Living in Los Angeles for the past eight years, you could say that I’m a bit spoiled from a cultural perspective – but to be honest, I really wouldn’t have it any other way. This city eats, sleeps, breathes and oozes keen artistic history and introspection, with interest piqued around each and every corner. No matter your age, or the last time you went, museums have the innate ability to inspire a sense of childlike wonder and amazement to come out and play. From Contemporary Art to Modern Art, archaeology and cultural history – museums provide a birds eye view into the beauty of the past and an intelligent projection of the future. Plainly put – a day wasted at the museum is simply never a waste.
Most museums in the area are essentially one stop shops – The Broad sits downtown and houses contemporary art, the Getty and Getty Villa are vast and stunning anthologies of history – but sit alone and secluded; but then there’s Museum Row in West Hollywood and the library of museums at Exposition Park, each home to several stunning venues of nuanced interest. Museum Row plays host to the LACMA, the Tar Pits and it’s museum as well as the Craft Art Museum and Peterson Automotive Museum while Exposition Park houses the Natural History Museum, California Science Center, USC Fisher Museum of Art and the California African American Museum. Since I used to live near the Tar Pits, I’m a bit biased – and some could argue spoiled – so an adventure West didn’t really strike my fancy; but a double date with the Natural History Museum and the California Science Center? Sign this kitten up for a dichotomous day-adventure, stat!
Exposition Park sits in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, and is surrounded by the University of Southern California. My friends and I know the area best for the incredible music concerts, Massives and raves held at LA Memorial Colosseum over the last decade like Electric Daisy Carnival, Camp Flog Gnaw, How Sweet It Is, Nocturnal Wonderland and so many more. I don’t know whats more grown up than getting your knowledge on in the same place you got your PLUR on, so two points for us – at least. Spanning 160 acres, Exposition Park evolved from privately owned fairgrounds and a racetrack into a cultural center for young Los Angeles at the turn of the last century.
First things first, let’s talk some pro tips. The directions might tell you to enter the parking lot at Expo Park via Exposition, save yourself a headache and come in on Vermont with some cash, parking is $12 and they don’t accept credit cards. When visiting the Natural History Museum – save yourself some time by purchasing the tickets online; you can even do it while you’re waiting to get in.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not much for artistic museums, less the Getty Villa and some incredible architecture; but historical fossils and technological progress always find a way to pull at my heart strings. Hands down, my favorite part of the NHM is the Gem and Mineral Hall. Each corner of the room sparkles with a technicolor glow with vibrant greens and blues which don’t make sense as minerals, iridescent shimmers and even some stones from outer space. Indoors you can wander and wonder through the Dinosaur Hall, American Mammal Hall, African Mammal Hall, Marsh environment and Insect and Bird exhibits. If you take the adventure into the great outdoors, you’ll get a prime view of Expo Park’s esteemed Rose Garden (more on that later!), the edible garden and a pollinators garden; easily one of the most tranquil areas on the grounds. In about three hours, we managed to meander through the entire breadth of the Natural History Museum, leaving no stone unturned (pun, slightly intended) – and with the perfect amount of time to visit our second stop!
The California Science Center is just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Natural History Museum – providing a wonderful contrast to the artifacts that you were just musing over. Olus, it’s free to get in and explore – while certain flight simulators and IMAX movies will cost ya between $5 and $12.. There are ample learning centers around the building, but before I get into that: there are also a good amount of food options to choose from! Though the NHMLA does have a quick service deli and sit down restaurant on their bottom floor, their food was no match for the Science Center’s food court. But, let’s get beyond our stomachs. The Cal Science Center eagerly explores global ecosystems and gets in a fair share of hands on learning. Stand in the splash zone or explore tide pools, stand in the middle of a hurricane, play with sound waves and wrap your head around the capsules that we sent humans to space in for days at a time (they’re tiny!).All the museums in the area open at 10 in the morning and close at 5pm, but it’s no reason to leave straight away. Take a stroll through the historic Expo Park Rose Garden and stay for sunset, you can thank me later.
For more on the Natural History Museum Los Angeles, the California Science Center and the Exposition Park Rose Garden – check out their social channels.