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A Must Stop For Families – The Getty Center
Most families visiting Los Angeles for the first time probably don’t have a visit to the Getty Center as something that is high on their list. The fact that Los Angeles is full of theme parks, celebrities and beaches means that art and museums often place lower on the typical tourist’s itinerary. This is a shame.
The Getty Center which is one part of the Getty Museum (The Getty Villa is the other), is housed on the edge of the Santa Monica mountains near Brentwood and Beverly Hills. Finished in 1997 after over a decade of planning and construction, the massive complex sits 900 feet above the 405 freeway and has sweeping panoramic views of both Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean. To say the views are stunning is an understatement.
Your visit to the Getty Center starts with a tram ride from the parking area at the bottom of the hill all the way to the entrance at the top. The ride is fun and definitely something that most kids should enjoy. Once at the top, a short walk leads into the Rotunda where you would normally find a ticket booth. You won’t find one here though. Admission is free for everyone along with guide maps and even a free guided audio tour that uses an iPod Touch. The only cost of visiting The Getty Center is a $15 parking fee per car.
Come For Free & Take A Tour
In addition to everything previously mentioned, The Getty Center also offers several tours each day. Among the tours is a 45 minute stroll through the massive Central Garden led by a knowledgeable guide. We also enjoyed the Architecture Tour which goes into great deal about how the massive complex was designed and how it harmoniously fits in with the surrounding mountains. As our guide put it, “It is very close to the urban sprawl, but somehow still separated from the city.” I would agree.
As for the museum, there are works of art spread among four main galleries that surround a central courtyard. The design deliberately allows you to re-enter nature to relax before heading to the next gallery. The art on display ranges in dates from about 1500-1900 and spans a multitude of subjects and types. Having the free audio guide comes in handy since it allows you to gain a little more perspective on the art that catches your eye. I was surprised to see many people didn’t take advantage of the free audio guide. A mistake I think.
The Getty Center Museum also does a lot to make children feel welcome. Since most museums tend to be frustrating for children given their “no touching” policies, The Getty Center has set aside an area just for children to get hands on. The Children’s Room is an entire gallery designed for the kids to touch and interact with everything. In addition to The Children’s Room, The Getty Center has several different offerings and events for both families and children. I recommend visiting their site for more info.
In addition to the art, The Getty houses fantastic gardens. The Central Garden which showcases a large fountain surrounded by an ever changing landscape of trees and plants, provides stunning views of the surrounding areas. It is one of the most welcoming places in Los Angeles and perhaps the best place to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
For the price of parking, you can have an entire day of family fun. Bring a picnic lunch or eat at one of the cafes. Mix in a group tour along with some time in the galleries and a stroll through the gardens. This is perhaps one of the only art museums in the world that can truly be considered “family friendly”. Not only would I recommend visiting the Getty Center, but I would recommend making time for it in your busy Los Angeles itinerary even if you have to drop one of the more well known tourist must dos.