The Central Garden at the Getty Center in Brentwood.

While Southern California is known for its sunny beaches and perfect weather, it’s also home to many cultural attractions and museums. From renowned art museums to live fossil excavation sites, Southern California’s museums are among the most popular in the country. Here are five of the best museums that Southern California has to offer.

The Getty – Los Angeles

The Getty consists of two Los Angeles campuses: the Getty Center in Brentwood and Getty Villa in Malibu. The Getty Center is the main museum and is known for its expansive collection of Western art. This impressive collection covers medieval times to the present day and includes art from across Europe and the US. Visitors can expect to see everything from 17th-century Baroque art to contemporary outdoor sculptures. The Getty Center also features special exhibitions in collaboration with other museums around the world.

The Getty Villa takes visitors a step further back in time. Their collection of art spans from the end of the Stone Age to the end of the Roman Empire. Designed in the style of a first-century Roman villa, this museum allows guests to view thousands of antiquities in a unique, immersive setting.

USS Midway Museum - San Diego

The USS Midway Museum is one of San Diego’s most popular museums and it provides a unique experience for visitors. This ship served from 1945 to 1992, making it the longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century in the United States. Now a floating maritime museum, it shows what life was like for sailors onboard the ship.

While on the ship’s four-acre flight deck, visitors are treated to stunning views of downtown San Diego and the Coronado Bridge. The museum has a self-guided tour that takes visitors to over 60 locations on the ship, including the engine room and control tower. USS Midway Museum also has three different flight simulators, guided tours of the ship’s bridge, and much more.

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County – Los Angeles

For natural history enthusiasts, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is a must-visit. It’s currently the largest museum of its kind in the western United States, and its collections cover 4.5 billion years of history. Visitors can explore dinosaur fossils, meteorites, ancient Latin American art, and more. The museum is known for its incredible dinosaur exhibit called Dinosaur Hall, which has 20 complete mounts of dinosaurs and ancient sea creatures displayed.

George C. Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pits.

La Brea Tar Pits and Museum – Los Angeles

La Brea Tar Pits is one of the most famous ice age fossil excavation sites, and visitors can get an up-close glimpse of the ongoing excavations. Thousands of years ago, natural asphalt (tar) in the area began to seep up from the ground, which eventually preserved the bones of animals.

Excavation here started in 1913 and the George C. Page Museum of La Brea Discoveries opened to the public in 1977. The museum is now home to a collection of more than 3.5 million fossils. Visitors can also observe live excavations in the tar pits as researchers work to discover more fossils of prehistoric animals.

Huntington Library – San Marino

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, known locally as the Huntington, is home to 120 acres of gardens and an extensive collection of art. The Huntington’s library collections include millions of items, such as rare books and manuscripts, which span from the 11th century to the present day. While not all of the collections are on display to the public, the regular exhibitions allow visitors to see medieval works and rare manuscripts.  

The Huntington also has extensive art galleries featuring American pieces from the late 17th century to the 20th century, and European art from the 15th century to the early 20th century. After viewing the Huntington’s vast art collections, visitors can explore the 16 themed botanical gardens outdoors.