5 Offbeat L.A. Museums Worth Visiting

5 Offbeat L.A. Museums Worth Visiting

Like any big multicultural city, when it comes to museums, L.A. has no shortage. But while the city’s bigger, more popular museums such as LACMA, MOCA, The Getty, and the Natural History Museum tend to get all of the glory, there are several smaller, lesser known, and/or quirky museums around town that are definitely worth a visit. Here’s my roundup of five offbeat L.A. museums that I’ve either been to or that are still on my list, that are well worth exploring.

Craft and Folk Art Museum

“Displacements: The Craft Practices of Golnar Adili and Samira Yamin” Scotoma, Samira Yamin, video projection, 2014. Courtesy of the artist
“Displacements: The Craft Practices of Golnar Adili and Samira Yamin”
Scotoma, Samira Yamin, video projection, 2014. Courtesy of the artist

Why Visit: As its name suggests, this museum attracts creative types from all walks in celebration of contemporary and traditional craft and folk art. In the mid-1960s, the museum started off as an art gallery and restaurant and it evolved into a non-profit museum in 1973. The Craft & Folk Art Museum displays exhibits by new and established artists whose work is centered on craft and design. What’s especially cool about this museum are its offerings of workshops, art talks, and readings that are open to the public including an upcoming Meet & Make Craft Night at the museum in celebration of Valentine’s Day. During the event, participants will make knick knacks for their significant others using the Rainbow Loom.

Free (members, kids under 10, and monthly on 1st Wednesdays)
$7 (general)
$5 (students, seniors, and veterans)
5814 Wilshire Blvd. (Miracle Mile)
Ph: 323.937.4230


Source: biofriendly @ Flickr Creative Commons
Source: biofriendly @ Flickr Creative Commons

Why Visit: Music is one of the few things powerful enough to bridge cultural gaps and to unite people of different backgrounds, and for that reason alone, the GRAMMY Museum is one that any music lover can appreciate. The museum, which opened in 2008 in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the GRAMMY Awards, features four floors of exhibits that explore a wide variety of musical genres over the years in a socio-political context. It even features a 200 seat Clive Davis Theater where visitors can watch videos featuring behind-the-scenes looks at the GRAMMY Awards. During our visit, we saw a clip of Beyonce and Tina Turner preparing for their GRAMMY performance at the 2008 show.

But all of the interactive exhibits are the absolute best part of the GRAMMY Museum. With touch screens, earphones, recording technology, and instruments, the museum is all about hands-on learning.

Also, visitors should check out the Michael Jackson exhibit displaying the King of Pop’s famous costumes from past awards shows and from some of his music videos. “Whitney! Celebrating the Musical Legacy of Whitney Houston” is another must see exhibit that opened in 2012 about six months after her death. The Whitney Houston exhibit features some of the late singer’s rare photos, stage costumes, albums and scrapbooks, and much more.

$12.95 (adults)
$11.95 (18+ with valid college ID and seniors 65+)
$10.95 (youth 6-17 years and military with valid ID)
800 W. Olympic Blvd., Ste. A245 (at L.A. Live)
Ph: 213.765.6800

Heritage Square Museum

Car show at Heritage Square Museum
Car show at Heritage Square Museum

Why Visit: A visit to the Heritage Square Museum is like taking a step back into history to explore the settlement and development of Southern California during the first 100 years of statehood. The museum is a living history museum that’s home to eight structures that were built during the Victorian Era. A highlight of any visit to the Heritage Square Museum is the opportunity to walk through some of the homes and other structures in the square to get a glimpse into what Southern Californians lived like years ago. The museum also hosts several annual events including the Vintage Fashion Show and Tea, Silent and Classic Music Nights, Halloween and Mourning Tours which explore the death and mourning rituals of the Victorian Era, and much more. A car show prompted our visit to the museum, and afterward, we toured some of the homes on the premises.

Free (members and kids under 6)
$10 (adults 13+)
$8 (seniors 65+)
$5 (kids 6-12)
3800 Homer St.
Ph: 323.225.2700
Car show at Heritage Square Museum
Car show at Heritage Square Museum
One of the city's early fire trucks on display at the car show at the Heritage Square Museum
One of the city’s early fire trucks on display at the car show at the Heritage Square Museum
Victorian Era home - Photo provided courtesy of the Heritage Square Museum
Victorian Era home – Photo provided courtesy of the Heritage Square Museum

The Museum of Jurassic Technology

Museum of Jurassic Technology - Photo provided courtesy of Jennifer Bastian and the Museum of Jurassic Technology
The Museum of Jurassic Technology – Photo provided courtesy of Jennifer Bastian and The Museum of Jurassic Technology

Why Visit: The Museum of Jurassic Technology is a resource for academics that houses a collection of artifacts from the Lower Jurassic, especially those that possess unique technological aspects. The museum also provides the general public with hands-on insight into life in the Jurassic. In addition to permanent collection exhibits focusing on natural history and the history of science, the Museum of Jurassic Technology also features several other exhibitions including “Garden of Eden on Wheels: Collections from Los Angeles Area Mobile Home Parks” and “Micromosaics of Harald Henry Dalton.”

