Los Angeles museums on a college budget

Discover LA's art and culture in-person and virtually on free days in LA county museums.

by Annette M. Lesure, Staff Writer

Los Angeles County Museum of Art showcases an installation by artist Chris Burden titled “Urban Light.” Standing outside the museum since 2008, the popular art piece was built from 1920s and 1930s restored street lamps taken mostly from Southern California. (Photo by Annette M. Lesure/ Valley Star)

College students can get their art on in over ten popular museums throughout the city.


Cultural attractions and vast collections of world-renowned art have made LA their home in the last century. Art enthusiasts and students on a budget can visit on select days at most museums in LA for free.


Here is a list of some of LA's free gems:


Contemporary art fans should visit The Broad. Founded in 2015, the famous museum sits in the heart of downtown LA just two minutes from the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Guests can see works by Yayoi Kusama, Christopher Wool, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein, Kara Walker and Andy Warhol. The museum is free with timed advance ticket reservations.


California Science Center offers science exhibitions for all ages and is located in Exposition Park near USC. Originally founded in 1951 as the "California Museum of Science and Industry," until being renamed after its remodel in 1998, visitors will experience hands-on human inventions and can see the Space Shuttle Endeavour. The center offers free admission to permanent exhibition galleries with a required timed-entry reservation.


Established in 1997, the Getty Center Museum is for European art lovers. It features art from the middle ages to the present. Seated on a Brentwood hilltop, the Getty Center offers food for purchase to enjoy among the modern architecture and views of the city. Although there is a parking fee, admission is free with a temporary timed-entry reservation.


The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens was made for botanists and contemporary art connoisseurs. This 209-acre oasis, founded in 1919, is nestled in the foothills of San Marino, just east of Pasadena. Their website features what is blooming in the gardens and updates on traveling exhibits. Advanced timed-entry reservations are required on the first Thursday of every month for “free-day.”


The Museum of Contemporary Art, better known as MOCA, was established in 1979 and remains LA's only "artist-founded museum." With a focus on historically diverse art collections and exhibitions, the museum houses over 7,000 contemporary art pieces. General admission is free.


The Museum of Latin American Art, commonly known as MOLAA, is located in Long Beach and was founded in 1996. It is the only Latin American modern and contemporary art museum in the United States. MOLAA offers free Sunday virtual tours.


USC Pacific Asia Museum, located in Pasadena, was founded in 1971 by the Pacificulture Foundation. The museum features more than 17,000 pieces of art and objects from Asia and the Pacific Islands. Entry is free to all visitors on the second Sunday of each month and Thursdays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


The Autry Museum of the American West, founded in 1988 by Gene Autry and associates, is located next to the LA Zoo in Griffith Park. Their gallery features the most notable art and memorabilia of western film history in the United States. It also includes a vast collection from the Southwest Museum of the American Indian. Free admission is available on the second Tuesday of every month.


The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is located in Exposition Park and was founded in 1913 by Sir Richard Owen. With more than 35 million historical objects, NHMLA has one of the largest collections in the world. Ticket programs include: free Tuesdays, free to active military, teachers, students and EBT cardholders and free from the hours of 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday for LA County residents.


The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, better known as LACMA, was founded in 1961, as it was divided from the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art. Located on Museum Row in the Miracle Mile, the museum sits next to the La Brea Tar Pits and is the largest art museum in the western United States. The museum is free for anyone under 17 years old and free for all ages Monday through Friday after 3:00 p.m.


Reservations are required for most of the museums. Calling ahead or visiting the website to confirm COVID guidelines and paid parking information is recommended.


“Museums are a treasure trove of knowledge, scholarship, history, art and culture,” said Valley College art professor Phung Huynh. “Students should take advantage of that kind of access, especially in a city that is extremely diverse with an array of resources.”