Are you looking for some fun and educational activities to do in Southern California without breaking the bank? Or maybe you’re trying to combat inflation and looking for a fun and easy way to spend a few hours without having to spend money! Well, I’m here to help you make your life easier.
I get it, sometimes you just don’t want to pay for a museum, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the fun.
In this post, we’re going to be talking about some of the best free museums in Southern California. To help you out, I’ll be breaking things down into Los Angeles County, Orange County, and San Diego County. You can choose specifically which area you want to explore and see what free museums exist there.
From art and history to science and cutting-edge tech, there are plenty of always-free museums in Southern California that offer a wide range of exhibits and experiences. So, grab a friend or family member and let’s explore some of the best free museums in Southern California together!
This post may contain affiliate links. You won’t be paying a cent more, but in the event of a sale, the small affiliate commission I receive will help keep this blog running/pumping out useful and free content. Thanks a lot!
Free Museums In Los Angeles County
The Getty Center – Los Angeles
The Getty Center is a world-renowned art museum located in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. The museum features an impressive collection of European paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts from the Middle Ages to the present day.
Museum visitors can enjoy more than the art on display though — they can also enjoy panoramic views of the city from the museum’s hilltop location! Admission to the Getty Center is always free, making it a great destination for art lovers and anyone interested in exploring the history of European art.
The Getty Villa – Pacific Palisades
The Getty Villa is another Getty art museum located in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles. This museum is dedicated to the art and culture of ancient Greece and Rome, and features a collection of over 44,000 objects, including sculptures, paintings, and decorative arts.
This one is a one-of-a-kind destination — offering ancient Greek and Roman art, tranquil gardens, and even ocean breezes!
Admission to the Getty Villa is also free, but visitors must reserve tickets in advance due to limited capacity. If you can catch a ride there, entry is completely free. However, if you choose to drive, note that there is a parking fee.
All in all, the Getty Villa is a must-visit for history buffs and anyone interested in the ancient world!
California Science Center – Los Angeles
The California Science Center is a hands-on science museum located in Exposition Park in Los Angeles. The Center aspires to stimulate curiosity and inspire science learning in everyone by creating fun, memorable experiences.
The museum features interactive exhibits on topics such as space exploration, ecology, and technology, as well as a range of live demonstrations and shows. Due to the sciencey nature of the museum, it’s a great destination for families and anyone interested in science and technology.
Admission to the California Science Center is always free, though there are additional exhibits or IMAX movies that do cost extra. Having said that, the permanent galleries, including space shuttle Endeavour, are FREE and do not require a reservation.
Weekdays prior to 2:00 PM are typically busier with school groups. September, October, mid-January, and February are often less busy times of the year.
Hammer Museum – Los Angeles
The Hammer Museum at UCLA is an art museum located in Westwood Village in Los Angeles. The museum features a collection of contemporary art, as well as rotating exhibitions and public programs.
Noteworthy past exhibits include “Made in L.A.,” a biennial exhibition featuring emerging and under-recognized artists from the Los Angeles area, and “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985,” which showcased the work of feminist artists from Latin America.
And because admission to the Hammer Museum is always free, this makes it a convenient and always-available activity for art lovers and anyone interested in exploring contemporary art.
Fowler Museum at UCLA – Los Angeles
The Fowler Museum at UCLA is another free museum in LA dedicated to the arts and cultures of Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas. The museum features a collection of over 120,000 objects, including textiles, sculptures, and paintings.
Noteworthy past exhibits include “Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths,” which showcased the work of blacksmiths from across the African continent, and “World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean,” which explored the cultural exchange between East Africa and the Indian Ocean world.
If you’re interested in exploring the world’s diverse cultures and art traditions, this is a great museum to check out. And since it’s located on the same campus as The Hammer Museum (just a 20-minute walk away through the UCLA campus), you could even see them both on the same day!
At the moment, they are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
The Broad – Los Angeles
The museum features a collection of over 2,000 works by some of the most influential artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, and Cindy Sherman.
