The Getty Center is not just for art lovers. Its dramatic buildings, perched in the hills above West Los Angeles, 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 the art, for free weekend music and theater performances, for kid-friendly workshops, or just to find the perfect place for a relaxing picnic lunch, it has something for everyone. Even better? Admission is free. (You just need to pay for parking.)
The main branch of the world-class museum looks like an elevated modernist city. More than a million visitors a year ride the tram from the street-level entrance to the hilltop Getty Center, its white travertine walls and breathtaking city views as compelling as the art inside. Designed by renowned architect Richard Meier, the 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 outdoor spaces, including the tree-lined Central Garden with more than 500 plant species and a delightful cactus garden. 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.
The art—including works by Van Gogh and Renoir—was the personal collection of businessman and art collector J. Paul Getty, once the world’s richest man, 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 displays hundreds of pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculptures, and decorative arts., as well as 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-century photographs.
While there are no entrance fees for either the Getty Center or the Getty Villa, you do have to request an advance timed-entry ticket for the Villa, and you’ll pay $20 for parking at either location (the rate drops after 3 p.m.). Bypass the fee by taking Uber, Lyft, or public transportation. The Getty Center is closed on Mondays; the Villa is closed on Tuesdays.