function OptanonWrapper() { window.dataLayer.push( { event: 'OneTrustGroupsUpdated'} )}14 Must-See California Museums
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14 Must-See California Museums

14 Must-See California Museums

Check out our list of more than a dozen quirky, fun, and compelling institutions throughout the Golden State
Posted 6 years agoby Katrina Hunt

Whether you want to see classical masterpieces, gripping photos of American history, or a plaster cast of Sasquatch’s footprint, California has a museum to inspire and delight. Insider tip: On January 28, you can visit more than 30 Southern California museums for free as part of the Museums Free-For-All.

On your next trip through the Golden State, make a stop at one of these compelling cultural treasures, listed north to south.

1. National Yo-Yo Museum
Sure, it’s tucked within a toy store, but this Chico museum has serious street cred: It’s home to the world’s largest display of yo-yos and memorabilia, as well as the Guinness Book of World Record holder Big-Yo, a 265-pound version of the famed No-Jive 3-in-1.

2. Willow Creek-China Flat Museum
Willow Creek

This little museum along Highway 299 offers a fascinating look into Humboldt County history, including the Native American tribes that have lived here and one other (possible) denizen: Big Foot. Peruse photos of the mythic creature, supposed footprint casts, and all manner of Sasquatch-related memorabilia. The museum is hard to miss, too, guarded by a 25-foot redwood sculpture of the big guy out front.

Cable Car Museum

3. Cable Car Museum
San Francisco
This free museum and working powerhouse in Nob Hill is a magnet for both kids and retro-techie types: Not only can you see antique cable cars from the 19th century, but you can also watch the elaborate mechanical system in action, which powers today’s still-thriving cable car network.

4. Computer History Museum
Mountain View
Go back in tech history at this Silicon Valley museum in Mountain View: Look at the giant computers from the 1950s, play some Pong, and learn about Ada Lovelace, a revolutionary nerd girl from the 19th century. Forward-looking exhibits, meanwhile, let you get hands-on with coding and driverless cars.

5. Crocker Art Museum
This Sacramento institution can boast of being the first public museum west of the Mississippi—launched in 1885 in an Italianate mansion—and it is still a big star on the West Coast. Bask in the Dutch, Flemish, and Italian paintings that the affluent Crocker family acquired during their European travels, then wander the contemporary addition, with works by Ansel Adams and Dale Chihuly.

6. Lone Pine Film History Museum
Lone Pine
The rugged landscape near Mount Whitney has starred in countless movies over the decades—from old-school westerns to blockbusters like Iron Man. Explore this Inyo County museum—with props and costumes from those flicks—then drive the self-guided tour along “Movie Road” in the Alabama Hills Recreation Area, lined with locations from films such as Gunga Din and Rawhide.

7. The Haggin
Where else can you see a Renoir as well as a World War II Jeep named Willy? Home to the largest collection of fine art in the Central Valley—including a Renoir—this museum in Stockton’s Victory Park also has a wealth of California culture. Check out the history-rich California Room, as well as the Trunk of Emma LaDoux (a chilling true-crime story). Plus: Don’t miss the gorgeous wall-size paintings of Yosemite Valley by Albert Bierstadt, a pioneer of western art.

8. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum
Simi Valley
Located near his beloved home ranch, this institution covers the life of the 40th president, from his career in Hollywood to his role in ending the Cold War. Highlights include an actual Air Force One that you can walk through and a salvaged piece of the Berlin Wall.

The Getty Center

9. The Getty Center
Los Angeles
There are multiple reasons this striking museum is a bucket-list destination, starting with the tram ride to the grounds, which are perched on a hill in the Santa Monica Mountains. The modernist building by Richard Meier is an architectural masterpiece in itself; and once inside, you’ll have a full day’s worth of art to see, from medieval tapestries to contemporary David Hockney paintings.

10. Grammy Museum
Los Angeles
The central part of Los Angeles boasts fine art at The Broad and LACMA, but downtown also has this testament to the entertainment industry. Play with instruments, try sound-mixing, ogle memorabilia (such as famous guitars and Michael Jackson’s glove), then check out the museum’s calendar for live performances.

11. Riverside Art Museum
The Inland Empire’s largest museum—which houses works by Toulouse Lautrec, Marc Chagall, and Alberto Giacometti—will also be home to the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture and Industry in 2020. (Yes, that Cheech. He’s also a noted philanthropist and art collector.)

12. Route 66 Mother Road Museum
Here, exhibits displaying artifacts and pictures