In its billion-dollar, in-the-clouds perch, high above the city grit and grime, the Getty Center presents triple delights: a stellar art collection (everything from medieval triptychs to baroque sculpture and impressionist brushstrokes), Richard Meier’s cutting-edge architecture, and the visual splendor of seasonally changing gardens. Admission is free, but parking is $20 ($15 after 3pm).
On clear days, you can add breathtaking views of the city and ocean to the list. A great time to visit is in the late afternoon after the crowds have thinned. Sunsets create a remarkable alchemy of light and shadow and are especially magical in winter.
Even getting up to the 110-acre ‘campus’ aboard a driverless tram is fun. From the sprawling arrival plaza a natural flow of walkways, stairs, fountains and courtyards encourages a leisurely wander between galleries, gardens and outdoor cafes. Five pavilions hold collections of manuscripts, drawings, photographs, furniture, decorative arts and a strong assortment of pre-20th-century European paintings. Must-sees include Van Gogh’s Irises, Monet’s Wheatstacks, Rembrandt’s The Abduction of Europa and Titian’s Venus and Adonis. Don’t miss the lovely Cactus Garden on the remote South Promontory for breathtaking city views.
Tours, lectures and interactive technology (including valuable audioguides) help make the art accessible to all. Children can take a Family Tour, visit the interactive Family Room, borrow a kid-oriented audioguide, or browse the special kid bookstore. It even hosts garden concerts for kids.
Concerts, lectures, films and other cultural events for grown-ups keep the space buzzing with locals. Most are free, but some require reservations (or try standby). In summer, the free, Saturday evening concert series Off the 405 serves up some tremendous progressive pop and world-music acts in the Getty courtyard.