Top Los Angeles Museums by Type

Best Los Angeles Museums for Different Interests

There are many great museums in Los Angeles, but in order to narrow down which ones might interest you, I've chosen what I think is the best of each type of museum from Art to Science. To go more in depth into LA's museums, you can check out my Annotated Los Angeles Museums Guide with descriptions, or if you already know which of LA's 230+ museums you're looking for by name, you'll find it on my un-annotated Los Angeles Museums A to Z list.

  • 01 of 16

    Art Museums: LA County Museum of Art

    LA County Museum of Art
    ••• Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA. Photo © 2010 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    The Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Museum Row on the Miracle Mile is the most encyclopedic art museum in Southern California with everything from ancient to modern art, from all corners of the globe.

    Get a closer look in my LACMA Visitors Guide, and if you really love art, check out my list of Top Los Angeles Art Museums, because the city has a wealth of great art museums.

  • 02 of 16

    History Museums: The Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits

    Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits
    ••• Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits. Photo © 2009 Kayte Deioma, used with permission

    The La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles is one of the world's greatest sources of Ice Age fossils and the on-site George C. Page Museum is unique in housing the largest collection of fossils recovered from the site. You can also view scientists at work in the excavation pits and in the museum's "fish bowl" lab. The Page Museum is part of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County,  whose main facility is at Exposition Park, which is actually a much bigger and better history musuem overall, but doesn't have the distinction that its entire exhibit was dug up on site.

    More Los Angeles History Museums from the history of the planet to the history of local cities, neighborhoods and houses.

  • 03 of 16

    Children's Museums: Kidspace Pasadena

    Kidspace Blasting Zone
    ••• Kidspace Blasting Zone. Photo © 2006 Kayte Deioma, courtesy of www.KayteDeioma.com

    Most LA museums include special programs for children, but of the dedicated LA children's museums , Kidspace in Pasadena is a gem. With indoor and outdoor learning and play environments, kids have so much fun they don't even realize they are learning.

    More Things to Do in LA with Kids

  • 04 of 16

    Science Museums: California Science Center

    California Science Center Exterior
    ••• California Science Center Exterior. Photo © 2009 Kayte Deioma, used with permission

    The California Science Center in Exposition Park is a great museum for both kids and adults, with high-quality permanent exhibits and world-class traveling exhibits. There are always simple and fun activities for youngsters and more advanced endeavors to keep adults interested. It is the home to the Space Shuttle Endeavour.

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  • 05 of 16

    Entertainment Industry Museums: Hollywood Museum in the Max Factor Building

    Hollywood Museum in the Max Factor Building
    ••• Hollywood Museum in the Max Factor Building. © 2004 Kayte Deioma, courtesy of www.KayteDeioma.com

    This being Hollywood and all, there are plenty of museums and exhibits interpreting the history and culture of various facets of the entertainment industry from the tiny Hollywood Heritage Museum to the video-centric Paley Center for Media, but the Hollywood Museum in the historic Max Factor Building near Hollywood & Highland is the richest glimpse into Hollywood movie history, from its restored hair-color-themed makeup rooms to the collection of movie sets and memorabilia, including an extensive Marilyn Monroe exhibit.

    More Entertainment Museums in Los Angeles

  • 06 of 16

    Ship and Maritime Museums: Queen Mary

    The Queen Mary and Scorpion Russion Sub in Long Beach
    ••• The Queen Mary and Scorpion Russion Sub in Long Beach. Photo © 2005 Kayte Deioma, courtesy of www.KayteDeioma.com

    Ship and Maritime Museums in LA range from military vessels to tall ships, but the Queen Mary in Long Beach wins this category due to its interpretive exhibits on its life as a cruise ship and military transport and the variety of tours available on different themes, as well as the other opportunities for dining, shopping and staying aboard the ship. You can also visit the Russian foxtrot submarine Scorpion at the same location.

  • 07 of 16

    California Ranchos and Missions: El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Site

    Olvera Street - El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Site
    ••• Olvera Street - El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Site. © 2005 Kayte Deioma, courtesy of www.KayteDeioma.com

    Greater Los Angeles is home to two original California missions as well as several ranchos that existed as part of the original Mexican land grants, but the easiest to access and most fun is El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Site, which includes the Avila Adobe, the oldest house in Los Angeles, and the Mexican Market on Olvera Street along with other historic buildings.

