11 Free Museums in Los Angeles for Every Type of Traveler

categories: Southern California

Los Angeles has a lot to offer for the curious traveler, whether you’re in town for a short layover or a long term stay.

You could spend years living in the city and never tackle everything it has to offer because there’s that much to see and do in Los Angeles.

Besides the many outdoor activities and hikes near the city, it’s also one of the largest cultural hubs in the US and offers various world-renowned museums, cultural events, and historic sites that are worth exploring, including a number of free museums in Los Angeles.

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I appreciate cities that make art and culture accessible to the masses. You see this in cities like London and Washington DC with the number of free museums that are open to the public. Los Angeles’ cultural scene runs in a similar vein, offering a diverse selection of free museums that are there to educate and tell a story about art, history, or science in an engaging and interactive way.

And for the museums in LA that aren’t free every day, they usually still offer free admission to their core exhibits once a week or month.

These are the 11 best free museums in Los Angeles that are good for every type of traveler.

view from the Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

The Griffith Observatory is perhaps the most famous free museum in Los Angeles, at the Griffith Observatory you’ll find exhibits on astronomy, telescopes to look through, and live shows at the Samuel Oschin Planetarium (for an additional fee).

They also have regular free events at the museum if you check their calendar of events, including public ‘star parties’.

After learning more about the solar system, feel free to explore Griffith Park and its many free trails right next to the museum.

The outdoor lookout surrounding the Griffith Observatory has one of the best views in the city, as well as views of the Hollywood Sign (albeit pretty far in the distance unless you’re willing to hike up to it).

Practical info: Open Tuesday-Friday from 12 pm-10 pm, Saturday-Sunday from 10 am-10 pm, and closed Mondays.

Space Shuttle Endeavour

California Science Center

One of the best free interactive museums for kids in Los Angeles, the California Science Center offers over 100 hands-on exhibits on popular human inventions, the Earth’s ecosystem, and the science behind living things. One of the more unique items in its collection is the Space Shuttle Endeavour.

The museum goes a step further to make education fun with its regular 15-20 minute live shows that bring science to life, and the activity stations that demonstrate different science experiments.

Besides the free exhibits, there are a few inexpensive attractions geared for young ones, including a high wire bicycle, motion-based simulator, and a rock-climbing wall. There’s also IMAX shows for an additional cost.

Practical info: Open daily from 10 am-5 pm.

Getty Center in Los Angles

The Getty Center

If you’re interested in architecture and fine art, don’t miss out on the free Getty Center.

The center features American and European art that goes back to the Medieval era to modern-day, as well as a European maze-like garden.

Don’t miss out on the free 45-minute architecture tour and stunning views looking out over Los Angeles.

Note that parking is $20 at the Getty Center, so if you want to avoid the cost of parking take public transit or a shared ride.

Practical info: Open Sunday through Friday from 10 am to 5:30 pm and Saturday from 10 am to 9 pm. Closed on Mondays.

Getty Villa

Photo by Ian Kirkland on Unsplash

The Getty Villa

Part of the same museum foundation as the Getty Center, but in a different area of Los Angeles, the Getty Villa is housed in an elaborate property that features ancient European art.

As you walk through the well-manicured estate, you’ll find over 44,000 pieces of ancient Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art and antiquities. Some of these pieces date all the way back to 6,500 BC.

Note that although the Villa offers free admission, you have to reserve timed tickets ahead of time via phone or the museum’s website.

Also, similar to the Getty Center, parking is $20, so take public transit or a shared ride if you want to avoid paying for parking.

Practical info: Open every day except Tuesday from 10 am to 5 pm.

The Broad

Photo by Tu Tram Pham on Unsplash

The Broad

One of the most underrated free museums in LA, but one that could easily rival the popular LACMA, The Broad is a contemporary art museum that offers free admission to their third floor permanent galleries.

Founded by philanthropist Eli Broad, The Broad museum features over 2,000 works of contemporary art from the 1950s to the present day.

In fact, it has one of the largest collections of contemporary art in the world from the postwar era.

Make sure to take one of the free tours they offer at 1:15 pm and 3:15 pm every day they’re open for a full overview of the free galleries.

And don’t miss Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms, one of the coolest exhibits to experience at the museum.

Due to The Broad’s interesting architecture, it’s also a popular photo spot for photographers and modern architecture enthusiasts in Los Angeles.

Note that it’s recommended to book your free admission ticket for a specific time before you arrive to avoid waiting in the standby line. You can book a timed admission ticket on their website here.

Practical info: Open Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 am to 5 pm, Thursday and Friday from 11 am to 8 pm, Saturday from 10 am to 8 pm, and Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm. Closed on Mondays.

Holocaust Museum - Washington DC - photograph

Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

The first museum ever founded by Holocaust survivors in the US, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust is a powerful museum that honors those who were lost and those who survived the Holocaust in World War II.

Make sure to grab an audio guide upon entry to listen to the narratives of the most important parts of the museum, as well as a printed guide that tells you more about the life stories of survivors.

The museum’s goal is to provide an interactive and objective look at the Holocaust through the voice of its survivors to educate others on the reality of what living through the Holocaust was really like.

Practical info: Open Saturday through Thursday from 10 am to 5 pm and Friday from 10 am to 2 pm.

Hammer Museum

Hammer Museum

Located in Westwood Village and affiliated with UCLA, the Hammer Museum features works of art from its founder, Dr. Armand Hammer, as well as contemporary artwork from underrated and overlooked artists throughout the years.

