La Brea Tar Pits

La Brea Tar Pits Finds on Display at the Page Museum

Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits
••• Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits. ©2007 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

Los Angeles' La Brea Tar Pits are one of the world's best and most important sources of Ice Age fossils.

How did so many animals come to be trapped and preserved at the La Brea Tar Pits? Part of the answer lies with geology: ancient oceans and rock fissures that carry sticky tar to the surface. Time also plays a part. More than 10,000 individuals were trapped here over about 30,000 years.

What is There to See at the La Brea Tar Pits?

Enjoy our best shots in a Photo Tour.

Get some fun facts about the dire wolf and the woolly mammoth.

Reasons to Visit the Tar Pits

  • You can see the skeletons of giant sloths that are bigger than a Saint Bernard, fearsome sabre-toothed cats, gigantic wooly mammoths - and even a prehistoric giraffe.
  • At the natural history museum, you'll see just a single animal or tow (even if they're big ones). The tar pits give a rich picture of the Ice Age that is much more interesting.
  • The tar pits are unique and one of the world's best places to learn about the Ice Age.

Reasons to Skip the Tar Pits

  • If you're looking for dinosaurs, you won't find them here. They became extinct 65 million years before the Ice Age.

  • If animals and natural history don't interest you, you'll have more fun somewhere else.

Tips for Visiting the Tar Pits

  • Tar sometimes oozes up through cracks in the sidewalk. It's a mess if you get it on your shoes, making this one of those times when it's good to keep looking down. 
  • It's fun to watch people working in the fishbowl lab at the museum, cleaning and sorting fossils, but you can only do that during the week.
  • Don't just stop at the small lake out front and conclude that there's nothing to see. Drop into the Museum to get their guide map and take a walk around to see all the pits and excavations.
  • It might be obvious to you, but some people don't expect the tarry/petroleum smell that comes from the pits.

What You Can See in the George Page Museum

Inside the George Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits, you'll find specimens from more than 1 million fossils recovered from the area. They include a wood fragment about 40,000 years old and skeletons of dire wolves, saber-toothed cats, mammoths, short-faced bears, giant sloths and ancient buffalo, as well as many birds and other creatures.

Besides the exhibits, you can watch one of their feature films like the 3D "Titans of the Ice Age." Kids especially like the "What It's Like to be Trapped in Tar" exhibit. Catch the live stage show "Ice Age Encounter," featuring a life-size Saber-tooth cat puppet. When a docent is on duty, they can go hunting for "fossils" and get a certificate to prove it.

What You Can See Outside the Museum

You can see the La Brea Tar Pits outside for free.

The lake near Wilshire Boulevard was formed when the La Brea Tar Pits were excavated for asphalt in the nineteenth century.

Today, it's full of water, covered with an oil slick. Methane gas bubbles up to its surface. On its south shore, you'll find a recreated scene of a mammoth getting trapped in the sticky tar.

A stroll around the grounds outside the museum has more to see. You'll find several pits of oozing black stuff to peer into on the grounds. The Pit 91 viewing area is open to the public. Nearby, you can peer through the fences that surround Project 23, a new experiment in removing fossils from the tar.

What You Need to Know About the La Brea Tar Pits

The museum is open daily except for some holidays. They charge an admission fee. Check their current hours and prices at the La Brea Tar Pits Website

Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits
5801 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA
La Brea Tar Pits Website

The Page Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits are on Wilshire Blvd in the "Museum Row" area.

It's near the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Petersen Automotive Museum.

The parking lot is behind the museum. Parking there costs almost as much as one adult admission. You can usually find street parking on Sixth Street within an easy walk, but some places have parking meters.