What was once the personal collection of Pasadena residents Bob and Arlene Oltman is now a three-story institution with more than 10,000 square feet of gallery space. The Pasadena Museum of California Art features art, architecture, and design from all over the state and aims to explore cultural issues that are unique to California.
In America's melting pot of delicious cultures, Asians and Pacific Islanders would most likely be the bay leaf, the crucial ingredient that gives the recipe its robust flavor. Pacific Asia Museum, which first opened its doors in 1971, is dedicated to the multi-layered cultures of Asia and the Pacific Islands. Its collection contains more than 15,000 pieces of historical art dating back more than 4,000 years. Learn about vital Asian history through current exhibits such as Japan in Blue and White, which explores how the use of blue pigment on white ceramics, textiles, and woodblock prints was first used for practical reasons but soon became a distinctively Japanese art style. Permanent collections include more than 800 Japanese, Chinese, and Pacific Island graphic-art prints motivated by culture, politics, religion, and scenes from Ghost Busters.
Nestled in the historic Rancho Santa Anita—a homestead originally inhabited by the Gabrieleno Tongva tribe—Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden houses wildlife and plants from all over the globe on 127 acres. Its creators opened the Arboretum in 1947 to promote environmental awareness in a sanctuary that reflects the distinct history, flora, and culture of southern California. The grounds reflect the founders' aim—hummingbirds flutter among the colorful blooms in the Grace Kallam Perennial Garden, and wildflowers, herbs, and veggies spring to life at the hands of community volunteers in the educational Garden for All Seasons. Tropical and temperate blossoms embellish the Meyberg waterfall's sun-drenched stone face and blue-gum trees stand guard in front of the Queen Anne cottage, one of several historic sites that was constructed in 1885 to encapsulate Victorian opulence. Peacocks and great egrets strut among living plant collections, which explode into flowery canopies whenever the right garden sprites are available to aid in pollination.
Members often gain exclusive access to the Arboretum's slate of events, which includes workshops, tours, and Yoga in the Garden. Summer camps reawaken brains that usually hibernate until September, and Bookworms Story Time captures attention year-round.
Dr. Adalbert and Eva Fenyes’s 1906 Beaux-Arts mansion served as a haven and gathering place for local musicians, artists, writers, and scientists for decades. In 1970, in an effort to ensure this salon atmosphere would live on, their descendants transferred the family mansion, its gardens, and scores of original furnishings and artwork to the Pasadena Museum of History. Today, the more than 85-year-old museum fills the Fenyes Estate with tours, exhibits, and a range of events as part of its mission to preserve and display Pasadena's history and culture.
Docents lead tours through the rooms of the National and California Historic Landmark mansion, which once served as the Finnish Consulate. (Nearby, the Finnish Folk Art Museum resides in the estate’s former sauna and guesthouse.) The history experts also conduct regular spotlight tours of specific collections that embody local high-society life at the turn of the 20th century.
In the History Center Galleries, the staff curates rotating exhibits on local history. Outside, visitors can wander the verdant landscaped gardens that separate the History Center Galleries from the Finnish Folk Art Museum and prevent staff members from reaching each other with volleys of water balloons.
The Autry is California’s only museum and cultural center dedicated to the history, art, and stories of the American West. Located in Griffith Park, the Autry features special exhibitions, lively programs, and hands-on activities for kids.
On November 6, 1913, Californians strolled from downtown Los Angeles to the newly minted Exposition Park in a ceremonial procession celebrating a new cultural milestone for the city: the opening of the Museum of History, Science, and Art. A century later, the museum, now known as the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, celebrates its 100 years as a scientific resource while also showcasing a suite of technologically advanced exhibits developed over an eight-year transformation. Proud past and dynamic future meet most prominently in the museum’s original Beaux-Arts-style edifice, now called the 1913 Building. With its handsome rotunda and a façade of neoclassical columns, the building has earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places—but its considerable historical legacy may become overshadowed by a more recent addition: the Dinosaur Hall, a 14,000-square-foot interactive exhibit featuring more than 300 fossils and 20 full-body mounts. The mounts include the world’s only Tyrannosaurus rex growth series, with side-by-side reconstructions of the youngest-known baby skeleton, a rare juvenile skeleton, and the young-adult skeleton of Thomas the T.rex, among the world’s top 10 most complete T.rex skeletons. Designed to let patrons get as near as possible to its specimens, the exhibit gives visitors the experience of walking beneath a dinosaur’s neck or staring straight up at a T.rex’s skull. Next to each mount, murals and graphic displays project how scientists believe the creatures would have looked before time stripped away their reptilian scales and dinosaur friendship bracelets. The museum’s centennial year also includes the midsummer opening of Nature Gardens, a 3.5-acre outdoor habitat teeming with hummingbirds, gardening exhibits, and displays chronicling how the city’s flora has evolved over time. Nature Gardens will eventually frame the museum’s new main entrance, Otis Booth Pavilion, whose glass structure will provide a lasting sanctuary for one of the museum’s oldest displays: a 63-foot, 7,000-pound fin whale specimen. The lush flowers of the outdoor grounds also serve as a habitat for the roaming winged creatures of the seasonal Butterfly Pavilion. The Natural History Museum’s centennial transformation will also include the addition of a permanent exhibit called Becoming L.A., opening in July, 2013. The 14,000-square-foot exhibit will showcase a collection of rare artifacts from the area’s Native American, Spanish Colonial, and Early American eras, as well as objects that reflect more contemporary L.A., such as the animation stand Walt Disney used to film Steamboat Willie, the first cartoon to feature Mickey Mouse.