The museum is a great little daytime activity for art lovers and anyone interested in exploring the cutting-edge of contemporary art. Noteworthy past exhibits include “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power,” which explored the work of African American artists during the civil rights movement, and “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors,” which showcased the work of the Japanese artist known for her immersive installations.
Admission to The Broad is always free, but some exhibitions and events carry a separate charge. Visitors are encouraged to reserve tickets in advance due to limited capacity. If you have reserved tickets, you’ll be able to skip the standby line on the day of your visit which is a total time saver!
Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) – Los Angeles
The Museum of Contemporary Art (better known as the MOCA) is an art museum collection located in downtown Los Angeles. The museums feature an impressive collection of contemporary art from around the world, including works by some of the most influential artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Across its two distinct venues—MOCA Grand Avenue and The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA–visitors can see everything from paintings and sculptures to installations and video art, providing a comprehensive overview of the contemporary art world.
In addition to its permanent collection, MOCA also hosts a range of rotating exhibitions and public programs, ensuring that there is always something new and exciting to see. These exhibitions often explore important social and political issues, making MOCA a great destination for anyone interested in contemporary art as a means of engaging with the world around us.
Past exhibits include “One Day at a Time: Manny Farber and Termite Art,” which explored the work of influential film critic and painter Manny Farber, and “Bill Viola: Liber Insularum,” which showcased the work of video artist Bill Viola.
Admission to MOCA is free to the public, but there is an extra charge for those special exhibits that are featured from time to time. All visitors, including members, need to get advance timed-entry tickets online. A very limited number of tickets may be available to be reserved on-site, subject to capacity.
Griffith Observatory – Los Angeles
The Griffith Observatory is an iconic landmark and a free-admission facility located on the south side of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park.
The observatory features a range of exhibits and displays related to astronomy, space exploration, and the history of the universe. You can explore the observatory’s collection through a variety of interactive exhibits, including the Foucault pendulum, which demonstrates the rotation of the earth, and the Tesla coil, which generates high-voltage electrical fields.
While their most prominent daily programs are the shows in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium (additional cost), the Observatory offers many other free experiences during you visit.
During the day, you can see the live image of the Sun on their coelostat (solar telescope) in the Ahmanson Hall of the Sky. Each evening, there are free public telescopes on the roof and lawn for you to observe the night sky.
The building and grounds are accessible for all visitors. The building is busiest on weekends, during summer and holiday periods, and at sunset. Access to Griffith Park is free, though there is paid parking closest to the Observatory.
California African American Museum (CAAM) – Los Angeles
If you like delving into the rich and diverse history, culture, and contributions of African Americans, then the California African American Museum (CAAM) is the museum for you.
Located in Los Angeles just steps away from USC, the California Science Center, and the Natural History Museum, CAAM offers an immersive experience that celebrates the achievements, struggles, and triumphs of African Americans throughout history.
From thought-provoking exhibitions to engaging programs and events, this museum provides a compelling platform to explore the African American experience in California and beyond.
With its extensive collection of modern and contemporary art, historical objects, print materials, and mixed-media artworks, CAAM offers visitors a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the African American narrative and its impact on American society.
Though the collection emphasizes objects pertinent to California and the American West, it also houses a growing collection of artworks from the African diaspora as well as important works by African Americans from across the United States.
Admission, exhibitions, programs, and events are always free and open to the public. The best part of it is, getting there is a breeze — the museum is accessible by car, bus, and Metro rail line.
FIDM Museum – Los Angeles
Calling all fashion lovers! We’ve got a hidden gem of a museum for you!
The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising Museum (FIDM) is a museum all about fashion located in downtown Los Angeles. The museum features a collection of over 15,000 costumes, textiles, and accessories from around the world, dating from the 18th century to the present day.
The massive and colorful collection includes pieces worn by Hollywood stars, as well as iconic designs by fashion legends such as Christian Dior, Chanel, and Balenciaga.
