When in Paris, you visit the Louvre. When in New York, you visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And when in Los Angeles, you visit the J. Paul Getty Center. Of course, all of these cities have many noteworthy museums besides these amazing art museums, but each of these special museums offer an iconic and breathtaking experience for froggies big and small. The Getty, though, is awe-inspiring both inside the buildings (where you can find van Gogh’s Irises) and outside (with fascinating gardens, patios and views of the whole Los Angles area, spanning from the mountains to the blue Pacific Ocean). It can be intimidating to plan a trip to the Getty Center with kids if you do not know what you are doing. Don’t worry! The Frog Squad is here to help you get the most of your day with our top tips for visiting the Getty Center with kids. Let’s hop to it!
When to Visit the Getty Center with Kids
The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and is open until 9 p.m. Saturdays. They close for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Years Day (and close at 4 p.m. Christmas Eve and New Years Eve). You cannot control the weather, or necessarily the day you visit, but ideally you should try to visit on a nice, clear day. Did I mention the views? Luckily Los Angeles has many sunny, beautiful days! There are gardens and lawns and many opportunities to step outside and take in a sweeping panorama of the mountains, Downtown LA, Century City and the ocean. You will not be holed up in a stuffy museum at the Getty. You’ll be looking at painting or sculpture one minute, and next thing you know, you’ll find yourself on a rooftop deck looking out over a surprise succulent garden and the city spread out below (and who doesn't love some greenery)?
We Frogs cannot express enough how important it is to arrive early, whether you are visiting a theme park, a ski resort or the Getty Center museum with kids. You see, parking at the Getty is based on availability and can fill up at peak times. Arriving in the morning means not having to wait for or stress about parking (or carting tadpoles farther than necessary to the museum's entrance). You can see the art without the crowds, borrow a free stroller, hop on a free tour, get a free headset to tell you about the art and just enjoy the most popular exhibits without other people in your way. When we visited, we parked about 20 minutes before opening, had no wait for a tram, and were the first ones through a traveling Renaissance exhibit. Then we hopped on a free tour with only a small group. We also ate lunch ahead of the crowds and had a nice, smooth day. We saw many more people filing in and leaving on huge group tours as we wrapped up our full day at the museum. Admission to the museum itself is FREE and you cannot reserve tickets in advance.
Getting to the Getty Museum
What’s unique about the Getty Center is that it is situated right off the 405 Freeway on top of a very steep hill. You park in a parking garage down below and take a tram up to the museum. Parking is $15, or $10 after 3:00 p.m. You can also arrive via Metro Bus lines 734 (weekdays) and 234 (weekends, holidays and early or late weekday hours). There is no off-site parking, so if you do not want to park, take an Uber, Lyft or bus.
Planning Your Day and Tours at the Getty Center with Kids
Before you hop in a tram, be sure to pick up “Today at the Getty Center,” a paper guide to the free tours and events. Note the times of the tours you want to take and arrive at least 10 minutes early for each tour (maybe earlier if it is really crowded). Most art tours meet inside the Museum Entrance Hall at the Information Desk (they may hand you a headset for an indoor tour). Garden or architecture tours meet outside in front of the Entrance Hall. The Guide will list any exhibitions or don't-miss exhibits — head there first if they interest you. The Collection Highlights Tour can be a great way to hit the major works. We especially enjoyed the Focus Tour: Era of Impressionism. If your cellphone battery starts to fade, they do have cellphone charging lockers located by the coat check.
Using the Free GettyGuide Multimedia Player
Just inside the Museum Entrance Hall, you can leave your license to check out an iPod touch and headphones for each member of your party. This will provide insights and commentary on the art in the language of your choice. Just type in a code for the art or exhibit and it will walk you through. There are lots of tour options when visiting the Getty Center with kids! Children ages 6 and up will enjoy the jazzed up Family Tour while learning about art. Tad enjoyed the Demons, Angels, and Monsters supernatural art audio tour, narrated by tweens and a few monsters. You can hear animals in the Straight from the Horse’s Mouth audio tour. If you choose to take a guided tour, you can use the same headphones.
Tips and Information for Visiting the Getty Center with Kids
- When you arrive to the Entrance Hall, pick up an art detective card to use while exploring the galleries, garden and architecture.
- Hop into the Family Room in the East Pavilion where the tadpoles can draw, build, play with camera lenses and mirrors, hunt for treasure through peepholes or take a rest in an 18th century aristocrat bed.
- You cannot use child-carrying backpacks in the museum.
- You can use strollers.
- They provide free standard strollers and wheelchairs at the Lower Tram Station and at the coat check in the Museum Entrance Hall.
- There is a lot of outdoor time at the Getty as you travel between buildings and admire the grounds. Use the free umbrellas to protect yourself from rain or intense sunshine.
- All public restrooms have diaper-changing stations.
- A family restroom with a unisex stall and a private nursing area is in the South Pavilion.
- Baby bottles are the only food or drink allowed in galleries.
- Bring a blanket to enjoy sitting on the lawn.
Where to Eat at the Getty Center with Kids
All of that walking will make you work up an appetite. One of the nice things about visiting the Getty Museum with kids is that they have a nice restaurant (reservations recommended) and cafés. There is a large cafeteria-style café below the restaurant with surprisingly tasty food and plenty of kid-friendly favorites. There are smaller food carts located around the property. You can bring your own picnic and enjoy it near a fountain or on the lawn while the tadpoles roll and do somersaults down the green hills. That was Lily’s favorite part — leapfrogging around the gardens and playing under a flower canopy of bougainvillea while we enjoyed some snacks! You cannot bring alcohol, but they do sell beer and wine on site. You’ll see many families lay out a picnic blanket and just chill on the lawn, enjoying a picnic and some downtime.
Visiting the Getty Villa
Did you know there is second J. Paul Getty Getty Museum in LA? Don’t get them confused! The Getty Villa is at a separate location, perched just above the coastline in Malibu. It also has beautiful gardens and architecture. If you are feeling extremely adventurous, you can use your paid parking for one Getty museum to get same-day free parking at the other, but these locations are not just around the corner from each other! Our family can handle only one museum per day. The Getty Villa (open Wednesday through Monday) holds ancient art from the Stone Age to the Roman Empire, whereas the Getty Center displays mainly European and American art from medieval times to the present. Admission is also free for the Getty Villa, but you need to select an arrival time online in advance and have a timed ticket to enter. They have a Family Forum for hands-on play that the little ones will enjoy.
Finding More to See and Do in the Los Angeles Area
We always love saving money on tickets, tours and experiences in Los Angeles, but one of the best parts of visiting the Getty Center with kids is that admission and tours are always FREE! Once you look out over Los Angeles from the Getty’s gorgeous viewpoint, you’ll want to see more of the “City of Angels” up close.
Definitely check out some deals to save you some green for other museums, theme parks and experiences if you are vacationing in Southern California … or even if you live there! Hop over to learn how you can save on other popular must-see Los Angeles Attractions like Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, the Santa Monica Pier, Madame Tussaud’s and The Queen Mary while going easy on your wallet. Have you visited the Getty Center with kids? Let us know if we missed any hopful tips!
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