Are you ready to enjoy the best visual art Los Angeles has to offer? Did we mention it is all available without paying an admission fee?
That’s right, the Getty Center museum has long been a (FREE) staple of the Los Angeles area. If it’s not on your to-do list, it should be!
Founded in 1997, the Getty Center museum houses magnificent European paintings, drawings, sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, and photography — It’s one of the best collections of artworks in the world.
- Because of height restrictions in the area, half of the Getty Center is underground – it is three stories both up and down.
- Every spring the Getty museum hires a herd of goats to clear the brush and reduce fire danger on the hillside.
- When the Italian beige-colored travertine stone (which makes up most of the building) was split for construction it exposed hidden fossils – leaves, shells, twigs, branches, and feathers. You can conduct a super cool fossil hunt on the floor and in the walls!
Seeking not just to educate, but also to engage, the Getty regularly offers new exhibitions, research, publications, performing arts events, and public education all with their diverse local and international audiences in mind.
Whether you’re an LA native, Getty regular, or just in LA for the weekend, Museum Hack’s unconventional tours have you covered!
For more information, and to help plan your visit, be sure to scroll down to learn more about exhibits, events, bag check policy, hours of operation and the parking options. You can also use our “5 Things to See at the Getty Center” section to get a quick virtual tour!
Guide to the Getty Center
5 Things to See at the Getty Center
View from the Top
The allure of the Getty is not just what you find in the galleries. The entire campus is a work of art in its own right!
Architect Richard Meier made it a point to show off, what we think, maybe the finest views in all of LA. Don’t skip the outside balconies and pavilions between galleries. On a clear day go outside, enjoy the fresh air, and savor the stunning views of both mountain and ocean from the same spot!
The South Pavilion has terrific views of the city, while the West Pavilion’s second-floor balcony offers a birds-eye view of the museum’s impressive Central Garden, which leads us to…
The Central Garden
The Getty’s central garden was created by SoCal sculptor Robert Irwin. The design is 134 thousand square feet, features a natural ravine and a tree-lined walkway. He describes it as a “sculpture in the form of a garden that aspires to be art.” High aspirations, but what we know for sure is that he designed an oasis where you can lose yourself in the landscape and appreciate the architectural beauty of the Getty itself.
Hack: On a nice day, stroll under the flowering trees by the azalea pool, grab a seat on a bench and relax with a cold beer or glass of wine (both available at the Getty cafés and coffee carts).
Cheers to the curator who decided to create an entire case in the North Pavilion devoted to drinking games!
Joke Glass is essentially a 17th-century version of what we know as a dribble glass. The ornate silver embellishments and the human form are unusual making the Getty’s Joke Glass (pictured above) very unique. More commonly these glasses took the form of a stag, another animal, a horn, a penis, or a boot.
How does it work?
The idea was simple: make a fool of your friends. Simply challenge a friend to drink from the glass without spilling. Seems easy enough, however, the Joke Glass is designed to make drinking without spilling near impossible! If even a drop should spill the person would have to start over again with a full drink! You can imagine how that night ends.
The Musicians’ Brawl
In rooms filled with stuffy popes and heavy religious paintings, it is a nice break to see that George de la Tour took the time to paint a straight up street brawl.
You must be wondering – Why are two buskers fighting over their turf?
Well, the hurdy-gurdy player on the left, defending himself with a knife, is claiming to be blind. The dude on the right with the woodwind isn’t buying it and decides to squirt lemon juice in his competitor’s eye.
Who do you think won the fight? Our money is on the guy with the lemon.
The Musician’s Brawl is one of our favorite works to recreate in a tableau vivant posing contest!
Impressionist Room, Gallery W204
The Impressionist room is home to some of our favorite works of art including, Van Gogh’s Irises and Manet’s Spring. It is also the highest priced art at the Getty! We’ve crunched the numbers, these paintings are worth more per square inch than a four-year degree at nearby UCLA!
Manet’s Spring was bought for $65.1 million which breaks down to $112,284 per square inch!
We recommend you spend some quality time with these paintings! Do your best to ignore those rushing by to snap a photo, they’ll be on their way soon enough.
Hack: Imagine you just downed some absinthe (the good stuff), move a few steps away from the piece, take a deep breath and allow yourself to be pleasantly overwhelmed by impressionism’s soft glowing colors.
Hacks for Visiting the Getty Center
- There is a free phone charging station across from the coat check.
