The Best Alternative Museums In LA

Photo of Mayura Jain
9 February 2017

Visitors who crave culture usually flock to a couple of big names in Los Angeles, including LACMA, MOCA, the Getty Museum and more recently, the Broad. But there are alternatives, both big and small, that help tourists and locals alike delve deeper into LA’s vivid and diverse history. Here are a handful of some of The Culture Trip’s favorite alternative museums operating in LA County.

Museum of Jurassic Technology | © Sascha Pohflepp/Flickr

Museum of Jurassic Technology

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Experiencing LA’s favorite ‘anti-museum’ is something truly one of a kind; it’s a visit that makes you question the institution’s very existence. Almost nothing about MJT is straightforward to the average visitor. Meandering through the dim, confining halls of this Culver City museum leads you to a multitude of permanent exhibitions that include microscopic mosaics, dioramas of LA trailer parks as the Garden of Eden, and documentary film tributes to Soviet dogs in space. Be sure to make time for a round of complimentary tea and cookies in the museum’s peaceful rooftop garden.

A+D Architecture and Design Museum

The Culture Trip covered A+D in the past as one of the best places in the States for architecture and design, but it’s relocated in recent years to a dedicated building in downtown LA. Many of this museum’s exhibitions pair with local firms, studios, speakers and schools to answer past and present challenges of architecture and urban planning in LA’s quickly evolving landscape. The museum also offers a fantastic Urban Hikes program, taking visitors on foot to the hidden architectural and cultural gems of the city’s widely disparate neighborhoods.

A+D Architecture and Design Museum, 900 E 4th St, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 213 346 9734

Wende Museum
Wende Museum | © Christine Rank/The Wende Museum

Wende Museum

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Ideal for history buffs, the Wende Museum is a gold mine for Cold War relics in the form of artifacts, films and archives. So, why LA? The museum claims that the ‘critical distance’ from Europe allows it to preserve artifacts that would otherwise be lost or destroyed. Their catalog is so extensive that TASCHEN even published a recent book about it, titled Beyond the Wall. See the collection firsthand during the museum’s designated times for a highly informative guided tour around the museum’s upstairs gallery, and then walk to the downstairs vault where shelves of countless artifacts are stored.

Craft and Folk Art Museum

While perhaps not having the widespread repute of major art museums, CAFAM boasts a history of outstanding exhibits and roster of guest curators to rival the best of its LA rivals. With the aim of altering how visitors think of ‘craft,’ CAFAM’s has showcased elaborate paper cut sculptures, experimental shoe design, and the work of modern male quilters. Added bonus: CAFAM’s gift shop is one of the funkier in the museum circuit.

Craft and Folk Art Museum, 5814 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 323 937 4230

Petersen Automotive Museum | © Petersen Automotive Museum

Petersen Automotive Museum

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Reopening in December 2015, this museum’s newly revamped façade houses one of the largest automobile collections in the world. The expansive collection includes hundreds of vintage and limited-release models, as well as famous cars from films like Herbie: Fully Loaded and Thelma & Louise. In the past, younger automotive aficionados could learn about the science behind modern vehicles in the Discovery Center, while the museum’s Streetscape exhibit used scale models of Southern California city streets and storefronts to contextualize LA car culture throughout history.

Walt Disney’s Barn

Located in Griffith Park as part of the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum, this small museum functions as homage to both an animation great and his lesser-known fascination with trains. In the 1950s, Walt Disney operated his own miniature railroad out of this backyard barn on Carolwood Road, only a few years before undertaking the construction of Disneyland. The barn houses Disney memorabilia largely centered on his love of railroads, as well as items gifted from his animators. This place is often portrayed as the ‘birthplace of Imagineering’ and a predecessor to the Disney theme parks, and at the very least is an interesting tribute to the man behind the Mouse. Open every third Sunday from 11am-3pm.

Walt Disney’s Barn, 5202 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 310 213 0722

By Mayura Jain

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