This is where you can cluster a day or two together of museum hopping without the use of a car, a rarity in L.A. Just get yourselves to Wilshire Blvd. and Fairfax Ave. for the start of what Angelenos call "The Miracle Mile."
L.A.C.M.A. (L.A. County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire), which could take up an entire day, is a series of buildings in a sprawling park setting. At the entrance you will encounter 200 restored cast-iron streetlamps, ornate totems to industrialization and the sophisticated urban metropolis. Take a walk to your right up the steps of the enchanting Cantor Sculpture Gardens before exploring the museums and other points of interest.
The LACMA grounds include an amphitheater where free summer concerts sizzle with the city's top salsa bands every Saturday afternoon, and the famous La Brea Tar Pits, a bubbling pool of black ooze that will momentarily jar your sinuses. Fossils of prehistoric mammal skulls, saber-toothed cats, and other creatures dated as far back as 35,000 years have been excavated here.
The Ahmanson Building is the largest museum at LACMA, housing theme galleries of art from around the world and a modern art gallery. A permanent Korean art collection resides in the Hammer Building, featuring some fine low table furniture, ink painted scrolls on hemp or ramie, and ceramics. On the second floor is a children's gallery.
The Art of the Americas Building touts American and Latin American art, with many special exhibitions. The Broad Contemporary Art Museum is precisely that, and finally, the Pavilion for Japanese Art has two exquisite permanent collections - an impressive room full of miniature sculptures, composed of various woods and ivory, plus large sculptures and ceramics upstairs. The Pavilion has semi opaque panels whose gold leaf reflects sunlight, allowing it to stream through and illuminate the delicately crafted paintings on the walls in a multi-dimensional context.
On the same grounds but independent of L.A.C.M.A. is the Page Museum, just to the left of one of the several Tar Pits. The Page is home to one of the richest and most important Ice Age fossil collection. Scenes depict what Southern California and North America looked like thousands of years ago. More than 30 complete skeletons of fossil mammals and birds are displayed. There is a lab inside the museum where visitors can peer through large windows and observe scientists and volunteers examining, cleaning, restoring, and documenting fossils recently excavated from the Tar Pits. Outside but within the museum property is a pond with koi, karp fish and turtles, with a small waterfall. Great museum for kids!
Stroll one block west of LACMA, cross the street to 6018 Wilshire and you'll see the Edward Cella Gallery of Art & Architecture, which exhibits world-famous artists and architects. The Architecture & Design Museum (6032 Wilshire) advocates and displays progressive trends in building design, via ongoing exhibits and educational programs. Going west, cross Fairfax Avenue and stop in at 6150 Wilshire for the ACME, M. Foxx, and Mark Selwyn Galleries. Still feeling energetic and toting kids (or someone acting like one)? The Zimmer Children's Museum is a wildly entertaining and educational, interactive experience for kids, at 6505 Wilshire.
Back at the LACMA block of 5900 Wilshire, in front of the Variety building are ten sections of the Berlin Wall, the largest segment outside of Berlin. Painted by French-born Berlin artist Thierry Noir, the segments are part of The Wall Project of the Wende Museum in Culver City, preserving cultural artifacts and archives related to the Cold War in Eastern Europe.
Directly across the street from L.A.C.M.A. (south side of Wilshire) is the Peterson Automotive Museum. Besides exhibiting over 100 classic cars and tracing the history of the automobile, the museum pays homage to the lifestyle and American culture surrounding it. Inside is like a walk down memory lane in small town USA, as a mock Main Street is constructed with vintage vehicles parked on each side, the general store down the street, an auto parts store, etc. The second floor is devoted to exploring the use of alternative fuels, while the third level boasts an interactive learning center, teaching basic scientific principles of a car.
About two blocks east of Peterson is CAFAM, or the Craft and Folk Art Museum (5814 Wilshire), which promotes cultural understanding through the universality of art. Here one will find handmade objets d'art from around the world, as well as top local artists displaying their wares. The relaxing outside patio features a six foot tall ceramic planter amongst trees and shrubbery. The museum also sponsors special art programs city wide in cafes, community centers, markets, and book shops.
Still want to walk some more? East of CAFAM another two blocks, at 5750 Wilshire Blvd. is the Goethe Institute, L.A.'s German cultural center. It has a variety of programs and the largest media library of German content in the U.S.
Need another dose of Asian culture? Proceed to 5505 Wilshire, back on the north side of the street to the Korean Cultural Center, a wonderful showcase of Korean art, history, and programs to explore.