The FIDM Museum is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in fashion history and design. Visitors can explore the museum’s extensive collection through rotating exhibitions and special events, which showcase the latest trends in fashion and design. The museum also hosts a range of educational programs, including lectures, workshops, and tours, providing their patrons with a deeper understanding of the history and evolution of fashion.
The museum is open to the public from Tuesday to Saturday, and reservations are recommended due to limited capacity.
Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
The Institute for Contemporary Art Los Angeles, or ICA LA, is the new home for the former Santa Monica Museum of Art. The new facility in the Arts District occupies 12,700 square feet of warehouse space housing a collection of contemporary art from around the world, as well as rotating exhibitions that showcase the latest trends in contemporary art and culture.
ICA LA’s collection includes a range of media, including painting, sculpture, video, and installation art. The museum’s exhibitions are often experimental and thought-provoking, challenging visitors to engage with contemporary issues and ideas.
Recent exhibits have explored themes such as identity, technology, and social justice, featuring the work of both established and emerging artists.
Admission to the museum is always free. The museum is open to the public from Wednesday to Sunday, and reservations are recommended due to limited capacity.
Wende Museum – Culver City
If you like exploring hidden stories, diving into Cold War history, and immersing yourself in thought-provoking art, then the Wende Museum in Culver City is the museum for you!
This unique and captivating museum appeals to curious minds and history buffs seeking a deeper understanding of the Cold War era. But what sets the Wende Museum apart is its focus on the cultural artifacts and artistic expressions that emerged during this tumultuous period.
Step into the Wende Museum and find yourself transported to a world where ideologies clashed and the world stood on the brink. This museum houses an incredible collection of artifacts, documents, photographs, and artworks from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, providing a window into a side of history often overlooked.
From fascinating spy gadgets to stirring propaganda posters, you’ll encounter captivating objects that shed light on the lived experiences and struggles of people living in a divided world.
But don’t expect a stuffy, serious atmosphere at the Wende Museum! This place knows how to infuse history with a fun and interactive twist.
Admission is free for all exhibitions and public programs. Public tours are normally held on Fridays to Sundays. Parking is also free!
Travel Town Museum – Los Angeles
If you like trains, history, and a whole lot of fun, then Travel Town Museum is the museum for you!
Tucked away in Los Angeles, this delightful little museum appeals to a wide range of museum-goers, from train enthusiasts to families looking for a unique and exciting outing. Step into a world where locomotives rule and embark on a journey through time.
Travel Town Museum is like a giant playground for train lovers, with its extensive collection of vintage trains, locomotives, and railroad artifacts. You can explore the grounds, hop aboard the meticulously restored historic trains, and even ring the bell like a true conductor!
Whether you’re visiting with a little one with a fascination for choo-choo trains or a seasoned rail fan, this museum offers an unforgettable experience that combines education with sheer joy.
The museum is open seven days a week and reservations are not required to visit.
Homestead Museum – City of Industry
Interested in the history of Southern California and the San Gabriel Valley? Situated on a six-acre site in the City of Industry, this historic site and museum features a collection of historic buildings, artifacts, and exhibits related to the history of SoCal and SGV.
The museum is situated on site that includes original structures from the 19th century, including the Workman House, La Casa Nueva, and El Campo Santo Cemetery.
Visitors to the Homestead Museum can explore the site through free guided tours, which provide a fascinating glimpse into the daily life of Southern California’s early settlers and the region’s rich cultural heritage.
The Workman House, for example, was built in the 1840s and features original furniture, artwork, and household items from the era. La Casa Nueva, on the other hand, was built in the 1920s and features a blend of traditional Spanish and American architectural styles.
Free guided tours of the historic houses are offered Friday through Sunday. Tours of each house last up to 45 minutes and the only way to visit the museum’s historic houses is on a guided tour or at a special event.
In addition to its historic buildings, the Homestead Museum also features a range of exhibits and displays related to the history of Southern California, including the region’s Native American communities, the Mexican-American War, and the growth of the citrus industry.