    More Los Angeles Missions, Ranchos and Adobes

  • 08 of 16

    Music Museums: The GRAMMY Museum

    The Grammy Museum at LA LIVE
    ••• The Grammy Museum at LA LIVE. Photo © 2010 Kayte Deioma, used with permission

    The GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE presents the history and progression of American music as well as the technology involved in creating and recording music, and the history and highlights of the GRAMMY Awards. You can also check out the GRAMMY Walk of Fame on the pavement around L.A. Live.

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  • 09 of 16

    Air and Space Museums: The Griffith Observatory

    Griffith Observatory
    ••• Griffith Observatory. Photo © 2009 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    The Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park contains exhibits on planets, stars and the exploration of space, as well as multiple super-powered telescopes for day and night viewing. There's also a planetarium show and super views of the Downtown LA skyline and the Hollywood Sign.

    More Los Angeles Air and Space Museums

  • 10 of 16

    Architectural Museums: Walt Disney Concert Hall

    Disney Concert Hall with Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
    ••• Disney Concert Hall with Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Photo © 2015 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    There are many architectural landmarks in Los Angeles, some of which can be visited as museums. In addition to its sheer, exotic presence sailing down Grand Avenue in Downtown LA, the Walt Disney Concert Hall has multiple ways to tour and learn about the architecture as well as the added attraction that you can climb all over it.

  • 11 of 16

    Car Museums: Petersen Automotive Museum

    Petersen Automotive Museum
    ••• If you look at it at just the right angle, you can see the car chassis in the new exterior of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Photo © 2015 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    As a car-centric city, it's not too surprising that the LA area has a number of excellent auto museums. The top of the crop is the Petersen Automotive Museum, which got a complete makeover in 2015, making both it's exterior and interior much more exciting. It's one of my all-time favorite museums in Los Angeles and I'm not even a car person.

    More Los Angeles Car Museums and Attractions

  • 12 of 16

    Train and Railroad Museums: Travel Town

    Travel Town
    ••• Travel Town Train Museum at Griffith Park. Photo © 2005 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    For a city with such limited train service, Los Angeles has a lot of train museums and attractions. The Orange Empire Railway Museum is bigger and has a lot more going on, but it's over an hour from LA, so my top pick actually in town is Travel Town at Griffith Park, where you can get a close-up look at some real trains and even climb on a couple of them. There's also a train ride on site and the LA Live Steamers next door. 

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  • 13 of 16

    Pop Culture Museums: Madame Tussauds

    Madame Tussauds Hollywood
    ••• Madame Tussauds Hollywood. Photo © 2009 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    In addition to Entertainment Museums where you actually learn something about the industry and its history, there are a number of pop culture museums in LA that are just collections of curiosities to look at and point and not really learn much of anything. They're great for people who really don't like museums. The best of those is Madame Tussauds wax museum, where at least you can get up close and take your souvenir selfie with your favorite celebrities.

  • 14 of 16

    Ethnic Museums: The California African American Museum

    California African American Museum
    ••• California African American Museum. Photo © 2011 Kayte Deioma, used with permission

    The California African American Museum uses art and artifacts to trace the African American history and experience in the west.

    More Cultural and Ethnic Museums in Los Angeles

  • 15 of 16

    Military History Museums: The American Military Museum

    American Military Museum in South El Monte, CA
    ••• American Military Museum in South El Monte, CA. Screenshot of Bing Maps

    What makes the best military history museum depends on what part of military history you're interested in since we have museums dedicated to military aircraft, battleships and an Army fort, as well as museums that deal with the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WWII and the Cold War. We even have a Museum of Martial Arts history. But for their nearly 200 military vehicles, from tanks to amphibious vehicles and bomb loaders, I put the American Military Museum, also know as Tankland, on the top of the list.

    See the full list of Military History Museums in LA. You might also be interested in the many Police and Fire Department Museums in Los Angeles.

  • 16 of 16

    Most Unusual Museums: The Museum of Neon Art

    Museum of Neon Art in Los Angeles
    ••• Museum of Neon Art in Los Angeles. Photo © 2010 Kayte Deioma, courtesy of www.KayteDeioma.com

    Los Angeles has a plethora of unusual museums from a museum of death to a museum of bunnies. The best, if not the most unique on my unusual list is the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale, whose collection consists of both traditional and quirky neon art, including a variety of R-rated neon pieces. 

    Check out the full list of LA's Most Unique and Unusual Museums.