Last updated on November 15, 2021
The Getty Center in Los Angeles sits sentinel on the faded, olive green hills to the west of Hollywood; a sprawling and artistic estate with glistening white marble construction framing the surrounding scenery with poetic picture frames built into the building’s architecture.
I so easily forget parts of my own home; as I travel endlessly in search of other cultures and experiences I forget the US has so much to offer (a fact a lot of my fellow Americans point out to me when I tell them I travel extensively overseas … I get a “what’s wrong with the US?”)
And then I land at a place like the Getty Museum in Los Angeles; the Getty museum channels the look and feel of a villa in the Tuscan countryside of Italy.
Although you can see the surrounding city and buildings, you’re sitting far above in a colorful landscape of preserved international sculpture and artwork picked and conserved out by the Getty research institute.
And though I’m often a fan of open and undisturbed nature, the elaborate and manicured gardens transported me into an experience far away from the honking car horns and city-bustle. All of this is a legacy left by a man named J. Paul Getty as a gift to Los Angelinos and the world; the museum is free-of-charge—not the norm in the United States.
My visit to the Los Angeles Getty Center took advantage one of California’s notoriously sunny days and I took advantage of the free sun umbrellas as my friend Jenn, her Aunt Viv and I explored the sprawling grounds on one of the Getty’s free tours.
The position of the museum, perched on tall hilltop in the center of the county, affords panoramas of every major highlight on the Los Angeles skyline: downtown LA in the distance, Beverly Hills up close, and the Hollywood Hills just in the foreground.
Then from the other side the sun glitters on the nearby Pacific Ocean with sightings of Malibu, Venice, and even further south on a clear day (ie. after the rains clear the smog from the air). Really the only iconic LA landmark missing is the Hollywood sign (go hike Runyon Canyon to see that!).
The photography exhibit was captivating with portraits of communities and sub-cultures around the world, as well as a humbling and hard to look at photo-series spanning an entire long wall that documented a day spent in a medical tent on the battlefield as military medics operated on the soldiers fighting our wars.
We spent the entire day at the Getty Center and lunched with views looking out over the flowering landscape. The Getty Center is far from a traditional museum because of the huge variety of different experiences.
To lift ourselves out of the weighty feelings after the photography exhibit we played in the colorful gardens and walked through the sculpture exhibit.
We even got in touch with our inner child on a sloping green hill and rolled down the hill alongside the other playing children (they inspired the hill roll you’re about to witness … we figured, why not be a little silly on such a beautifully sunny day?!)
The Getty Center was more enjoyable than I had anticipated; it’s one of those things I completely put off visiting while I living in Los Angeles but now can’t imagine not associating with the city. The architecture of the Center so seamlessly fits into and frames the surrounding cityscape and hillsides—if you’ve always said you “hate Los Angeles,” I challenge you to visit the Getty for a day, see the city from above, and feel the same way!
Quick Travel Tips: Getty Center Los Angeles
How to Get to the Getty Center
You need a car to get there, it’s off of the 405 just north of Sunset Blvd. You park at the base and take the tram up the hill to the museum. Check out the the Official Getty Museum Site for more information.
How Much is the Getty Museum
The museum is free but you will pay $15 to park each car (so fill your car with friends!).
Wear comfortable shoes and sunscreen. They have a very decent cafeteria for lunch. Bring your camera!