LA Plaza De Cultura y Artes – Los Angeles
LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes is a cultural center and museum dedicated to celebrating and preserving the history and culture of Mexican Americans and other Latinos in Southern California.
The museum features a range of exhibits and displays related to the history, art, and culture of the region’s Latino communities, from pre-Columbian times to the present day.
LA Plaza’s exhibits cover a wide range of topics, including the history of Mexican Americans in Los Angeles, the contributions of Latino artists and musicians, and the cultural traditions of the region’s diverse communities.
Then there’s LA Plaza Cocina, a culinary arts center that celebrates the food and culinary traditions of Mexican Americans and other Latinos in Southern California! The center features a range of exhibits and displays related to the history and culture of Mexican American and Latino cuisine, as well as a demonstration kitchen and dining area where visitors can learn about and sample traditional dishes.
Admission to LA Plaza and LA Plaza Cocina (focused on Mexican cuisine) are always free.
Chinese American Museum – Los Angeles
If exploring new cultures, uncovering untold stories, and immersing yourself in the richness of Chinese American heritage is your definition of fun, then the Chinese American Museum is a great museum to visit.
Through thought-provoking exhibitions, captivating artifacts, and engaging multimedia displays, this museum offers a window into the vibrant tapestry of Chinese American history, art, and culture. From the struggles and triumphs of early Chinese immigrants to the contributions of the Chinese American community in shaping the American narrative, the museum presents a comprehensive exploration of the past and present.
What makes this museum truly special is its ability to blend education with entertainment. You’ll find interactive exhibits, immersive installations, and even participatory workshops that allow you to engage with the culture firsthand.
From calligraphy demonstrations to traditional music performances, there’s always something happening at the Chinese American Museum that sparks curiosity and joy.
While technically the museum offers free admission, they suggest a nominal donation of $3 per adult to help support their programming and ensure the museum continues to thrive.
Torrance Art Museum – Torrance
Get ready to embark on an artistic journey at the Torrance Art Museum in Torrance, California. This hidden gem is a must-visit destination for all art lovers and those seeking a fresh perspective on contemporary art.
Located in the heart of the South Bay, this museum offers a dynamic and ever-changing exhibition program that showcases a diverse range of thought-provoking artworks.
At the Torrance Art Museum, you’ll encounter exhibitions that push boundaries, challenge conventions, and explore the cutting edge of contemporary art. From bold installations and innovative sculptures to captivating paintings and immersive multimedia experiences, the museum presents a wide array of artistic expressions that will inspire and engage you.
The Torrance Art Museum is always free to the public. Parking is free anywhere on the Civic Center campus.
Forest Lawn Museum – Glendale
If you’re looking for a unique museum experience that combines art, history, and the serene beauty of nature, then Forest Lawn Museum in Glendale should be at the top of your list.
Nestled within the stunning grounds of Forest Lawn Memorial Park, this hidden gem appeals to art enthusiasts, history buffs, and anyone seeking a tranquil escape from the bustling city.
Step into Forest Lawn Museum and prepare to be amazed by its diverse collection of art and artifacts. From ancient to contemporary, the museum showcases a wide range of artworks, including paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts.
But Forest Lawn Museum is not just about art; it’s a destination where history comes alive. Whether you’re intrigued by the stories of Hollywood legends, fascinated by the history of California, or drawn to the tales of great leaders, you’ll find something that piques your interest at Forest Lawn Museum.
What sets this museum apart is its picturesque location within Forest Lawn Memorial Park. As you wander through the museum’s halls, you’ll also have the opportunity to explore the peaceful gardens and pay homage to the final resting places of notable individuals from different walks of life, including artists, musicians, and historical figures.
It’s a unique fusion of art, history, and natural beauty that creates a truly memorable experience. Best of all, admission is always free!
Armory Center for the Arts – Pasedena
The Armory is not your typical museum—it’s a dynamic and vibrant space that celebrates contemporary art and fosters artistic exploration. From engaging exhibitions to interactive workshops and events, this place is a haven for artists, art enthusiasts, and anyone who wants to unleash their creativity.
