Maybe you and your preschooler have squeezed every last drop of fun from Travel Town or have soldiered through every stroller-friendly hike within driving distance. You're itching for a dose of culture that doesn't include a kiddie museum, stuffed animals, or squeaky toys (not that there's anything wrong with them); but at the same time a real museum seems daunting. Should you brave LA's iconic Getty Museum with the under-five set? Short answer? You definitely should.
While little ones may not appreciate the historical significance of, say, the museum's collection of medieval and early Renaissance manuscripts, you might be surprised to find that museums for "big people" have many characteristics that appeal to any age group—even kids whose knowledge of great art begins and ends with Olivia the pig recreating a Jackson Pollack with her paint set. Colorful artwork, pretty views, and gorgeous gardens appeal to everyone, don't they? Here are 14 reasons to take your preschooler to the Getty, pronto.
Get hands on in the family room. Photo courtesy of Getty Center
1. Family Room? Yes, please.
Because the Getty understands that little ones may need to scribble and play (and it's always better if they do these things at a distance from priceless artworks), the Family Room is a separate space that has 70 peepholes to allow preschoolers to explore fun details of the museum. There's a giant-sized illuminated manuscript, and kids can even nap on a sofa that looks like something out of an 18th century French aristocrat's home. Hit the Family Room first to get preschoolers interested in what they can see at the museum—as well as color and jump around without making the guards nervous.
2. The Center for Photographs will blow their minds.
For little kids who can't fathom a time before smart phones, black and white photos that aren't the result of a filter will come as a shock—as will real photos of people (and sometimes children) who lived 100 years ago or more. The center can inspire conversations about what was like in the olden days (and for once that doesn't have to mean when Mom was a kid).
3. They can run in the grass.
There are more than 500 varieties of plants in the Central Garden, which not only gives you a chance to take in amazing views of Los Angeles, but has a 134,000 square-foot design full of gorgeous plants and a tree-lined (and shaded) walkway that runs along a stream and stone waterfall. It all leads to bouganvillea arbors and a pool that, while not for swimming, will fascinate little kids. Consider making a return trip, because the plants are changed out frequently, so the view is always changing.
The trip from the parking garage is half the fun. Photo by Praytino/CC BY 2.0
4. Who doesn't love a monorail?
After you park ($15, $10 after 3pm) underground, it's necessary to take a monorail up to the museum itself. For kids it's a dose of Disneyland magic, and for parents it's a chance to sit back, relax, and enjoy the view of the freeway below from a safe distance.
5. The website even tells you how to get kids excited about the Getty.
Granted, you will probably come up with their I-Spy suggestion on your own, but the Getty's tips for engaging kids is still worthwhile. The site suggests questions to ask kids about the artwork they see, and they might get your imagination fired up, too.
6. A free GettyGuide is a multimedia extravaganza.
When you reach the Museum Entrance Hall, be sure to ask for a GettyGuide. This multimedia guide has stories, music, and sounds inspired by the museum's collection that are designed to engage kids in what they're seeing. Did we mention it's free?
7. Bring a blanket for free garden concerts for kids.
Grammy-winners and kid favorites Dan Zanes and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo have put on concerts here, so even though the talent for August has yet to be announced it's sure to be great. Just remember that you can bring a picnic blanket to enjoy the show, but lawn chairs are not allowed.
There's only one place in LA to enjoy this view. Photo courtesy of Getty Center
8. Be an art detective.
When you visit the Family Room, keep your eyes peeled for the Family Cart. There you'll find the Art Detective cards, which invite kids to solve a mystery while exploring the galleries, garden, and architecture of the museum. While asking little kids to play detective may be a bridge too far, use the cards for inspiration and creative ways to get preschoolers excited about art.
9. Check out special events.
Previous events have included meeting a world-famous origami expert and kids getting a chance to fold their own creations, so be sure to check the website to see what's coming up next—it's sure to be fun.
10. Dive into a Family Festival.
What better way to get people excited about a new exhibit than to have a free, all-day festival devoted to it? On June 2, the whole family can get excited about ancient Egypt and India thanks to dance troupes, storytelling, and opportunities to play dress-up, create an Indian-inspired picture frame, and even play ancient Egyptian games.
Family Festivals at the Getty are always a treat. Photo courtesy of Getty Center
11. Squeeze in the Getty Villa, too.
If you're worried you'll end up spending $15 on parking only for your preschooler to demand a speedy exit, keep in mind that your parking fee will also cover the parking for a same-day visit to the Getty Villa, too—which has the benefit of beach breezes, Mediterranean-style outdoor gardens, and a Family Forum, too.
12. Little artists can get inspired.
While there's a no-drawing-on-the-walls policy, that doesn't mean preschoolers can't draw while inside the galleries—and so can parents. Bring a sketchpad and art supplies, but remember that pens and markers are not allowed. Also, adults are asked to carry all art supplies when not in use.
13. You can have fun, too.
While you may be laser-focused on finding enrichment activities for your preschooler, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy some remarkable artwork, too. After a snack or during a quiet moment, convince your tiny date for the afternoon to let you look around and explore a gallery. If it's a hard sell, know that there's a Children's Shop on the Plaza Level of the West Pavillion chock full of fun, educational, and colorful kid stuff and potential bribes. Consider yourself warned.
14. Snack time is easy.
The Restaurant at the Getty is likely too fancy (and expensive) for the under-five set, but that doesn't mean there aren't good options for a quick snack or a leisurely lunch. In addition to coffee carts located throughout the museum, it's possible to grab PB&J sandwiches, grilled cheese, and other kiddie eats at the Cafe. Want to DIY? You're allowed to picnic on the lawn adjacent to the Central Garden.
Note that admission to the Getty is always free; the only charge is for parking. If you can take a bus or get dropped off, the Getty Center can be a truly free day out.
Top photo by Sergey Galyonkin/CC BY 2.0