If you love museums and have a limited budget in Los Angeles, you're in luck: Some of the city's best museums offer free admission every day. A handful are downtown, so you can easily make a day of visiting one or more. Even though these museums let visitors in for free, it's expensive to keep even the smallest museum running. If you see a donation box near the entrance, donate whatever you can afford.
For those planning to drive, keep in mind that parking isn't easy to find, and some parking lots are expensive. This downtown LA parking map can help you find a cost-friendly space.
To avoid frustration, misunderstandings, and disappointment, check the museum's website before you go. Here's why:
- Opening hours vary.
- Some museums close for weeks when they install new exhibits.
- Special exhibitions and events may charge admission, which could turn that "free" visit into a more costly one.
You can also get into many other museums for free on select days, and SoCal Museums has an annual Free for all Day in January that includes more than 40 museums in Southern California.
The Broad's architecture alone is reason enough to stop by, but don't end your visit there. Using The Broad's mobile app, you can get in-depth insights into the exhibits, which draw from one of the world's leading collections of postwar and contemporary art. Free guided tours will enhance your experience of the artwork, or, navigate the museum on your own with a selection of self-guided audio tours—including a kids' tour narrated by Levar Burton.
You can get free tickets online, or walk up and get into their standby line, which sometimes has a wait of only 10 to 15 minutes. To get standby status and wait times, follow @TheBroadStandby on Twitter.
The LA Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is the only artist-founded museum in Los Angeles dedicated to collecting and exhibiting art created after 1940.
In their flagship exhibition space on Grand Avenue downtown, you can view selected works from their permanent collection, along with themed exhibits and single-artist shows. They charge for special exhibitions, except on Thursday evenings.
In addition to exhibits and video installations, The MOCA Geffen in Little Tokyo also features a casual space for visitors to read, work (they have free WiFi!), and enjoy a cup of coffee.
Designed by architect Richard Meier, the Getty Center complex is incredibly appealing—so much so that some people spend all their time outside. But be sure to carve out some time to explore the J. Paul Getty Museum, which houses an art collection so large, it takes four buildings to display just a part of it.
You can see European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, and photography. The museum's most famous piece may be Vincent Van Gogh's "Irises," which the Getty purchased in 1990.
Not only is admission free, but so are their excellent guided tours of the gardens and architecture. In the summer, the Getty stays open late and host concerts. Just note that you will have to pay for parking unless you arrive by LA's Metro Rail.
You might think you need a time machine to visit a first-century Roman country house, but in L.A., all you need to do is take a trip to Malibu. The Getty Villa is a detailed reproduction of the Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum, which was buried when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79.
The house, gardens, and ocean view are reason enough to go, but don't miss seeing the Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities.
Admission is always free, but you need to get a timed entry ticket and tickets for talks and performances online.
The California Science Center is one of the best science museums for curious adults and inquisitive children alike. The must-see exhibit is the "Space Shuttle Endeavour," which arrived in 2012 after flying for two decades and making 25 trips into space.
Gallery admission is free. So is the "Endeavour," but on weekends and holidays, you need a timed ticket (which comes with a small processing fee). They also charge for special exhibits, IMAX films, and a few other activities.
A cemetery may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of a museum, but the founder of Forest Lawn in Glendale wanted it to be more than a burial ground. In that spirit, the cemetery is also home to a small museum (next to the Hall of Crucifixion-Resurrection).
Permanent exhibits include impressive large-scale paintings, a reproduction of Michelangelo's "The Last Supper" in stained glass, and a full-scale marble replica of "David." Rotating exhibits have explored topics as diverse as motorcycles, aerial photography, and the "Peanuts" comic strip.
While you're there, take a drive around the grounds to see the beautiful churches, admire the views, and visit the graves of some of the famous people buried there.
At the Wells Fargo Museum, you can see how Angelenos did their banking, went shopping, and stayed connected before the digital age. Exhibits will allow you to explore how Mexicans shopped for American goods in the 1880s, see maps of LA when only 1,600 people lived there, and get a look at mobile ads from the early 1900s.
The museum is closed on weekends and bank holidays.
This museum dedicated to photographic art features works of renowned legends and emerging talent, with several exhibitions per year. They also host programs that relate to their exhibits.
Admission is free, and free guided tours are offered on weekends. You can access the parking garage from Constellation Boulevard or Olympic Boulevard. Parking starts at $1.50 when you validate your parking garage ticket.
With only three rooms, this museum at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising is small, but it will appeal to anyone who's passionate about fashion and design.
If you love films and current television productions, go during the annual Art of Television Costume Design exhibit. In 2019, FIDM displayed costumes from "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," "Outlander," and "Game of Thrones."