When you step into the Armory Center for the Arts, get ready to be wowed by the diverse range of artistic expressions on display. They feature thought-provoking exhibitions that showcase works by emerging and established artists, spanning a variety of mediums from painting and sculpture to photography and new media.
But that’s not all! The Armory is also a place for active participation. They offer a wide range of workshops, classes, and community programs that invite visitors — kids and adults alike — to roll up their sleeves and get hands-on with their creativity.
If you want to engage with fellow art lovers, gain inspiration, and unlock your own artistic potential, check this place out. Admission to the museum is always free and some art classes are even free!
Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum – Compton
If you like stepping back in time, uncovering hidden stories of the past, and experiencing the charm of an authentic historic site, then the Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum is the museum for you!
Picture yourself transported to the early 19th century, where you can explore the oldest residence in the entire Los Angeles region. The Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum invites you to wander through its adobe walls and discover the rich history of the Dominguez family, who played a significant role in the development of Southern California.
As you stroll through the well-preserved rooms, you’ll get a glimpse into the daily lives, customs, and challenges faced by the Dominguez family and the local community during that era.
History buffs will appreciate the authentic artifacts and the chance to delve into the region’s rich heritage. Architecture enthusiasts will marvel at the adobe construction and learn about the unique architectural style of the era. Families will find it a great educational experience for kids, providing a fun way to learn about local history.
In fact, anyone with an interest in the fascinating stories that shaped Southern California will be captivated by the Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum!
Free public tours are available on certain days, which you should book online before arriving. Admission is free, however, donations are always welcomed.
Museums In Los Angeles With Free Museum Days
Natural History Museum (Los Angeles) – L.A. County Residents get free admission from 3–5 pm Monday through Friday.
The Skirball Cultural Center (Los Angeles) – free to Members and Children under 2. Free to all on Thursdays.
The Autry Museum of the American West (Los Angeles) – free for Autry members, active-duty military, veterans, and children age 2 and under. The Autry is free every second Tuesday of the month.
Holocaust Museum LA (Los Angeles) – Free for teachers, students, and children under 17. Admission is free for everyone all-day Sunday.
The Japanese American National Museum (Los Angeles) – General admission is free all day every third Thursday of the month. All other Thursdays: free from 5 p.m.–8 p.m.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA): Free admission on the second Tuesday of every month. Free admission for L.A. County residents with ID weekdays after 3pm. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, General Admission is free to all active-duty military personnel including National Guard and Reserve and their families.
USC Pacific Asia Museum (Los Angeles) – Free admission on the second Sunday of every month and pay what you wish on Thursdays. Free for all Museum Members, USC faculty, staff, students with current ID, and children 17 and under
The Museum of Latin American Art (Long Beach) – MOLAA is free for children under 12 yrs old and for MOLAA Members. Entry is also free on their MOLAA Sundays (every Sunday)
The Norton Simon Museum (Pasadena) – Free for children (ages 18 and under), students with valid I.D., Museum Members, holders of the EBT card, and active military personnel with I.D. Admission is free to everyone on the first Friday of the month from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. No reservations are necessary for Free First Fridays.
Descanso Gardens (La Cañada Flintridge) – Free admission on the third Tuesday of every month. Descanso members and children under 5 are always free.
The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens (San Marino)- Free admission on the first Thursday of every month with advance tickets, which can be reserved online.
Free Museums In Orange County
Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) – Santa Ana
The Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) is a modern and contemporary art museum located in Santa Ana, Orange County. The museum features a collection of over 3,000 works by some of the most important artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Richard Diebenkorn, David Hockney, and Ed Ruscha.
During our last visit, we really enjoyed the Daniel Arsham: Wherever You Go, There You Are exhibit, which explores the artist’s concept of fictional archaeology. There was a huge variety of creative works that operate as future relics of the present—eroded casts of everyday objects and human figures built from geological materials like sand, pyrite, and volcanic ash. Quite a sight to see.