- We highly recommend grabbing a cup of joe and enjoying it in the garden before heading in to explore the museum. The coffee cart opens at 9:30am.
- In the mood for a glass of wine? Glasses are $8, and bottles are (just about) $25.
- Avoid the bathroom in the entry hall (it ALWAYS has a line) and opt for the other bathrooms scattered around the museum. They usually don’t have a wait.
- There’s another outdoor sculpture garden hidden away behind the research institute.
- Check out the interactive family room - everyone is welcome! You can look at hidden close-ups of art, take a minute to sit on the fancy bed, make your own versions of art or play with the sculptures.
- On rainy days or when the summer sun gets too intense, the Getty provides umbrellas. Pick one up from bins at the tram stations and drop it off as you enter or leave the Museum.
the Getty Center: Frequently Asked Questions & Logistics
Backpacks, umbrellas, bags, purses, and packages larger than 11 x 17 x 8 inches must be checked.
Hazardous materials (e.g., pepper spray) and weapons of any kind are not allowed and can NOT be checked.
Address: 1200 Getty Center Drive Los Angeles, CA 90049
Phone: (310) 440-7300
There are lots of options for dining at the Getty Center – whether you’re looking for a quick bite to eat or a full meal. The Garden Terrace Café is a great place to enjoy a meal with a great view, overlooking the Central Garden. The Café is a great place for families to stop for a break with their full service children’s menu. Or find any one of the coffee carts for a quick caffeinated beverage, hot dog or other snack. Beer and wine are also available for purchase at the various dining locations.
Another great option, perfect for dates or families, is a picnic! The Getty has plenty of picnic tables, lawns, and other seating areas throughout the grounds that are perfect places to bring your own food – look for these areas near the Central Garden or where you board at the Lower Tram Station.
For the complete schedule of events and exhibitions, visit the Getty’s website.
Tuesday – Sunday 10:00am – 5:30pm + Saturday evenings till 9:00pm
Closed Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
On-site parking is available for $15 per car – $10 after 3pm.
Handheld cameras, video cameras, and camera phones are welcome at the museum, but they are subject to the following:
- Photographs and videos are for personal use only and may not be sold.
- Professional shoots, including wedding, engagement, and modeling, are not permitted.
- No flash or other supplemental light.
- Selfie sticks are welcome in public outdoor spaces only.
- No tripods, monopods, handheld microphones, and other external equipment are not permitted.
On the weekends take the Metro Rapid 734 or the Metro 234 from the Expo Line Sepulveda station.
A tram is available to take you from the street-level entrance to the top of the hill. The tram is fully accessible. On busy days, make sure to allow plenty of time for lines!
If you like to walk, opt for the 3/4 mile moderately steep pathway instead of the tram. The walk takes 15 to 20 minutes, and has some bonus outdoor art installations to check out along the way!
Strollers are allowed in the museum, and there are some available for visitors with small children at the Lower Tram Station and at Coat Check. Strollers and wheelchairs are complimentary.
Visitors are allowed to bring water bottles and thermoses into the museums, they must be kept in a bag in the galleries, however. As a courtesy the Getty Center supplies a bag for your water bottle, etc. if you do not bring one with you.
Why We Know So Much About the Getty Center
Our company, Museum Hack, leads renegade tours of the world’s best museums, including at the Getty in Los Angeles. Our guides are experts in the obscure, and collectors of amazing hidden stories about the art and museum; many of which the museum staff isn’t allowed to share.
When you come on a tour of the Getty with Museum Hack, expect:
- Fun games! Invent a love story between portraits. Test your artistic prowess in a high-speed contest by getting your group to guess the correct art piece. Create your own Art Memes in an in-person caption contest.
- A world of gossip. Five wives, two facelifts, and all the money in the world: J. Paul Getty truly could’ve had his own soap opera.
- Subversive stories. The museum often leaves out the best, most interesting information, like the bitter rivalry between the two men who designed the Getty Center or the art world scandals that cost the Getty part of its collection!
- Hidden insights. Exploding pregnant ladies! Erotic fan fiction! Our guides will introduce you to some old friends who will be so very happy to see you (no, that’s not a banana in his pocket).
- Zany photos. We love museum selfies! Art museums always make great backgrounds. We’ll even challenge you to use your cameras to complete challenges and play games during the tour.
No matter how many times you’ve visited the Getty, we’ll show you the “Un-highlights” you have never seen or heard of before.