Hammer Museum

Museum in Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Brentwood & Westwood

Once a vanity project of the late oil tycoon Armand Hammer, this eponymous museum has become a widely respected art space. Selections from Hammer’s personal collection include relatively minor works by Monet, Van Gogh and Mary Cassat, but the museum really shines when it comes to cutting-edge contemporary exhibits featuring local, under-represented and controversial artists. Best of all, it's free.

As an intellectual forum, the museum also presents diverse, high-caliber (and free) readings, lunchtime art talks, happenings, discussions, lectures and concerts. Its annual one-day K.A.M.P. fundraiser in May ($125 per person) links LA artists with children for a series of fun, hands-on art workshops, while the museum store is one of the best in LA, stocking everything from art tomes to quirky, locally designed jewelry, fashion and accessories. Parking costs $6.