The Getty Center: Artful Fun for the Whole Family

My wife and I first visited the Getty Center shortly after its grand opening in 1997, when we were dating.  Back then, you needed a timed ticket just to get in.  The Getty Center is still in demand, but happily you don’t need to get tickets in advance anymore.  Still, if you are going on the weekend you will want to anticipate large crowds and busy parking areas when you visit what has become a Los Angeles icon.

We took our four-year-old twins to the popular destination for the first time since they were babies in a stroller, this past Sunday.  Until now, I had not realized what a wonderful spot the museum complex is for families.  Check out the center’s website and you will see that they have some exciting ways for children to engage with the art.  More on that in a bit, but first, let’s get you there.

Parking for The Getty is located on Sepulveda Blvd, just off the 405 freeway.  The center is on the west side of the freeway.  So, the instinct is to want to enter the main parking lot by crossing under the freeway.  You can save yourself having to sit in a long line of cars if you ignore that instinct and instead park in the lot opposite the main entrance, on the east side of Sepulveda.  There was plenty of parking, no line to get into the lot, and you can still use the automated pay station in the main parking lot to pay the $15 parking fee (the price is the same for either lot).

You can either take a short tram ride up the hill or a 15 to 20 minute walk along a foot path.  Our kids were so excited about riding the tram that they didn’t seem to mind the 20 minute wait in line.  Once aboard, I recommend trying to grab seats on the west side of the tram so you and your kids can take in the majestic view of the Sepulveda pass as the tram winds its way along the hillside.

I suggest reading the Getty’s “Tips for Families” section of their website prior to your visit.  It’s packed with ideas about how the whole family can get the most enjoyment out of your time there and how your kids can get the most out of the art.  One thing they recommend and that worked well for us is to mix up activities and be flexible.  We switched back and forth between indoor art exhibits and outdoor activities like taking an invigorating walk through the gardens.

One not-to-be-missed attraction with kids is The Family Room.  Located by the East Pavilion in the museum courtyard, The Family Room brings the art to life for children in a tactile, exciting, and accessible way that is sure to engage active minds.  You might even consider making this your first stop, because it brings the art to life in a way that might help younger children gain a greater interest in the rest of the day’s agenda.

When you are at The Family Room I highly encourage you to pick up an Art Detective Card or two.  Our kids absolutely thrilled at solving the mysteries on the card.  It got them studying the details of each of the works while looking for the clues, and got them talking about the art and asking questions.  If you are sensitive to this kind of thing you might like to know that one of the clues references a nude painting.  So, there’s that.

When it was all said and done, my wife and I left feeling like we had just scratched the surface of all there is to do and see, and our kids left wanting more.  That seemed like the right way to leave things though, because I’m sure it’s someplace we will be returning to again and again.

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