Does having kids bring back memories of TV shows, cartoons, and jingles from your own childhood? Wouldn't it be cool if there were a place where you could watch them? Enter The Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills. Whether you're making peace with some weekend screen time, or you've simply exhausted the other great LA museum and library options, this place is worth checking out. With an archive of more than 160,000 radio and television programs, this small but mighty museum offers a fun (and free!) way to connect with the family over TV past and present.
Tickets are free (with suggested donations), and you may be surprised by how worthwhile a free museum visit (in Beverly Hills, no less) can be. On the first floor are special exhibits, a radio listening room, a screening theater, and a gift shop (which was sadly closed at the time of our visit), and there's a rooftop terrace with gardens. But it's on the second floor where the magic happens (at least for most visitors), because it's where the extensive library archives and viewing rooms can be found. Think of it like walking into a gigantic library crossed with Netflix, but even more comprehensive.
Fun at the My Little Pony exhibit. Photo courtesy of The Paley Center
That doesn't mean there aren't non-screen sights to see. Past exhibits have included wardrobe pieces from Netflix'sThe Crown as well as a collection of I Love Lucy memorabilia including posters, clothing, and memorabilia. During our visit, my son and I loved the whimsical Al Hirschfeld drawings hanging along the corridor before entering the upper exhibit. The Beatles portrait and Star Trek cast drawings were delightful. Worth noting is that the physical exhibits are limited and may only take 15 to 20 minutes to peruse, especially with kids in tow.
Saturday morning cartoons on the big screen anyone? Photo by Grant Mudford courtesy of The Paley Center for Media
However, the real draw at The Paley Center is the archives and special screenings. The viewing and listening rooms allow for non-members up to 90 minutes of fun. That's plenty of time to get lost down the Bugs Bunny rabbit hole of nostalgia and take your kids along with you. Another highlight is the US Olympic archive featuring every Olympic event in televised history from 1960 up to 2012. This is a real gem for sports fans. Not a sports fan? Consider watching your Saturday morning cartoons at the center's weekend family screenings, or become an annual member and submit your own request for a member-curated screening on Sundays.
The library is where kids can dig for TV treasures. Photo by Kevin Parry courtesy of The Paley Center for Media
This is a great location for an outing with the family, especially if your kids are over the age of five. My recommendation is to set aside an hour or two (at most) for exploring the Paley Center, and then make it an afternoon by grabbing a bite or visiting one of the two great parks nearby. Though located in ritzy Beverly Hills, there are some affordable, kid-friendly food options nearby such as The Cheesecake Factory, Sharky's Woodfired Grill, and classic deli Nate 'n Al's.
During the holiday season, a trip to the Paley Center is a great outing on that long, school-free winter break. Holiday Classics & Santa Claus at the Paley Center delivers a double dose of Christmas cheer. Santa is on duty Saturdays and Sundays until the weekend before he's due to come down chimneys everywhere, and holiday TV classics screen for free all day Wednesday through Sunday.
Admission is free with a suggested donation of $10 per adult, $8 for students and senior citizens, and $5 for children under 14. Parking is free on-site. Free 2-hour parking is also available in lots along Beverly Drive and the surrounding areas.