The Getty Center is not just for art lovers. Perched in the hills above West Los Angeles, the main branch of the world-class museum may look like an elevated modernist city. Its dramatic buildings house galleries filled with masterpieces that might intimidate those not familiar with 17th-century Baroque art—or with the sculptures of Henry Moore or Isamu Noguchi.
But herein lies the beauty of the Getty Center: Whether you go for art or for the free Friday night concerts, and whether you need to kill an afternoon with the kids, entertain out-of-town guests, or just find the perfect place for a relaxing picnic lunch, the Getty Center has something for everyone. Even better? Admission is free. (You just need to pay for parking.)
Designed by renowned architect Richard Meier, the main Getty Center complex includes the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Research Institute, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Harold M. Williams Auditorium, two cafés, a full-service restaurant, and more than 86 acres of landscaped gardens and terraces to explore. About 14 miles away—in Pacific Palisades, near Malibu—the Getty Villa focuses on ancient Greek and Roman art, housed in a Roman-style country house.
Overall, the Getty features the personal collection of businessman and art collector J. Paul Getty, who saw art as a civilizing influence in society and sought to make it more widely available to the public. Through the work of the J. Paul Getty Trust after his death, the Getty museum now consists of five two-story pavilions featuring hundreds of pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculptures, and decorative arts. It also houses 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-century photographs that the public can visit for no more than the cost of parking.
Read on for our guide to this world-class museum. Come and explore the amazing art collection at the Getty Center, but also bring the kids to explore the hands-on exhibits in the Family Room. Sign up to take one of the museum’s daily architecture tours. Come after hours for music and drinks at Off the 405. Or grab a sunset dinner reservation at the Getty’s The Restaurant.