The Getty Center (Los Angeles, CA)
The beauty of the Getty Center never fails to impress me. Everything about it is just so grand. It's huge and it just sits there, epically, on top of the hill in the Santa Monica mountains overlooking Los Angeles.
More about J. Paul Getty
J. Paul Getty (1892-1976) was an oil tycoon and one of the richest man in the world. Nevertheless, he was reportedly a frugal man, except for his affinity for art. During his lifetime, he created the J. Paul Getty Trust, which is the world's wealthiest art institution. The trust finances the Center museum, as well as research and conservation projects. About 16% of the art featured at the museum today was personally acquired by J. Paul Getty himself. Given the collection, that is no small feat!
More about Getty Center
The museum features predominantly pre-20th-century Europian art, but also a photography collection. However, the campus itself is an attraction in and of itself.
The walkways and buildings' exterior are built with a form of limestone called travertine, all 1.2 million square feet (or 16,000 tons) of it imported from a town east of Rome in Italy. This simple fact is, in a way, pretty exciting. Travertine from that area was also quarried to build the Colosseum, the Collonade at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican, and the dome of the St. Peter's Basilica designed by Michaelangelo. It's a connection to some pretty serious history!
The gardens of the Getty Center were designed by artist Robert Irwin. If you've ever visited the University of California, San Diego, you might have seen this art installation through the eucalyptus forest, which is also the work of Robert Irwin.
What can kids do?
Of course, kids are allowed in the art exhibits, so you can go ahead and try to introduce them to art for as long as they are capable of controlling their busy little bodies.
When they're done with that, like five seconds later, you still have other options.
First and foremost is the Family Room. Divided into little sections, it provides many different types of activities. It isn't very big, but my children have spent a heck of a lot of time in there. There's a wall of lenses and mirrors that you can adjust, a room of pool noodles begging to become a sculpture, an 18th-century type bed where you can relax and read books, an illuminated table where you can trace images, and—my personal favorite—an illuminated manuscript wall (see below) on which you can draw with dry erase markers. There are a few other details I'm probably forgetting, but you get the idea. It's the hands-on room.
For older kids, the museum provides Art Detective Cards that turn their art viewing into a treasure hunt.
If you plan ahead and play your cards right, the museum also offers a number of family-friendly events, like festivals, workshops, demonstrations, tours, and concerts.
However, all that being said, the best part for kids is probably running around the large garden area. The grass is a little dried out around here these days, but the garden still has a lot going on. Enjoy the walking paths and the wonderful fountains.
And don't miss out on the Children's Shop in the West pavilion, because it is awesome. I mean, shopping with children is always painful, but the shop has a wonderful selection of picture books and art supplies for kids.
Geekling's Guide Tips
Holy moly, if you only listen to one advice from me, let it be this one: BRING SUNGLASSES FOR EVERYONE! The whole exterior is white including the tiled walkways, which is insanely blinding in the LA sun. This is no joke, you guys. Bring. Sunglasses. For. Everyone. Expect a lot of crying and whining the whole time if you don't.
Arrive early if you can, especially on a weekend, to avoid long lines waiting for the tram that connects the parking lot at the bottom of the hill to the museum on top of the hill. There are no other options for going up to the museum, it's a steep hill and a fairly long ride!
The museum is free, as J. Paul Getty had intended it to be. Your adventure won't be completely free as there are parking fees of $15/day, but I feel that's pretty reasonable for LA. Alternatively, for bonus experience points—because we're keeping scores, right?—you can use public transportation. There's a bus line that connects the museum to the Expo/Sepulveda station of the Metro Expo Rail Line and showing your TAP metro card will give you 10% off museum purchases.
There are a number of food options at the museum, ranging from a coffee cart with snacks to a cafeteria to a nice sit-down restaurant that I hear is good but looks a little too fancy for my kids. The food at the cafeteria is decent, but if you want to save some money then go ahead and pack a picnic as outside food is allowed and there are great picnic spots.