.

Admission to the Griffith Observatory building and grounds is FREE, with a nominal charge to see shows in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium.


Griffith Observatory is located at 2800 East Observatory Road, Los Angeles, CA 90027 (213) 473-0800. For more information visit www.griffithobservatory.org

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County - Dueling Dinosaurs display

A dueling Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops in the museum's Grand Foyer welcome visitors.

From the first step into the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles’s Grand Foyer, visitors catch their breath as they contemplate this splendid colonnaded hall with its lofty 40-foot ceilings, gleaming travertine floors and elegant chandeliers. With a reverent hush, their mouths agape, they point in awe at the “Dueling Dinosaurs” – complete skeletons of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops in battle. This experience sets the tone to a visit at this impressive museum.

The floor plan with its great halls showcasing exhibits of animals in exquisitely reproduced habitats is open and inviting. The layout is such that even on a busy day one does not feel crowded. Even the smallest of visitors can gaze appreciatively at the surrounding displays.

The star attraction at the Natural History Museum is the new Dinosaur Hall, unveiled in July 2011. It houses one of the best dinosaur exhibits in the world with more than 300 real fossils, and 20 complete dinosaurs and ancient sea creatures. The cornerstone of this gallery is the Tyrannosaurus rex growth series, featuring a baby, juvenile, and sub-adult T. rex.

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County - dig pit

The dig pit in the museum's Discovery Center features fossil replica parts for children to unearth.

Among the many fascinating exhibits, guests will not want to miss the African Mammal and North American Mammal Halls (both flanking the Grand Foyer), the Bird Hall, and the Discovery Center for kids. Everything at the Discovery Center is touchable – something children find irresistible – from animal pelts and preserved bones, to rocks and minerals. There is a dig pit with fossil replica parts for them to unearth, along with live animal presentations and a live collection of fish, amphibians, reptiles, snakes, turtles, and more. Puppets, puzzles, storybooks and daily story times engage children as well.


The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is located at 900 Exposition Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90007 (213) 763-DINO. For more information visit www.nhm.org

Page Museum La Brea Tar Pits

Page Museum La Brea Tar Pits

The Page Museum La Brea Tar Pits houses the world’s largest collection of extinct animals and plants from the last Ice Age.

Saber-toothed cats, mammoths and dire wolfs, oh my! Come visit the Page Museum La Brea Tar Pits and view the world’s largest collection of extinct animals and plants from the last Ice Age, while seeing what prehistoric Los Angeles was like when these amazing creatures roamed the earth about 25,000 years ago. It was here that the animals became entrapped in the sticky tar, their bones perfectly preserved, allowing for over three million fossils to be excavated.

Life-size reproductions of mammoths by a pond greet visitors when they arrive. Tar still seeps up from the earth here as it did many thousands of years ago. The tar is visible in some places in the pond and around the grounds of the museum.

A 15 minute video – shown at regular intervals throughout the day – offers a fascinating glimpse of prehistoric Los Angeles and the conditions that allowed the animals to become trapped in the deadly tar. The museum laboratory is separated by glass windows, allowing guests to watch and observe the scientists as they clean and prepare the excavated bones for exhibit.

Page Museum La Brea Tarpits - mammoth

This mammoth exhibit is very realistic with movement and sound effects.

Families with children will enjoy several things about this top museum: the reproductions and fossilized remains of the animals – including mammoths and saber-toothed cats – are fascinating. The smaller size of this museum (compared to other museums) make it more accessible and manageable, especially on a strict time frame – the entire museum can be toured in about an hour’s time. It’s also one-level without elevators or stairs, making it easy to maneuver strollers. The grounds outside the museum are lush and inviting with plenty of room for children to run and explore, including statues of the now extinct ground sloth and short-faced bear.


The Page Museum is located at 5801 Wilshire Boulevard in the historic Miracle Mile district of Los Angeles. For more information visit www.tarpits.org

avatarAbout the Author:

Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

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One Comments to “5 Top Los Angeles Museums for Families”
  1. avatar Merisa says:

    The California Science Center also has FREE admission every day of the year (only closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day)