The Autry Museum of the American West was created by Gene Autry, a cowboy star from the 1930s through the 1960s. As you might guess from the name and its origins, the Autry Museum focuses on the American Old West.
What Is There to See at the Autry Museum?
The museum owns an extensive collection of nineteenth and twentieth-century paintings of the West. Notable artists include Frederic Remingtons, CM Russell, and Edward Moran. The Autry Museum also displays Native American pottery and other objects, firearms, cowboy gear and western film memorabilia.
The Autry Museum also sponsors a unique series of stage plays entitled Native Voices. These performances allow Native American playwrights and players to explore their heritage.
Reasons to Visit the Autry Museum
If you love The West as seen through old films and television serials of the kind featuring the museum's singing cowboy founder, you may like the Autry Museum.
Online reviewers at Yelp - who tend to be people who live in LA who seem to all love old western movies and cowboy stories - give the Autry high marks. You can read their reviews here.
The Autry Museum also hosts some signature programs that include Native Voices at the Autry, which provides a home for plays and live performances that focus on Native American culture. Their American Indian Arts Marketplace is the largest native arts fair in Southern California, and they also hold an annual Western art exhibit and sale.
Reasons to Skip the Autry Museum
Even though I love the art of the cowboy era and the American Southwest, I wish I had skipped the Autry Museum. I grew up seeing similar artworks, which I liked, but the focus of the Autry's holdings seems too narrow. Within just a few minutes, I was tired of seeing paintings of horses, cowboys, bison and bears.
The museum is not for you if you don't care about the gun-toting, horse-riding, cattle herding era of the late nineteenth century.
Tips for the Gene Autry Museum
- The family gallery gives little ones a place to touch things
- Kids also like the western film exhibits. They can see costumes from western movies. Even more fun is a chance to ride a mechanical horse in front of a green screen and create your own little movie.
- The cafe is adequate for a quick break, but it might be more fun to bring a picnic and enjoy it outside.
What You Need to Know About the Autry Museum
If you're as confused I was about the museum's name; it's not surprising. It keeps changing. Here's the story, The Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage merged with the Southwest Museum of the American Indian and the Women of the West Museum in 2003. The new organization was named the Autry National Center. In 2015, the name changed again to the Autry Museum of the American West to make it clearer what it is. And don't confuse this place with that other Gene Autry Museum in Oklahoma, which focuses more on the life of the singing cowboy from Texas.
Admission is charged, but children under 12 get in free. Check their current fees and hours. Most visitors will spend one to twp hours seeing the exhibits. The museum also sometimes participates in a free museum weekend. Check their website for dates.
4700 Western Heritage Way
Los Angeles, CA
The Autry Museum is on the northeast side of Griffith Park. It's across the street from the LA Zoo near the intersection of Western Heritage Way and Zoo Drive. From any freeway or nearby city street, follow the signs to the Autry Museum and Los Angeles Zoo.