Los Angeles has so many incredible art museums to check out with your kiddos on any given weekend, it can be difficult to choose which one. But there’s one that may have escaped your radar until now—Pasadena’s Norton Simon Museum. With an amazing collection of works by some of the world’s most renowned artists, a zen sculpture garden that will take your breath away and a bi-monthly storytelling program for little ones, it’s the perfect way to spend the day with the family.
A Little History
In 1974, industrialist Norton Simon’s vast art collection of Old Masters, Impressionists, Modern Art and Masterpieces from India and Southeast Asia found a permanent home at the Pasadena Art Museum (formerly the Pasadena Art Institute). Simon took up management of the museum and combined its important collection of 20th century European and American art with the collections of the Norton Simon Foundations, and lo and behold, the Norton Simon Museum was born. In 1999, the building was renovated by iconic architect Frank Gehry, and landscape designer Nancy Goslee Power, securing it as a must-stop for every Angeleno (and every out of towner).
Throughout the museum, you’ll find works from the 14th all the way through to the 20th century by world-renowned artists your kids are (or will) studying in school. Look out for pieces from everyone including Rembrandt, Poussin, Degas, Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh to more modern works by Picasso, Matisse, Kandinsky, and Warhol.
The lower level of the museum houses an impressive collection of art from South and Southeast Asia, including stone sculptures from the Indian subcontinent, Chola bronzes from southern India and Japanese woodblock prints that were formerly part of the collection of Frank Lloyd Wright.
One of the best spots at the Norton Simon Museum isn’t even indoors and has to be the stunning sculpture garden which features a lush pond filled with water lilies, long winding paths surrounded by tall billowing trees, gorgeous flowers and some of the most impressive sculptures the museum has to offer.
Little ones will love scampering around the grounds and the Garden Café, overlooking the pond, is the perfect spot to grab lunch or a quick snack. With a great selection of food from salads and paninis to pastries and hummus, there’s definitely something for everyone. A kids’ menu is also available and there’s even a selection of vino for mom and dad (wink-wink.)
The Museum Store
The Norton Simon Museum Store features a fantastic selection of books and prints highlighting the works of some favorite artists and photographers. There’s even a fab children’s section showcasing kids’ art books, books on drawing, unique art supplies plus a huge variety of gifts—perfect for that upcoming birthday party that has you stumped for ideas.
Just for Kids
The Norton Simon Museum also offers a variety of activities for young folks, including a bi-monthly story hour on Sun., special family days where tots can create different types of artwork depending on the day’s theme, as well as art labs and workshops for older kids. Be sure to check out the Family & Youth page on the museum’s site for a current listing of events.
Hours: Mon., Wed. & Thurs. noon. -5 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., and Sun. 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Closed on Tues., Rose Parade Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Admission: Adults are $15 and children 18 and under are free. Audio tours are $3 per headset. Tickets are available upon entry or in advance online. Free admission is available to all visitors the first Friday of every month from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Parking: Parking is free and plentiful in the museum’s lot.
Museum Rules: Make sure to check out the museum’s rules and regulations online before your visit as there are bag size limitations and information on strollers and baby bottles.
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