3 must-visit museums in Los Angeles and can't-miss stops nearby

By Dan Koday, Jun 2020

Lights in Urban Light intallation at Los Angeles County Museum

There's something in the air that makes Los Angeles travelers want to splurge on Rodeo Drive, scope out celebrities at Craig's resturant and bar and drive around in a convertible, top-down, through Venice Beach. But L.A. isn't all glitz and glamour and movie stars. The museums in Los Angeles often hide in plain sight, but like the metropolis' countless world-class cultural institutions, they're surprisingly beautiful, with gorgeous outdoor spaces in which you can soak up the almost year-round sunshine, too.

Here's how to incorporate the arts into your next trip.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is one of those museums that you've undoubtedly seen in photos, and once you're there, you'll want to take plenty for yourself. The iconic "Urban Light" installation has become a favorite of stars and sightseers alike; it's surrounded by restored streetlamps from the '20s and '30s and greets visitors at the museum's Wilshire Boulevard entrance. It might even rival the Hollywood sign as one of L.A.'s most photographed places.

The LACMA is preparing for major construction at the moment, but don't let that deter you from visiting. The permanent collection is still on display, and its pieces span 6,000 years of global history. Rotating exhibitions include paintings, sketches, illustrations, objects and installations, so there's something here for everyone.

After you've finished wandering the galleries, take an alfresco lunch at Ray's and Stark Bar on the LACMA's Resnick Exhibition Pavilion. Its elevated salad options and wood-fired pizzas will finish your museum experience with a chef's kiss.

If you're willing to take a walk or short car ride, you can also try Republique, one of L.A.'s hottest spots. The bustling French restaurant is romantic whether you're traveling solo or on a couples' getaway. It also offers a serious wine list with diverse options and price points. (The wine list is reason enough to sit at Republique's buzzy bar for a glass). Make a reservation for dinner and you'll be rewarded with an ever-evolving menu. Highlights include the crudo with green Thai curry, pomelo and peanuts; the bucatini cacio e pepe; and the perfectly tender roasted chicken.

The Broad Museum

Located in trendy downtown Los Angeles, the Broad Museum is a work of contemporary art in and of itself. Inside, you'll find works by modern masters such as Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein and Cy Twombly, as well as a showstopping photo-op at Yayoi Kusama's mesmerizing "Infinity Mirrored Rooms." General admission is free, but you'll still need tickets; they're timed and available every half hour. Advance reservations aren't required to visit the museum, but booking tickets online means you get to bypass the first-come, first-served standby line.

No trip to La-La Land should be without a dinner in Koreatown. K-Town's finest Korean barbecue joint is Ahgassi Gopchang, and it's a relatively quick drive away from The Broad. (Well, by L.A. standards.) Here, you can sit at a long booth table with a group, taste inventive kimchi dishes and enjoy prime cuts of short rib, skirt steak and rib-eye cooked on a tabletop grill. If you're daring, try the intestines, which are also on the menu.

The Getty Center

The views at the Getty Center, which overlooks Los Angeles from a perch in Brentwood and is surrounded by fountains and perfectly manicured gardens, will have you taking photos on repeat. Block out a good chunk of time to mosey around the outdoor area, then head inside the J. Paul Getty Museum to check out the campus' multidisciplinary offerings, which include paintings (both new and old), sculptures, performance art, photography and more. The museum offers tours highlighting the architecture and gardens, talks and courses, too.

After your museum visit, check out some of the quality eats that the Valley has on offer. It's an easy drive from the Getty Center to traditional Japanese spot Iroha Sushi of Toyko, where the rolls are primo. You could also try legendary Mexican hideout Casa Vega, where you can get the one-of-a-kind lobster guacamole and some strong margaritas.

It's hard to miss all the star-studded sights in Los Angeles, but the next time you're in L.A., don't forget to visit the incredible museums this city has to offer.

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