9 Museums In LA You Probably Haven't Been To Yet
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We've all taken selfies in front of LACMA's Urban Light, but most of us haven't had time to visit all that the city has to offer. Here are some gems that don't always grab headlines, but are still waiting to blow your mind.
Hours: Saturday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
The San Fernando Valley often gets treated like the black sheep of the L.A. area, but this museum tries to give it the tender loving care it deserves.
Much of the collection feels like a shrine to kitsch, from neon signs to classic cars, cute T-shirts to an old school Jack In The Box drive-through intercom. You'll find rare documents, postcards, BMX bikes, yearbooks (what are they wearing?!), an Alvin (of And The Chipmunks fame) statue, and much more.
It's the brainchild of private collector and Valley native Tommy Gelinas, who opened the mu
seum in 2013. And it's got something that those who love the Valley know all about: free parking.
Museum Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Collection Hours: Advanced reservations only; tours Thursday-Saturday at 10 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.
This is a car museum that's not just a car museum. Tucked away in Sylmar, the Nethercutt Museum is a wonder in and of itself, with more than 130 antique cars restored and in working order. That's due to the institution's philosophy of function above all, with a staff dedicated to making sure their stuff actually works.
But beyond the museum, there's the collection. It requires advanced reservations for a guided tour, but it lets you see a wonderland of functional art. The big showstopper: The "Grand Salon," a giant, marble showroom designed to match car dealerships of the early 20th century, filled with 30 stunning vehicles from that time period. But the collection also includes music boxes, a 5,000-pipe Wurlitzer Theatre Organ, even antique furniture that you can actually sit your butt on. Remember: It's all about function.
They also offer concerts throughout the year, using that giant organ to help you enjoy silent movies, special Christmas concerts, and more. But there's one piece of functional, fine art you'll need to use to get a spot — a phone, because tickets are only available by phone for a two-hour window. (We failed to secure a spot the last time we tried for a Christmas concert, so may the odds be ever in your favor.)
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 12-5 p.m.
Price: Free, with a $10 suggested contribution; tickets to PaleyFest and other special events range in price
The Paley Center was formerly known as the Museum of Television & Radio, and before that, the Museum of Broadcasting. Despite changing names as much as P. Diddy did, those names still give you an idea what the center is all about: the stuff we watch.
You can see exhibits, showing artifacts from your favorite shows, ranging from South Park to The Crown. You can also go deep — their archives include more than 160,000 TV show, radio programs and ads. Visit and watch everything you're not getting in your Netflix and Hulu subscriptions.
Their signature event is PaleyFest, with panels featuring stars and creators. Get good seats, and maybe you'll be able to grab an autograph, despite guards trying to move you along.
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
The Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills is a beautiful, final resting place — but it's also home to exhibits celebrating the birth of America.
You'll find a replica of the Liberty Bell alongside bronze statues of the founding fathers and the world's largest historical mosaic made from 10 million pieces of glass. You can go inside the Hall of Liberty American History Museum, walk outside in the Court of Liberty, and even visit a full-size reproduction of Paul Revere's Old North Church.
Beyond the flag waving, you'll find the Plaza of Mesoamerican Heritage with indigenous sculptures by Mexican artist Meliton Salas Rodriguez.
They also have gardens, other chapels, and more. Get a sneak peak with this virtual tour.
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Price: $15 for adults
The Hollywood Museum delivers what it promises: Classic Hollywood, in the form of four floors of props and other exhibits, located right off Hollywood and Vine. Their current rotating exhibit: Batman '66 memorabilia with the stars' original costumes (both heroes and villains), the classic Batmobile and Batcycle, and even rare collectibles — like Batman Ice Cream boxes.
No matter when you come, you'll be able to see everything from Marilyn Monroe's and Elvis Presley's outfits to Rocky's boxing gloves. It can also make for a fun Halloween season stop, with a lower level hosting Hannibal Lector's Silence of the Lambs cell alongside classic horror monsters.
