Natural History Museum
Also in Exposition Park is the dramatic Natural History Museum, with its soaring dinosaur skeletons, halls of taxidermied animals from all over the globe, and an overarching tribute to the wide range of life on Earth. Permanent exhibits include an impressive dinosaur hall, an area dedicated to the world’s vast array of birds, as well as pristine specimens of African mammals, gems and minerals, insects, shells, and much more. An onsite movie theater shows Oceans 3D, narrated by Kate Winslet, while docents point out gallery highlights and lead garden tours and nature walks. Children delight at meeting live animals and watching an educational show that features life-sized dinosaur "puppets." Adult admission costs $15, though you get a discount if you buy online. The first Tuesday of every month (except July and August) and every Tuesday in September are free—reserve your tickets in advance to skip the line. If you’re visiting L.A. in March, don’t miss the Natural History Museum’s annual two-day Nature Fest—an outdoor celebration of local flora and fauna with scientists and naturalists to answer questions and introduce visitors to local inhabitants, live animal presentations, and kid-friendly activities and performances.
Autry Museum of the American West
Any fan of Western movies, cowboys, or lore will thoroughly enjoy the Autry Museum, where the tales of the western United States come to life via lovingly preserved artifacts, historic photography, and exquisite paintings, including works by Georgia O’Keeffe and Thomas Moran. In Griffith Park, across from the zoo, this engaging museum was founded in 1988 by actor Gene Autry, who loved anything to do with the American West. There’s an extensive cowboy gallery here, as well as antique stagecoaches, intricate Colt pistols, many horse sculptures, recognizable movie memorabilia, and a large collection of American Indian art and artifacts. Outside, landscaped gardens boast water features and more than 60 native California plant species. Stroll around on your own or take a guided tour. Family drop-in activities happen almost daily, and children can pan for gold on the weekends. Adult admission costs $14, though a range of people get in free: veterans, park rangers, peace officers, and children ages two and younger. AAA Members get 10 percent off admission and membership. Note that the Autry Museum is closed on Mondays.