Suggested Cost:
Free (kids 12 and under)
$8 (adults)
$5 (ages 13 – 21, 60+, full time students, unemployed)
$1.50 (disabled persons & active military personnel in uniform)
9341 Venice Blvd., Culver City
Ph: 310.836.6131
Photo provided courtesy of The Museum of Jurassic Technology
Model of Noah’s Ark – Photo provided courtesy of The Museum of Jurassic Technology
Source: PunkToad @ Flickr Creative Commons
Source: PunkToad @ Flickr Creative Commons

The Museum of African American Art

"Baptizing Day" by Palmer Hayden - Source: CultureType.com
“Baptizing Day” by Palmer Hayden – Source: Culture Type

Why Visit: Located in a Macy’s department store, you can combine your love of shopping with your love of art at The Museum of African American Art. The museum was founded in 1976 by Dr. Samella Lewis, an artist and art historian, to increase the public’s awareness of and support for African American art and art representative of the African Diaspora including the South Pacific, the Caribbean, and South America. The Palmer Hayden Collection is a part of the museum’s permanent collection that features 40 pieces by the artist including three of his most important paintings: “Fetiche et Flerus” (1933), “Midsummer Night in Harlem” (1936) and “Baptizing Day” (1946).

4005 Crenshaw Blvd. (Macy’s 3rd Floor in Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza)
Ph: 323.294.7071



What’s your favorite offbeat museum in your city?

  • Tom

    Wow – some of those look amazing!
    I’ve only ever seen the inside of the airport in LA – I really need to have a proper visit!

    • Dana Carmel

      Definitely, Tom! There’s lots to see and do while in L.A., and visiting some of these museums would be a great alternative way to get a feel for what the city has to offer.

  • I love these kind of places, so interesting!

    • Dana Carmel

      Me too, Becky! 😉

  • These museums sound so interesting! Especially the Museum of African American Art and the Heritage Square Museum! Are the Victorian houses fully furnished?

    • Dana Carmel

      Yup – the houses that I visited at Heritage Square were furnished. One of them even had a bathroom which was a hot mess – lol. But definitely interesting to see!

  • I’d be interested to visit the Grammy Museum! 😀

    • Dana Carmel

      If you’re a music lover then you’d definitely love this museum!

  • What a great list! I haven’t heard of any of these but they all peak my interest. Putting the African American Art museum in a Macy’s sounds like a great idea of generating drop-in traffic. I love music, so I know that I’d enjoy the Grammy Museum. “Jurassic Technology” is such an oxymoron that I want to stop by to see what exactly it means. My kids would love Meet & Make Craft Night, and Heritage Square is exactly the type of thing that appeals to me. They all sound like winners.

    • Dana Carmel

      I would’ve never thought of putting a museum in a Macy’s, but when I think about it, it is pretty smart. It’s right by the mattress section. 😉
      Hopefully you’ll get a chance to check out some of these museums.

  • Great ideas here, Dana. We’ve only been to the Grammy Museum and surprisingly even my kids didn’t want to leave. They had some great interactive stations. There was a Ringo Starr exhibit when we were there and we had the chance to record our own version of ‘Yellow Submarine’. I need to look into Heritage Square Museum.

    • Dana Carmel

      Yes! I was hooked on the interactive exhibits. The GRAMMY Museum is definitely one of my most memorable museum experiences and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back again. I’m sure I’d learn something new each time!

  • Awesome ideas! I may have a 12 hour layover in LA in May, and it would be awesome to check some of them out!

    • Dana Carmel

      That’s a great layover idea, Monique! Plus, it would give you a chance to drive/ride through the city and take in your surroundings.

  • Oh wow these all sound fantastic, Dana! The Grammy museum would be the first on my list for sure. I love old vintage cars so those photos were awesome. And of course the adorable pic of you and Jave 🙂

    • Dana Carmel

      I must admit that our visit to the GRAMMY Museum was the most fun we had at a museum in a long time because it was so interactive. And to learn the history behind different genres, songs, and albums was fascinating as well!

  • Awesome post, I love visiting museums, coincidentally I have just posted about a museum in my blog.

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks, Rachel! I will be heading over to your blog soon to check out the latest and greatest!

  • Didn’t expect that Los Angeles has museums like those. Hmm. Interesting. Will visit those when I get the chance to go there!

    Enjoy traveling!

    • Dana Carmel

      Gabriela – you should definitely check out some of these museums whenever you make it to Los Angeles. Mix some of the offbeat museums in with some of the bigger ones. Thanks for reading!

  • Awesome post! I really want to check out the Heritage Square Museum now. Also, Groupon or Livingsocial (can’t remember which) are always having deals for the Grammy Museum if anyone’s interested 🙂

    Happy travels!

    • Dana Carmel

      We actually used a Living Social deal for our visit to Heritage Square and we used a Groupon for the GRAMMY Museum – lol! I lcan’t get enough of group discount sites. But even without those deals, the prices of each of these museums is still really reasonable. You should definitely check out Heritage Square. The homes on display are so well preserved and it really is like stepping back in time. Thanks for reading, Lauren!

  • Los Angeles actually has the most museums per capita of any city in the US. I learned that fun fact on my recent visit but unfortunately didn’t have time to check out the lesser known ones. Visitors could easily spend a solid week just checking out LA’s museums if they were so inclined.
    Thanks for the great overview.

    • Dana Carmel

      I didn’t know that, Leigh! Thanks for sharing that little tidbit. Glad you liked this overview, and hopefully you’ll be able to check out some of these museums the next time you’re in town!


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