Admission to the Orange County Museum of Art is always free, no advance reservations or tickets necessary. The museum is located approximately 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles, and the drive takes around 45 minutes to an hour depending on traffic.
It’s perfect as a date spot in the OC, or for any art lovers who want to stay up to date on the latest trends in contemporary art!
Institute and Museum for California Art – Irvine
The Langson IMCA (Institute and Museum for California Art) is an art museum located in Irvine, Orange County. The museum is dedicated to the promotion and preservation of California art, and features a collection of over 3,500 works by California artists from the 19th century to the present day.
On any given day, you’ll find a large collection of paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other media, providing a comprehensive overview of California’s rich artistic heritage.
Langson IMCA presents one exhibition at a time in the 2,500-square-foot gallery. Exhibitions change approximately every three months and include works from the museum’s permanent collection and on loan from private lenders and institutions. Check out what is currently on view.
Past exhibits include “The Great Park: A Laboratory for Art and Life,” which explored the intersection of art, nature, and community in Orange County’s Great Park, and “Tony DeLap: A Retrospective,” which celebrated the work of the California artist known for his geometric abstractions.
In addition to its exhibitions, Langson IMCA also hosts a range of public programs, including lectures, artist talks, and workshops. Be sure to check out their events calendar if you want a more in-depth visit!
Admission to the Irvine Museum is always free. The museum is located approximately 45 miles southeast of Los Angeles, and the drive takes around an hour from LA.
Hilbert Museum of California Art – Orange
The Hilbert Museum of California Art is a museum located in Orange, California, that features a collection of California representational art from the 20th century to the present day.
The museum’s collection includes paintings, drawings, and sculptures by some of the most important California artists of the last century, including Millard Sheets, Emil Kosa Jr., and Phil Dike.
You can expect the museum’s exhibits to cover a wide range of topics, including California landscapes, urban scenes, and portraits, as well as depictions of California’s diverse communities and cultures.
Admission to the Hilbert Museum is always free, but reservations are required due to limited capacity.
Fullerton Arboretum – Fullerton
The Fullerton Arboretum is a botanical garden and nature preserve located on the campus of California State University, Fullerton. The arboretum features a collection of over 4,000 plant species from around the world, as well as a range of natural habitats and ecosystems.
Visitors to the Fullerton Arboretum can explore the garden’s collection through a range of trails and pathways that wind through the various habitats and gardens. During your visit, you’ll see a range of themed gardens, including a desert garden, a Mediterranean garden, a woodland garden, and a collection of rare and endangered plants.
While the arboretum is free, they suggest making a $5 donation to support their efforts.
Fullerton Train Museum – Fullerton
The Fullerton Train Museum is a free museum located in the historic Fullerton Santa Fe Depot that features a collection of historic railroad artifacts, including vintage locomotives, cabooses, and other equipment, as well as exhibits and displays related to the history of rail transportation in Southern California.
Visitors to the Fullerton Train Museum can explore the museum’s collection through a range of exhibits and displays that showcase the history and culture of rail transportation in the region.
The museum’s exhibits touch on a wide range of topics, including the development of rail transportation in Southern California, the role of trains in the region’s economy and culture, and the history of the Fullerton Santa Fe Depot itself.
In addition to its exhibits, the Fullerton Train Museum also offers a range of public programs and events, including train rides, model train displays, and educational programs for children and families.
The museum is open on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of each month. Admission is always free. Overall, the Fullerton Train Museum is a must-visit destination for kids and train lovers of all ages!
Surfing Heritage & Cultural Center – San Clemente
The Surfing Heritage & Cultural Center is a museum and cultural center located in San Clemente, California, that is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the history and culture of surfing.
The museum features a collection of historic surfboards, photographs, videos, and other artifacts related to the sport of surfing and its cultural significance.
Visitors to the Surfing Heritage & Cultural Center can explore the museum’s collection through a range of exhibits and displays that showcase the evolution of surfboard design, the history of surfing in California and around the world, and the cultural impact of surfing on music, fashion, and art.
