Celebrate International Museum Day at These 10 Offbeat Destinations

Los Angeles has more museums than any city in America
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Hug a piece of art today. May 18th has been International Museum Day for almost 40 years and more than 35,000 institutions around the world are celebrating today. Los Angeles has more museums than any city in America. There are 681 places (compared to New York’s 414) to engage with art, science, history… and StarKist tuna. Yes, we have a Roman villa at the beach but we also have great places you can go to learn about blacksmithing or lace fans for ladies. We are lousy with car museums – in fact there are displays of every type of transport from stagecoach to moon rocket. Expand your museum horizons and visit some of these lesser-known halls of fame.

 

Automobile Driving Museum

Not only does this museum do away with the velvet rope, they invite you inside the car and drive away. Docents act as chauffeurs and cruise collection of midcentury vehicles through the industrial neighborhood. This weekend they are bringing out the most extreme car ever to roll off an American assembly line: a 1959 Cadillac convertible.

Automobile Driving Museum
Automobile Driving Museum

Photograph by Michael Harriel

Los Angeles Maritime Museum

Before the age of robots, a vast army of human workers toiled along the San Pedro waterfront. Longshoremen, stevedores, and ladies who canned tuna fish would catch a ferry boat at the station on 6th Street. The streamline ferry building now houses a tribute to the vastly changed harbor. Check out the recreation of the long-gone Canetti’s seafood restaurant and the salute to the birthplace of StarKist tuna.

Los Angeles Maritime Museum
Los Angeles Maritime Museum

Photograph by Hearken Creative Services

Museum of Neon Art

After a few years on the road, the museum has settled into a new complex across from the Americana at Brand in Glendale. The collection balances contemporary fine art made from glass and gas with an eclectic collection of exuberant signage collected from the streets of Los Angeles. Neon from The Brown Derby, Chris & Pitts BBQ, and Majestic Pontiac on Crenshaw still shines within these walls.

Museum of Neon Art
Museum of Neon Art

Photograph courtesy Museum of Neon Art

Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Museum

Downtown’s big clothing college maintains an extensive research library (including oddball fabrics made from ingredients ranging from milk protein to cassette tapes) and garment collection. Movie and TV clothes are often on display, as well as confections from the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

FIDM Museum and Galleries presents the opening of 'A Graceful Gift' Exhibition
FIDM Museum and Galleries presents the opening of ‘A Graceful Gift’ Exhibition

Photograph by Alex J Berliner/ABImages

Velaslavasay Panorama

The century-old Union theater has been transformed into a showcase for an enormous 360-degree painting of an icy landscape, The Effulgence of the North, as well as a museum, performance hall, and bookshop with a lavish garden in the back. The current exhibit on Inuit performer Nancy Columbia includes a recreation of a 19th century hunting cabin, the Nova Tuskhut.

Velaslavasay Panorama
Velaslavasay Panorama

Photograph courtesy Velaslavasay Panorama

Columbia Memorial Space Center

In addition to being the home of the worlds oldest McDonald’s and the 70s soft rock of the Carpenters, Downey was where the original moon rockets were made. When that 160-acre factory was demolished, a futuristic science museum/astronaut memorial appeared. There are all the nice STEM goodies to inspire the young people, but there are also mission control and rocket rooms you can rent for parties. Houston, we have no problem with that.

Columbia Memorial Science Center
Columbia Memorial Science Center

Photograph courtesy Columbia Memorial Space Center

Rancho Los Alamitos

Hidden behind the world’s blandest condo complex is a 7 ½ acre wonderland. Ancient trees tower over a barn and functioning blacksmith shop on the grounds of a historic family home dating back to the days when California was part of Mexico. Dress up and cosplay it! After you tour the lush gardens, step inside the house, which is still filled with the family’s personal belongings from 100 years ago.

Rancho Los Alamitos
Rancho Los Alamitos

Photograph by David Wakely

Wells Fargo Museum

A free museum dedicated to the history of money. More than 150 years of banking history, from a working telegraph and stagecoach to a giant 27-ounce gold nugget are on display.

Wells Fargo History Museum
Wells Fargo History Museum

Photograph by Juan Colto

Hollywood Heritage Museum

The first feature length film made in Hollywood was shot in a barn at Selma and Vine. Today, the landmark is home to a museum dedicated to silent movies with a recreation of director Cecil B. DeMille’s office.

Hollywood Heritage Museum
Hollywood Heritage Museum

Photograph by Chris Nichols

The Justice Private Automotive Collection

The Justice Brothers were expert builders of race cars. They began to crank out a line of high performance engine goop shortly after World War II, but they kept making faster and faster award-winning racers. Their original creations are on display alongside a collection of vintage cars in two rooms at company headquarters.

The Justice Private Automotive Collection
The Justice Private Automotive Collection

Photograph courtesy The Justice Private Automotive Collection

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