Free Museum Days in Los Angeles for Kids—And Free Garden Days, Too!
What's better than a day at a museum? A FREE museum day! If you have a large family, museum tickets can add up fast—which gets particularly frustrating if you then need to beat a hasty retreat to avoid a meltdown. SoCal has some great museums that have free general admission every day of the year, including The Getty, California Science Center, and The Broad. As for the rest of them—once kids are old enough to have to pay—many LA and OC museums and gardens have monthly or even weekly free days or evenings, and we have collected a list for easy reference.
Go ahead, bring the extended family, meet friends, or check out a place you have never been before—all for just the price of parking or Metro tickets. And if there's a meltdown? At least it's free.
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Be sure to check with the venue for its COVID guidelines and requirements before visiting. Many places in LA now require guests to show either proof of vaccination or a negative test; some indoor spaces are closing or limiting hours or free days due to reduced capacity. Los Angeles County currently mandates that everyone 2 years of age and older must wear a mask in all indoor public settings, venues, gatherings, public, and private businesses.
Free Museum Days at Children's Museums in Los Angeles
Kidspace hosts a free family night on the first Friday of every month from 4pm-8pm.
Kids have a blast exploring all the creative play areas this museum has to offer. They have cool exhibits that will capture the attention of kids(and adults) of every age. It is free for LA County residents but if you want to give a small or big donation that would be gratefully appreciated too. All you need to do is reserve the tickets online, and voila!
What household items can you spy in these animals? Photo courtesy of skirball.org
All of Skirball's exhibitions are free to the public on Thursdays (noon-5pm). The campus grounds and Ruby Gallery are always free, as is parking, and no tickets are required to access the shops or dining areas. Children 2 and under are always free. You do have to make a reservation to attend. Free attendance is also granted to EBT cardholders with 5 guests each; essential workers with one guest each; pre-K-12 grade teachers each with one guest; Clergy members and first responders each with one guest; active-duty military service each with one guest; visitors with disabilities and their caregiver; and NARM, CAJM, and MARP members with up to 4 people with membership. Bank of America cardholders get free admission on the first weekend of each month.
If you are a credentialed teacher you receive one free ticket per family. If you are a member of another Science Center you can get up to 4 free tickets for adults or children. The only requirement is that they have to be outside of a 90-miles radius from the affiliate science center or museum where you are a member.
Free Museum Days at Art & History Museums in LA
LACMA's Urban Light installation by artist Chris Burden is a must-do LA photo op. Photo by Mommy Poppins
LACMA has several systems in place for free days. The second Tuesday of each month is free for the general public. LA County residents can visit for free after 3pm Mondays through Fridays. Select Federal holidays are also free (the museum is closed for giving and Christmas and every Wednesday). Children 17 and under are always free, and if you sign your children up (for free!) with the NexGen program, each child gets free admission anytime for themselves and one accompanying adult. NexGen and some LACMA free days now include admission to special exhibits. Bank of America debit/credit cardholders get the first full weekend of every month free.
Located in Griffith Park, directly across the street from the Los Angeles Zoo, The Autry features collections that focus on Native American and Western U.S. history. The Autry is free to the general public on the second Tuesday (10am-4pm) of every month, and also on New Year's Day. It also offers free admission to active-duty military members, veterans, and children under 2.
You never know what you might find at this smaller museum that hosts a wide variety of exhibitions. Admission is "pay what you want" on Sundays, from 11am to 6pm.
Visit the JANM in Little Tokyo. Photo by Paloma Dooley, courtesy of the Japanese American National Museum
JANM is the largest museum in the U.S. focusing on the experiences of Japanese Americans. It is free to the public on Thursdays from 11am- 5pm, the last entry is at 4pm. In addition, the museum holds a number of free family festivals throughout the year. On those days, admission to the museum is free.
MOLAA has free family days every Sunday from 11am-5pm. Some family days also feature music, art workshops, storytelling, dance classes, or other activities. In addition, admission is free from 5pm-9pm on the fourth Thursday of every month. Children 12 and under are always free.
The NHM now offers LA County residents free admission daily from 3-5pm. See here for the upcoming schedule. Children 2 and under are always free. Admission is also free for California EBT cardholders, California teachers, active or retired military, and USC students and faculty.
Checking out the art together at the Norton Simon. Photo courtesy of the Norton Simon Museum
The Norton Simon is one of the few museums that's always free to those 18 and under, and students with ID. If you're looking for a completely free museum outing, adults get in free as well on the first Friday of every month from 5-8pm. It is also free for active military personnel, museum colleagues, members of AAM and ICOM, members of the media, EBT cardholders, patrons who are legally blind and their caregivers, and visitors with disabilities.
This Museum showcases a series of exhibitions that promote Asian and Pacific Island culture and art. It is free for all visitors every Thursday from 11 am to 5 pm and on the second Sunday of the month. It is free every day for children 17 and under; museum members; and for USC faculty, staff, and students with a valid id.
Look at the giant mammoth tusks at the Page Museum. Photo by Matt Matasci
The Page Museum offers free admission to LA County residents Mondays through Fridays from 3-5pm (with a valid ID or utility bill). Reservations are recommended for free days because it does get crowded. Remember, the grounds are always open, free of charge, and if your kids like the actual tar, they will love the grounds! Children 2 and under are always free. There's also free admission to California EBT cardholders, California teachers, and active or retired military.
The Huntington is one of the most beautiful places in all of LA. Photo courtesy of The Huntington Library, Facebook
Free Days at Gardens in Los Angeles
Admission to the Huntington is free to the general public on the first Thursday of every month. Unlike many museums, however, the Huntington requires that you reserve a free ticket; tickets are available one week before the free day. Yes, you have to plan in advance, but the limited number of tickets prevents overcrowding. Free day hours are 10am-5pm. Children under 4 are always free. There is also free admission if you're a current or retired employee of other cultural institutions, excluding public libraries and gardens.
15. Descanso Gardens
Admission to Descanso is free on the third Tuesday of each month; due to popularity, these tickets must be reserved in advance. Tickets for that month's free day are released on the first weekday of each month.
Just like at Descanso Gardens, admission is free at the Arboretum on the third Tuesday of each month. The tickets are free but limited and timed, and must be reserved online. Tickets for the month's free day are released on the first weekday of the month.
This beautiful native garden in Claremont has several free admission days throughout the year, including Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, California Day, Green Day, and more. Check the website for details.
See snakes and more on festival days at the Cube. Photo courtesy of Discovery Cube OC, Facebook
Orange County Free Museum Days
18. Bowers Museum
On Sundays, the Bowers offers free museum tickets to Santa Ana residents, you have to show proof of residency. In addition, on the first Sunday of each month, a Family Festival is held in the Key Courtyard—this outdoor festival is free to all visitors. There's also free general admission to all active-duty military all year round. Veterans get free admission on Veterans Day.
Santa Ana residents with proof of residency receive free admission on the first Tuesday of every month. Also, Bank of America cardholders receive free admission on the first Sunday of every month by presenting a photo ID and a valid card (one free general admission limited to cardholders only).
Take a tour of the Laguna Art Museum. Photo courtesy of the Laguna Art Museum
The Laguna Art Museum focuses on California art. It's free to the public on the first Thursday evening of every month, from 6 pm-9 pm. Children 12 and under are always free.
Additional reporting by Ana Belibasis
Originally published January 13, 2014