If you’re looking for a place to take in the more underground and trendy art culture of LA, the Hammer Museum is the place to visit.

Exhibits feature edgy contemporary art in all types of media that fall under the visual arts umbrella.

Besides the diversity of art on display, the museum hosts regular free events on different social issues in the form of lectures, readings, concerts, film screenings, and panel discussions.

Practical info: Open Tuesday through Friday from 11 am to 8 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm. Closed Mondays.

California African American Museum

California African American Museum

Located in Exposition Park, the California African American Museum features exhibits that tell a story of African American life, heritage, and art throughout the years, especially in California.

They have a wide range of rotating exhibits and programs that focus on a number of important topics about the African American experience.

Make sure to walk through the beautiful rose garden after spending some time at the museum to take everything in and make a full day of it. They often have interactive activities for kids at the museum as well.

Practical info: Open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm. Closed Mondays. Parking is $12 and cash only.

Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA LA)

A relatively new art museum in Los Angeles that’s housed in a converted industrial building, the Institute of Contemporary Art is a small museum that can easily be done in less than an hour.

The museum is made up of rotating exhibits, so your experience will depend on which artists are featured at the moment. Make sure to check their website ahead of time for a full list of their current exhibits.

They’re also working on being the first 100% solar-powered art museum in Los Angeles, so if you’re looking to support an environmentally friendly museum, this is a good option.

Practical info: Open Wednesday through Friday from 11 am to 7 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. One hour free onsite parking is available.

Homestead Museum

Homestead Museum

The Homestead Museum is a historic museum that is housed in the former residence and Mexican rancho of the pioneer Workman-Temple Family.

The residences can only be viewed through a free guided tour, and give you a unique look into what life was like in this region of California – from when it was still part of Mexico to after the Mexican-American war when it became a US state.

If you’re into history and learning more about the life of early pioneers in California, this museum is worth a visit.

Practical info: Guided tours are offered Wednesday through Sunday. Tours of the Workman House are at 1 pm and 3 pm. Tours of La Casa Nueva are at 2 pm and 4 pm. The only way to visit the museum’s houses is through a guided tour.

The cemetery is open Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 12:30 pm to 5 pm.

Annenberg Space For Photography

The Annenberg Space for Photography

The best free photography museum in Los Angeles, the Annenberg Space for Photography features powerful exhibits that are focused on bringing art, social issues, and historic moments to life in the form of both traditional and digital forms of photography.

If you visit on the weekend, go on their free 30-minute tour to get more of a background overview of the works currently on display. Free tours are offered on Saturdays and Sundays on a first-come, first-served basis.

Practical info: Open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

Other Notable Museums in LA That Offer Free Admission Every Day

  • The Nethercutt Collection
  • Travel Town Museum
  • Wende Museum
  • The Fowler Museum at UCLA
  • Wells Fargo Museum
  • FIDM (closed until February 2020)
  • Torrance Art Museum
  • La Plaza de Cultura y Artes
  • Hollywood Bowl Museum
  • Paley Center for Media (suggested donation of $10 for adults)

Free Museum Days in Los Angeles

If you’re still looking for more free museums to visit in Los Angeles, the following museums offer free admission on certain days of the week or month.

Weekly Free Admissions

Free Admission Every Thursday

  • Skirball Cultural Center
  • USC Pacific Asia Museum (5 pm-8 pm)
  • Long Beach Museum of Art (3 pm-8 pm)
  • Museum of Contemporary Art – MOCA (5 pm-8 pm)

Free Admission Every Friday

  • MAK Center (4 pm-6 pm)

Free Admission Every Sunday 

  • Craft and Folk Art Museum (donation-based admission on Sundays)
  • Museum of Latin American Art

Monthly Free Admissions

Page Museum

Page Museum

Free Admission on the First Tuesday of Every Month

  • Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pits (except for in July and August). In September, they offer free admission every Tuesday.
  • Natural History Museum of Los Angeles (except for in July and August). In September, they offer free admission every Tuesday.

Free Admission on the First Thursday of Every Month

  • The Huntington (book free tickets online in advance and note that tickets go fast)

Free Admission the First Friday of Every Month

  • Norton Simon Museum (from 5 pm-8 pm)

Free Admission on the Second Tuesday of Every Month

  • LACMA (LA residents can visit free year-round on weekdays after 3 pm)
  • Autry Museum

Free Admission on the Second Sunday of Every Month

  • USC Pacific Asia Museum

Free Admission on the Third Tuesday of Every Month

  • Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden
  • Descanso Gardens

Free Admission on the Third Thursday of Every Month

  • Japanese American National Museum (5 pm-8 pm)

As you can see, there are plenty of free options for anyone looking to experience the many museums in Los Angeles.

The great thing about the vast amount of free museums is that no matter where you’re staying in Los Angeles, there is probably a free museum nearby for you to pop into for the afternoon.

If you’re looking to get your cultural fix during your next visit in LA or simply want a cozy place to explore on one of the few days it rains in the city, don’t miss these free museums on your next trip.

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For more about what to do in Los Angeles listen to Travel to Los Angeles, California – Episode 624 which talks about some great museums and other attractions in LA.

Mimi McFadden

by Mimi McFadden

Mimi McFadden is a California native and the creator behind The Atlas Heart blog. She has been slow traveling the world since 2013 and is currently based in San Francisco, California. You can also find her on Instagram and Facebook

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