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10 Free Museums in L.A. That Need To Be at the Top of Every Angeleno’s To-do List

December 28, 2014 by Sina Lewis

Los Angeles is home to a wonderful variety of museums to enjoy. In fact there are so many museums that taking the time to visit them would be exhausting. Besides, with admission and parking fees it could easily put a major strain on your funds. But it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to experience art and culture in the city of angels.

To make it easier to explore Los Angeles museums, we’ve already created a handy list of pretty much all free museums in L.A. County. That list itself is huge, but to make your life even easier we decided to break down the list to highlight some of our favorites in effort to inspire you to get out there and take advantage.

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So without further adieu, here’s the cream of the crop!

Museums That are Always Free

The California Science Center Aquarium. Credit: Brian Champlin.

1. California Science Center

The California Science Center is an inspiring oasis for individuals of all ages. The fact that this center is always free allows families on a budget to enjoy this memorable learning environment. The California Science Center is open 362 days for those who have hectic schedules. The center is home to The Space Shuttle Endeavour.  MORE about Endeavour ..But you will have to make reservations in advance to see this addition to the center.

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2. Hammer Museum

If you ever take a stroll through the beautiful UCLA campus you aren’t far from The Hammer Museum. The Hammer Museum strives to challenge their visitors to see the world in a new light and inspire change. All of the programs at the museum are free too. This includes lectures, symposia, film series, readings, and musical performances. An added bonus is the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden which is among the most distinguished outdoor sculpture installations in the country.

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3. Griffith Observatory 

Everything at the Griffith Observatory is free; the parking, the building and the grounds. There are also several special events at the observatory including Sun, Moon and Planet viewings at the Star Parties. On clear nights visitors are able to use the public telescopes to view the night sky on their own. Visitors can also take a hike around Griffith Park at the Sunset Walk and Talk event lead by the Park Ranger and Observatory Guide. Free WiFi is also available on the grounds.

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Griffith Observatory Los Angeles CA

Griffith Observatory. Credit: Amatullah Guyot

4. The Getty

The Getty is broken into two locations, The Getty Center and The Getty Villa. Both are free, but ticket reservations are required through the Getty website. The Getty Center is located on a hill amongst the Santa Monica Mountains. The Center has beautiful gardens and awesome views of the Los Angeles area. The Museum includes pre-20th-century European paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts, contemporary and modern sculpture. The Getty Villa is guaranteed to transport patrons to ancient Greece and Rome. The views are breathtaking inside the museum but the gardens are an oasis of peace and tranquility. Parking for both locations will cost $15 per car or motorcycle, and $10 per car or motorcycle after 5:00 p.m. Active duty military parking is always free.

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5. Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

LAMOTH has a dual mission to both commemorates those who perished and those who survived the Holocaust and provide free Holocaust educate to the public. The museum also provides dialogue with an actual survivor of the Holocaust. LAMOTH strives to provide as many artifacts as possible to allow the viewer to learn about the events visually. An interesting part of the museum is the layout. The rooms descend and decrease in light as you travel through the museum taking you towards the darkest part of history and then back to normalcy.

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Museums with Free Days

Visit Natural History Museum Los Angeles

1. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

California teachers with ID, and active military always get in free. But the museum offers 14 Free Tuesdays a year. The LaBrea Tar Pits are also a part of the Natural History Museum and is also free. The best part of the Natural History Museum is the vision to allow the public to enjoy, value and become stewards of the living Earth. The museum boasts one of the most extraordinary dinosaur exhibits in the world, there are more than 300 real fossils, and 20 complete dinosaurs and ancient sea creatures for patrons to examine.

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2. Los Angeles County Museum of  Art

LACMA is the largest museum in the western United States, spanning over 20 acres. Patrons are greeted by the popular installation, Urban Light, the 202 restored cast iron antique street lamps. Thankfully, Los Angeles County residents get into LACMA for free after 3pm all weekdays. You will need to the time to visit again and again since there is so much to see and explore.  LACMA also offers free admission on the second Tuesday of each month plus Target offers free admission on select federal holidays.

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3. Norton Simon Museum

Norton Simon expressed his vision eloquently by stating that “art can help us to understand ourselves more fully”. The museum is regarded as one of the most remarkable private collections spanning 2,000 years. In addition to the collections, The Sculpture Gardens are a delightful addition to the museum including a diverse collection of art dispersed throughout. This includes over a dozen works from India and Southeast Asia in the Asian Sculpture Garden. Admission is free for all visitors the first Friday of every month from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Oh, and if you love botanical gardens, check out the nearby Huntington Library in San Marino, which also offers a free day the first Thursday of every month (though space is limited, and you must make a reservation!)

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4. Museum of Contemporary Art

MOCA is the only museum in Los Angeles devoted exclusively to contemporary art. There are three MOCA museums to enjoy; MOCA Grand Avenue, The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, and MOCA Pacific Design Center. All three locations focus on challenging works of art created since 1940. MOCA also places art works in historical context, and links the range of the visual arts to contemporary culture. MOCA Grand Avenue and The Geffen are free on Thursdays but the MOCA Pacific Design Center is always free.

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5.  Skirball Cultural Center

The Skirball Cultural Center is more than a museum. It’s a place to experience music, theater, comedy, film, family, and literary programs. Skirball is a center to explore Jewish Heritage but it is a place that welcomes people of every ethnic and cultural identity. Their ongoing exhibit Noah’s Ark not only tells an ancient story but teaches patrons about how the ark was constructed through hands on exercises like building the ark and conducting a storm. Through the exhibit patrons also learn the value of creating a community to make the world better. Every Thursday is free at the Skirball but access to the campus, Ruby Gallery exhibitions, shopping and dining is always free. Parking is also free.

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What is your favorite free museum (or museum with a free day!) in Los Angeles? Share your ideas below!

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