Whenever I am in Southern California there is one destination that is always at the top of my list – the Museum Row on Miracle Mile in Los Angeles. Located in the heart of Los Angeles and near many of the great sites (Chinatown, Fashion District, Melrose, Downtown and even Hollywood), there is no better place to anchor your day in the great city.
Museum Row consists of a number of museums including the Craft & Folk Art , Peterson Automotive and Architecture and Design museum. However, the real gems are the museum complexes in Hancock Park. While there are better individual museums in the states, nothing tops LA County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Page Museum for diversity in a short walking range. It is actually the largest art museum in the country.
Page Museum and La Brea Tar Pits
Most people don’t associate Southern California with the Ice Age, but the area was once home to wooly mammoths and saber-tooth cats. The La Brea Tar Pits, which is a large seepage of heavy oil, has trapped thousands of animals and insects over the centuries and has been one of the greatest sources of fossils in the world. The “lake pit” is the center of attraction – a large lake of tar where the smell is still quite ripe. However, it’s not the only tar in the area – be careful when you’re walking on the grass in Hancock Park or you might get your shoe covered in the black oil!
The Page Museum is the repository of the vast storehouse collected at the Tar Pits. The highlights are the giant mammoths and cats, but there are many other interesting fossils in the museum. Excavations are still happening and there is a fossil lab where you can view paleontologists studying the more recent findings. A unique experience, the tar pits and museum are great places for both adults and kids.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
LACMA is not one museum, but a collection of fascinating and diverse settings. The heart is the Ahmanson Building home to first-rate modern and classical art. The Art of the Americas Building is home to much of the collection of William Randolph Hearst (of “Citizen Kane” fame.) The Broad Contemporary Art Museum compliments the Ahmanson collection of modern art.
One of the most amazing buildings in the LACMA complex is the Pavilion for Japanese Art. While a spectacular venue in its own right, the Pavilion is notable for its emphasis on natural sunlight and conditions for viewing its collection of over 300 Japanese scroll and screen paintings in addition to hundreds of other prints.
LACMA is also home to the B. Gerald Cantor Sculpture Garden, which houses many of Rodin’s finest pieces. There are also many surprises as you walk around the complex. The last time there I was treated to a free exhibit of photo shoots of Hollywood notables sponsored by George magazine. Finally, don’t forget to stop by the outdoor Urban Light installation of dozens of vintage Los Angeles streetlamps. A great place for photo shoots!
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