The Academy Museum Offers Free Workshops, Accessible Screenings, More for Kids

With family-friendly exhibitions, workshops, and screenings, the Academy Museum welcomes visitors of all ages. Photo courtesy of the Academy Museum
With family-friendly exhibitions, workshops, and screenings, the Academy Museum welcomes visitors of all ages. Photo courtesy of the Academy Museum
3/12/24 - By Kylie Williams

From catching a free movie screening to creating an animation cel to experiencing winning an Oscar, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is a great spot for kids to explore the wide world of cinema.

As an LA native who grew up in an “industry” family, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has long been on my bucket list. With kid-focused exhibitions, drop-in workshops, and weekly movie screenings, the Museum Row gem welcomes visitors of all ages–and with free tickets for those under 17, a family trip is that much more appealing. Sensory-friendly hours and screenings make it especially accessible.

While there’s certainly something for everyone at the Academy Museum, some exhibitions and attractions do skew towards more grown-up cinephiles. So, read on for my rundown of the most fun and engaging family attractions and a list of tips to review before booking your tickets.

No reservations needed to join one of the museum’s fun and educational drop-in workshops. Photo courtesy of the Academy Museum

Top Things to Do with Kids at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Drop-In Workshops for Families

On the first three Saturdays of every month, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures hosts drop-in workshops for families that are free with admission. Each workshop explores a different element of filmmaking and brings it to life with a special craft or exercise. On our visit, my 7-year-old painted an animation cel, while learning about how it’s used to create animated characters. And past workshops have covered topics like stop motion and 3-D illusions.

No reservations are needed to join in on the fun. After your workshop, don’t miss the interactive animation exhibitions on the bottom floor, where kids can learn about different tools used by professional animators.

Saturday Family Movie Screenings

Saturday movie screenings are another win for families–running every weekend at 11:00 am and free with admission. Kids and adults alike can settle into the plush green chairs inside the 277-seat Ted Mann Theater for a G or PG-rated movie (unless otherwise noted on the calendar). We caught the 1965 classic, The Great Race, but you’ll find a real mix of older and more contemporary films making their way through the rotation.

Also, note that the final family matinee of each month is a sensory-friendly accessible screening that’s part of the Calm Mornings program. During these special showings, open captioning is offered, the theater is dimly lit, and movies are played at a lower volume for neurodivergent visitors.

The Academy Museum is open every day but Tuesday, making it easy to find time for a visit.

The Animation Gallery

With its 2023 redesign, the Animation Gallery–more formally dubbed “Inventing Worlds and Characters: Animation”–is also a prime pitstop for kids. This gallery is stocked with maquettes, puppets, animation drawings, cels, and concept art, which tell the story of more than a century of animated filmmaking. My kids were thrilled to catch a glimpse of Spiderman and gawked at the many expressions of Jack Skellington. An original Jiminy Cricket maquette for Pinocchio (1940) and animation drawings from The Little Mermaid (1989) are also standouts.

Animated Shorts in the David Geffen Theater

With the ability to play movies shot in 35mm, 70mm, and digital mediums, the luxurious 952-seat David Geffen Theater is used for major film events, but is also sometimes open for public programming–like screening 45 minutes of Oscar-winning shorts for curious kids. My little ones cozied up in their chairs to watch some familiar faves and some new stories as well. Multiple times, my son turned to me to say “This is fun, Mom! I like this a lot,” as I blotted my teary eyes from the oh-so-moving Hair Love (2019) and Feast (2014).

The museum’s immersive and dynamic exhibits bring the world of moviemaking to life. Photo courtesy of the Academy Museum

The Oscars Experience

The Oscars Experience presented in the East West Bank Gallery has got to be the most raved about attraction at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures–not to mention a really special one for kids. If you’ve ever dreamed of holding an Oscar, the museum invites you to experience winning an actual “gold guy” and giving your acceptance speech, of course. Simply type your name into a computer–along with an email address, so you can receive a video of your speech–and wait for your name to be called. My kids loved pretending to achieve their dreams (and, admittedly, so did my husband.) This experience is also always free for kids 17 and under with admission, and costs $10 per adult. Same-day general admission is required.

A View Worth the Visit

Fittingly, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has one of the best views of Hollywood. A breathtaking panorama awaits outside on the top-level landing. My kids loved locating the Hollywood sign and trying to point out classic landmarks as they stood high above Tinseltown.

Admission is FREE for kids under 17 and tickets can be booked ahead of time online.

Want to Visit? Here’s What You Need to Know

  • Paid self-park, accessible parking, and electrical vehicle parking are all available in lots near the museum–although we didn’t have any trouble snagging a metered spot on the street.
  • There are several exhibitions in the museum that are not kid-friendly. Staff members helped us avoid those areas, so make sure to ask when you arrive so you can map out your visit.
  • Most of the museum is stroller-friendly. There are elevators connecting all floors, and wide hallways. However, we were encouraged to check our stroller on the bottom level when we headed to the David Geffen Theater, as it was not allowed inside.
  • The museum is dedicated to accessibility. See all available accommodations here and visit the Calm Mornings page to read more about programming and resources for neurodivergent kids.
  • Fanny’s Restaurant and Cafe, the museum’s on-site eatery, sells coffee, pastries, cookies, and plenty of sweet treats for hungry tummies.
  • Consider visiting on a Saturday, when most of the family programming takes place. But check the Academy Museum website to see what is going on, as movie screenings and workshop topics change weekly.
  • The museum is open every day but Tuesday, from 10:00am to 6:00pm
  • Museum admission is FREE for kids ages 17 and under, museum members, Academy members, and CA EBT cardholders. Adults are $25, seniors are $19, and students 18 and older are $15 with an ID. Film screenings and special events may have additional fees. General admission is not required to attend paid screenings.
  • Screening tickets start at $10 for adults, $7 for seniors, $5 for students and children. Matinee screenings are $5 for all.
  • Guests are encouraged to book tickets in advance online. Walk-up tickets are also available.

For more information, visit the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures website and plan your visit here.

Unless noted, photos by the author

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Academy Museum of Motion Pictures