Taking in some culture with the family around LA isn’t that hard thanks to all the museum options we have. But before you say something about how those entrance fees don’t come cheap, we have a little secret: We have a list of the museums in Los Angeles that offer free days. That’s right, the price of admission is waived for everyone, not just those under two. So what are you waiting for? Scroll down to read our top free museum day picks in LA and get Van-Gogh-going!
Skirball Cultural Center
With free public admission every Thurs. of the month, the Skirball Cultural Center, is certainly one stimulating stop not to be missed. And while there are so many innovative exhibitions on display throughout the center, kids will no doubt gravitate toward Noah's Ark, a completely unique and award-winning installment featuring a floor-to-ceiling wooden ark where little dreamers can imagine themselves inside the pages of a storybook. Taking up an 8,000 square foot gallery, this exhibit is filled with art, puppets and whimsical animals encouraging kids to play, climb and build.
Free Museum Day Hours: Every Thurs. of the month noon – 5 p.m.
Know Before You Go: Free tickets on Thurs. cannot be reserved in advance and are given on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 11:45 a.m. at the ticket window. There is also a 10 ticket-per-party limit.
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
Kidspace Children's Museum
As one of the crown jewels in the hearts and minds of many little locals, the Kidspace Children's Museum in Pasadena is always a favorite destination. Kidspace inspires little ones to channel their inner scientist by exploring the Galvin Physics Forest, climb to new heights in the Arroyo Adventure, watch caterpillar chrysalises take shape at the Nature Exchange, and create to their heart's content in the Imagination Workshop. Be still our beating butterfly wings! Families can check out everything the museum has to offer for free on the first Tues. evening of every month, making Free Family Night a very popular place to be!
Free Museum Day Hours: First Tues. of each month 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Know Before You Go: Free Family Nights at Kidspace are so dreamy that they get exceptionally crowded as tickets are first-come, first-served (no pre-registration options for these nights). Best time of year to go with less time waiting in lines is Jan.— Feb. and Oct.—Dec.
480 N. Arroyo Blvd.
Natural History Museum
Antarctic dinosaurs? Rare and priceless gemstones? More mammals on display than you can shake a tail at? Yes please! Kids (and parents for that matter) will beg to visit to the Natural History Museum on free admission day—the first Tues. of every month (except Jul. and Aug.). From Dinosaur Hall and the hands-on Discovery Center to the African Mammal Dioramas and Nature Gardens outside, this museum is sure to peak your bitty botanists interest and then some. If all this interactive learning has your brood a little hangry, stop by the NHMLA Grill which offers plenty of kid-friendly dishes to please even the pickiest palette.
Free Museum Day Hours: First Tues. of the month 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, except certain holidays; Additional days listed above.
Know Before You Go: Because of high attendance, it’s best to reserve tickets in advance to guarantee museum entry (and skip the lines!). There are also a couple other ways to hit up this place free-of-charge! L.A. County residents can visit the museum for free Mon. – Fri. from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. (just bring a utility bill to confirm residency). Also in the month of Sept., the Natural History Museum offers free admission every single Tues. of the week!
900 Exposition Blvd.
La Brea Tar Pits Museum
Make no bones about it, the La Brea Tar Pits Museum is one of the most unique and exciting places to visit for paleontologists of all ages! Free to families the first Tues. of every month (except Jul. and Aug.), there’s so much for elementary excavators to see and explore. Kiddos can check out over one million ice age fossils from 650 different species and they’ll really dig the Fossil Lab where they get to watch real live paleontologists clean, study and prep fossils for exhibit. After your visit, the grounds around the Tar Pits outside are a perfect place to picnic (and maybe even roll down the giant hill once or twice).
Free Museum Day Hours: First Tues. 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., except certain holidays; Additional days listed above.
Know Before You Go: Like the Natural History Museum, it’s best to reserve tickets in advance to guarantee La Brea Tar Pits entry due to high attendance on free admission days. In the month of Sept., this museum also offers free admission every Tues. And don't forget, L.A. County residents are admitted for free from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. Mon. – Fri. (with proof of residency)!
5801 Wilshire Blvd.
The Autry Museum of the American West
Saddle up your lil cowpokes for a free taste of the American West at the Autry Museum on the second Tues. of every month. During your visit, youngins will learn about everything from Native American history and culture to the California gold rush and westward expansion. For the more hands-on buckaroos, they can create their own Western shows with props and costumes, pose for precious photo ops on a pretend horse, take part in themed scavenger hunts and wander through the expansive outdoor garden. Got a hungry pack? Round up your posse for some vittles at the Crossroads West Café where the kids menu will surely satisfy!
Free Museum Day Hours: Second Tues. of the month 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Know Before You Go: The beloved Gold Panning activity at the Autry Museum will be closed for maintenance until mid-June of 2019 so please make sure to check it’s status if your mini miners are hoping to strike it rich during your visit!
4700 Western Heritage Way
LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art)
As one of the largest museums in the United States, this popular art zone is truly a piece de resistance! Ticket prices may intimidate parents from taking their young but, as it turns out, LACMA offers so many opportunities to visit for free that it would be a tragedy not to come soak up all this place has to offer. For starters, be sure to sign kiddos up for a free youth membership with Arts for NextGen LACMA that allows kids aged 17 and under to visit the museum for free anytime and bring one adult guest. Additionally, admission price is waived every second Tues. of the month, on select holidays and after 3 p.m. Mon. - Fri. for LA County residents. Your mini Monets will love exploring the Boone Children’s Gallery in the Hammer Building where littles are invited to paint, hang out and listen to engaging folktales read by the LACMA staff. And don’t forget to pop by the famous Urban Light exhibit outside for a rousing game of hide-and-seek.
Free Museum Day Hours: Second Tues. of the month 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Additional days and times listed above.
Know Before You Go: Currently LACMA is undergoing a massive renovation overhaul that is leaving many exhibits closed or temporarily removed. And while this remodel project will be done in phases, there still is plenty to see. Call ahead or check the website to confirm what exhibits are open before you visit.
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
But Wait…There’s More!
Japanese American National Museum: Free admission on the third Thurs. of each month.
Museum of Modern Art (MOCA): Free admission every Thurs. from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
And for even more, check out this listing of additional free days at various local museums not featured here at SoCal Museums.
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—Meghan Rose, Jennifer O’Brien & Jenifer Scott