Gone are the glory days of the Wild West, but you can still get in on the action at the Autry Museum of the American West. Just across from the entrance to the L.A. Zoo in Griffith Park, you’ll find this 36,000-square foot complex with over 500,000 works of art and artifacts from the American frontier.
Co-founded by musical western star Gene Autry in 1988, it’s natural that the museum would dedicate space to cool Western film memorabilia, from the pistols used by Steve McQueen to costumes from 2005’s Brokeback Mountain. There’s even a replica movie set of an Old Western town with storefronts. (Little-known fact: The first-ever feature-length movie filmed in Hollywood was a Western—the 1914 silent film The Squaw Man, directed by Cecil B. DeMille. The camera used to film it is here, too.)
A bronze statue of “the singing cowboy” Autry greets you at the entrance, but the museum covers much more than just Hollywood gunslingers—you’ll learn all about the real Old West, too. You’ll find engraved golden pistols given to Annie Oakley by her husband Frank Butler. There’s an extensive saddle display, a mail stage coach from 1855, Smith & Wesson revolvers, pioneer portraits, cowboy hats, buckskin jackets—even a saloon with a mahogany bar and roulette wheel.
Western lore aside, the Autry also celebrates the region’s contemporary artists. Every year, it curates the Masters of the American West, a magnificent exhibition with works from more than 70 Western artists. Yet the real must-see is the annual American Indian Arts Marketplace held in November, where visitors can peruse and purchase paintings, sculpture, basketry, carvings, and other items from roughly 200 artists and artisans representing over 40 different tribes.