Admission is always free but donations are appreciated.
Bowers Museum – Santa Ana
The Bowers Museum is an art and cultural museum located in Santa Ana, Orange County. The museum features a collection of over 100,000 objects from around the world, including art, artifacts, and natural history specimens.
While you’re here, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn about local California and other world history. Previous historical exhibits include “California Legacies: Missions and Ranchos (1768-1848)”, “Spirits and Headhunters: Art of the Pacific Islands”, and “American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times”.
There are usually also some really interesting exhibits showcasing artifacts/relics that are seen as art in our culture, as seen in previous exhibits like “Gemstone Carvings: The Masterworks of Harold Van Pelt”, “Miao: Masters of Silver”, and “Guo Pei: Art of Couture”.
Admission to the Bowers Museum is free on certain days of the year to the general public. Santa Ana residents get free admission on Sundays, while members and children under 12 are free always. Have military affiliation? The museum offers free General Admission to all active duty military year-round with proof of ID.
The museum is located approximately 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles, and the drive takes around 45 minutes to an hour depending on traffic.
Free Museums In San Diego County
Timken Museum of Art – San Diego
The Timken Museum of Art is an art museum located in Balboa Park in San Diego. The museum preserves the Putnam Collection of European old masters, American art and Russian icons for the education and benefit of present and future generations of San Diego residents and visitors.
As such, this free Southern California museum features a collection of European and American paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts from the 14th to the 20th century.
Noteworthy past exhibits include “Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age,” which explored the work of the Dutch master and his contemporaries, and “The Art of Music,” which showcased the intersection of music and visual art.
Admission to the Timken Museum of Art is always free!
San Diego Museum of Art – San Diego
The San Diego Museum of Art is another art museum located in SD’s Balboa Park. This massive museum features a collection of over 20,000 objects from around the world, including paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts.
Just to give you a sense of what kind of rotating exhibits SDMA can have, they’ve featured exhibits such as “Modern Masters from Latin America: The Pérez Simón Collection,” which explored the work of Latin American artists from the mid-20th century to the present day, and “Art & Empire: The Golden Age of Spain,” which showcased the art and culture of Spain during its period of global dominance.
The museum also hosts a range of rotating exhibitions and public programs, showcasing the work of both established and emerging artists.
Now onto the free admission details. The San Diego Museum of Art offers free admission to San Diego County residents (with ID) on the third Tuesday of every month.
In addition to that, admission to the San Diego Museum of Art is always free for youth 17 and under, but adults older than that will have to pay for their admission. College students, seniors, and military do get a discount though!
On top of that, free guided tours inside the museum are now available! Highly trained museum docents lead multiple tours each day, with tours lasting approximately 40-50 minutes. No pre-registration is required, but space may be limited.
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD)
MCASD is an art museum with two locations in San Diego: one in downtown San Diego and one in La Jolla. The museums focus on showcasing contemporary art from around the world, as well as rotating exhibitions and public programs.
The downtown San Diego location of MCASD is housed in a former baggage building at the Santa Fe Depot, which has been renovated to create a modern and dynamic space for contemporary art.
The La Jolla location, on the other hand, is a stunning oceanfront building designed by acclaimed architect Irving Gill. Both locations offer visitors a unique and immersive experience of contemporary art, and are a must-visit destination for anyone interested in exploring the latest trends in art and culture.
Noteworthy past exhibits include “Dimensions of Black: A Collaboration with the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art,” which explored the work of African American artists from San Diego and beyond, and “Being Here with You/ Estando Aquí Contigo: 42 Artists from San Diego and Tijuana,” which showcased the work of artists from both sides of the US-Mexico border, highlighting the cultural exchange between the two regions.
MCASD is free on the Second Sunday and the Third Thursday of every month.
Admission to the May S. Marcy Sculpture Court and Garden is free too. The garden features lush landscaping and picturesque views of the California Tower and San Diego sunsets and is abundant with twentieth-century sculptures.
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