The building itself is a bit of cosmetics history. It's the historic Max Factor Building, with exhibits including four makeup rooms used by Factor — one for each shade of hair.
Hours: Tuesday & Thursday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m.-4 p.m.
This museum is housed in one of two formerly segregated firehouses, but now it tells the story of segregation and integration in the L.A. Fire Department. Come travel back in time and see vintage firefighting tools, artifacts, memorabilia, a fire pole with a friendly, firefighting mannequin, and more.
You can see photos and learn about African Americans who pioneered SoCal firefighting — like Sam Haskins, who went from slavery to L.A.'s first black firefighter, before being killed while responding to a fire. The museum also houses a memorial to the firefighters killed on 9/11.
Hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., plus one Saturday per quarter (see details on their site)
Sure, it's a trip through the history of a corporation, and opening up fake accounts people didn't ask for isn't a centerpiece of the tour, but there's plenty of interesting stuff here. This is one of 12 Wells Fargo museums, predominantly located on the West Coast, but making their way as far north as Alaska and east to Philadelphia.
You'll be able to see an original Wells Fargo trademark Concord Stagecoach, as well as a replica you can get inside. They display historic Los Angeles maps, a historically recreated office you can walk inside, actual gold, and more.
The museum covers the history of Wells Fargo and its founders, with its roots in the California Gold Rush. They also make a point of exploring the history of gender and racial diversity at Wells Fargo. You can also get a free guided tour.
Hours: 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Price: Tickets start at $65 for adults
OK, so this isn't exactly a museum, but you're going to get a museum-like experience with what you'll see and learn here. The Universal Studios tour is a tourist classic, but Warner Bros. has one of the most expansive tours, while giving you a feel for the actual backlot — minus the chances to meet King Kong and Jaws.
What you'll see changes depending on what's happening on the lot that day, but you'll definitely get a look at the studio's prop department, including a chance to take a seat at West Wing President Jed Bartlet's desk. You may get a chance to see what's going on with shows in production like The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Big Bang Theory, and Lethal Weapon (though the tour guides may keep you away from the recent drama). You can also see classic locations, like the houses and town square (complete with gazebo) from Gilmore Girls.
Speaking of classics, they recently added a Classics Tour, focused on the old school Hollywood movies like Casablanca. You've also got some other classics — DC Comics' superheroes, with a DC movie universe exhibit, along with a room full of Batmobiles and other Batman film props.
The tour does end with a more traditionally touristy area: a Harry Potter exhibit (complete with the chance to get sorted by the Sorting Hat and face a giant spider), an interactive soundstage, a replica of the Friends Central Perk cafe — and, as always, the opportunity to exit through the gift shop.
Hours: Thursday-Sunday; 12-7 p.m.; Sunday, 12-5 p.m
Price: $10 general admission — and only $5 for Glendale residents
Get ready to burn your eyes' rods and cones out. Come see the world's only museum dedicated to that bright light that calls to us by day and especially by night.
The museum has traveled since first opening in 1981, previously setting up shop at Universal CityWalk, Grand Hope Park and the city's Historic Core. After closing in 2011, it reopened in a new permanent Glendale home in 2016.
Some of the highlights in their collection include neon signs from the Brown Derby and Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Their current featured exhibitions are "There's More to Neon Signs Than Liquor, Motels and Live Nude Girls" and "Motel California," with previous showcases including women in neon, plasma (as seen in those cool globes), and more.
Beyond the museum, they also offer a "Neon Cruise" — a Saturday night bus tour of neon signs, movie marquees and other neon installations throughout Hollywood and Downtown L.A.
LAist has covered off-the-beaten-path museums before. To continue down this rabbit hole, read our guides to The 8 Best Niche Museums And Galleries In Los Angeles and The Best Small (And Sometimes Strange) Museums In Los Angeles.
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