The best free museums at Downtown Los Ángeles

January 1, 1970

by Pablo Rojas

So, I was on vacation at Los Angeles with my mom and as culture lovers, one of our musts at all places we go is to visit as many museums in town as we can. On one of our last days, we realized that we had forgotten all about cultural visits and we were already on a low budget, so I had this amazing idea to google all the free museums and art galleries at Downtown L.A. (where we were staying) so that we wouldn’t spend too much in taxis, ubers, buses or else transportation and on fees.

Exposition Park

Our first stop was the Exposition Park at University Park in Downtown L.A. In here, we visited the California African American Museum and The California Science Center. Both were amazing in their own ways. At the CAAM you get to know life and work from different independent African American artists, which is pretty cool because of the variety of exhibitions that let you know the richness of their talent and creativity. By the time we went, we could enjoy audiovisual immersive exhibitions, abstract landscapes, sculptures, paintings and site-specific installations from different artists. It was surprising to see how through their art, they teach about their culture and their history. The exhibitions in this particular museum are conversation starters which socially is really needed, it was one of my favorites.

The California Science center is a very interactive place where you get to know about the different ecosystems, planets, body parts and processes. The coolest thing about this museum is the fact that you need to use all of your senses while you learn cool stuff. My favorite exhibit of the museum was the one called World of Life, specifically: Energy Factory, which explains scientifically how our daily routines affect our bodies, it was unbelievable.

Quote Rosetta Tharpe CAAM

Olvera Street

I’d like to call this place The International History of California Museum Street because inside it and by its surroundings, we learned all about the international roots of Californian people. The first one we visited was the LA Casa de Cultura y Artes, and I must say it was shocking. We obviously knew that a huge part of California’s roots were Mexican, but we hadn’t realize the amount of influence. This museum teaches you about the first Mexican people living in LA after it became part of the United States, and how these people influenced its culture.

Then we went to the Chinese American Museum which was also interesting. They let you know about the first Chinese immigrants in California, and some important moments that they have had in American history. After that, we jumped to the Italian American Museum, that was basically the same just that it addressed Italian immigrants.

Inside Olvera street, the museums we visited were Avila Adobe Museum, Sepulveda House Museum, Museum of social justice, and Plaza Firehouse, which basically explained the origins of Olvera streets and its evolution. Including the first residents and families, their lifestyle and houses. Also, there are some galleries inside them where you can see the talent of independent artists, most of them from Latino roots. At Plaza Firehouse we learned a lot about the first firefighter in LA, with original equipment and facilities.


The Broad & The Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA)

After getting our heads full of history, we wanted something fresher. So we swam into the world of contemporary art, and the best spots to find some good contemporary exhibits in Cali, are The Broad and The Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA). Let me tell you that one of these determined our museum spree day, and it was The MoCA. Why? Simply because the only day you get to go free is Thursdays from 5 to 8 pm. So there we were, my mom and I, waiting for it to be the 5pm outside of The MoCA Geffen, so that we could go in to enjoy the exhibit without paying anything. The Geffen is smaller than the MoCA Grand and it only presents one exhibit at a time. After we finished watching a really cool immersive exhibit by Adrian Villar Rojas, we walked down to The MoCA Grand, that is literally in front of The Broad, we delighted ourselves with each exhibit from Warhol to Pollock and then crossed the road, where we found the best of Lichtenstein and hundreds of other masterpieces by other contemporary artists.

I must say that these were absolutely my favorite ones. I was dying to meet them and I can say that I was not disappointed by what I found. Everything about them was aesthetic, I even found some pretty spots to take some selfies.

Lichtenstein The Broad

Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) Museum

After it all, we were physically and mentally exhausted. We had already visited 12 museums in a row and hadn’t spent one single penny on them. We didn’t believe there could possibly be more and that’s where we were wrong. After going for a coffee near our hotel we saw the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) and that it had a museum, that surprisingly was, totally free! Our heads could handle one more museum so there we went. I finished completely fascinated. It was gorgeous! The exhibits they had by the time I went were the Annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design and the Acquiring Beauty exhibit.

The first one showed the best costumes in motion pictures of the year. They were beautiful from scary, to romance, to drama and action. I found superheroes, and villains, Disney princesses, and even killer clowns. It was incredible. I got to see the Academy Award-winning costumes and the most sophisticated clothing pieces worn by amazing actors and actresses. The second exhibit showed some pieces that the museum has collected through the years to make their own permanent collection, most of them are accessories and clothing that belonged to historical famous characters.

We went back to the hotel with a happy face and full of knowledge. Most of this museum route can be made walking, I can’t promise you that you won’t end really tired, but I can promise that your general culture will grow and the money in your pocket won’t lessen.

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