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The Ultimate LA Family Guide ™

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Getty Center Review

To get to the Getty Center, take the 405 freeway and exit at Getty Center Drive. The entrance to the museum's parking structure is off of Sepulveda Blvd. The address is 1200 Getty Center Drive. Entrance to the museum is free but the parking is $15 per car. After paying and then parking, you must take the elevator to the tram entrance. That's right, you have to take a monorail up the hill to the museum. The views are amazing. We didn't have to wait a long time but we also got there soon after it opened. The hours are: Tues.–Thurs. and Sun.: 10 am–5:30 pm; Fri.: 10 am-5:30 pm; Fri. from May 24-Aug. 30: 10 am-9 pm;

Sat.: 10 am–9 pm.

The museum is closed Monday and on January 1, July 4, Thanksgiving, and December 25.

What you'll expect to see when you get there includes an incredible view of downtown LA all the way to the ocean on a clear day. Also, European paintings and drawings, European and American photographs, Modern architecture and breathtaking and meticulously maintained gardens. In addition, there are special events and family programs so it's best to check their website before making the trek there.

We got there in the morning and it was a warm, beautiful February day. Since most children like to be outdoors, I would suggest starting your visit by going through the 134,00 square foot Central Garden. Designed by Robert Irwin, the grounds include a long pathway that follows a stream of water and ends at the bottom of a waterfall with a huge pool of water and a plaza with bougainvillea arbors. Madison and Logan loved walking over all of the bridges, pointing out all of the multi-colored flowers, plants and shrubs, and making wishes with pennies thrown in the water. There are archways, benches and lots of other interesting details in the garden and they loved exploring every aspect of it. It was designed so that no two times visiting the garden would be the same as it is constantly evolving, growing and being added on to. There are 500 species of plants and you could literally spend your whole visit enjoying the garden and the huge rolling hills of grass. Another great feature here is that families can either bring their own picnic lunch from home or buy a box lunch from the museum cafe and eat on the lawn areas or at the picnic tables next to the tram station.

In addition to this garden the museum features other landscaping for public enjoyment, including a cactus garden, and fountains in the Museum Courtyard and the Central Plaza. It may be very or even overly tempting for little kids to resist sticking their hands in the fountains which dot the landscape of the museum and some fountains even have barriers up.

One thing to note here: we did not have a stroller with us but all of the walking, finding elevators, going up stairs, and finding restrooms definitely wore my kids out. The museum is definitely stroller accessible as are the walkways in the Central Garden and the large indoor cafe, but please be aware that the museum grounds are on many levels and you will have to spend some time navigating to find all of the elevators.

After spending time in the garden we headed over to the Family Room which is a small space broken up into several coves and treasure hunt walls. On the weekends it is very crowded and this is due to a few reasons. The Getty Center itself is very crowded on the weekends and there are so many family events on the weekends. But the most significant reason is that the Family Room is small and can only hold 27 people, including adults, at one time. Since we went during the week we did not have to wait to get in. The Getty has taken several well-known art pieces from their collections and made them very accessible to children.

In the first cove we explored we saw, Pearblossom Highway, a famous photograph taken by David Hockey. We entered the room, surrounded by Pearblossom highway and then could see that there are several huge magnets making the image 3-D for us and the kids are then encouraged to move the magnets around the room. From one side of one of the walls of the cove, visitors can look through various lenses and see Hockey's image displayed differently.

In another cove, the huge sculpture by Martin Puryear that welcomes visitors to the Getty is deconstructed as a series of foam tubes that the children are encouraged to move about and place in the various holes. Madison and Logan loved both of these coves and we let them spend as long as they wanted rearranging the magnets and the tubes.

There is also a cove where the children make their own masks which piggybacks on the translucent, almost life-sized reproduction of James Ensor's Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889 which has holes cut at various heights for families to insert their faces into the crowd in Ensor's work.

By far Madison and Logan's favorite cove was the drawing and manuscripts cove. which features an enlarged reproduction of Jan van Kessel's Butterflies, Insects, and Currants. The children focus on tracing smaller reproductions of the artist's drawings of specimens that are embedded in a light table. The other wall of the cove features a large-scale image of an illuminated manuscript page from a prayer book from the 15th century, with some areas of text and image left blank. The kids are then encouraged to fill in the missing portions of the manuscript with their own words and designs using erasable markers. Tracing and drawing are just what they like to do so this was a hit for them.

The best place to get a souvenier from the Getty is not at their main gift store but rather at the gift store in the South Pavilion. They each picked out a set of paints and we have had fun making artwork at home ever since. They also had a lot of puppets to choose from and cute knick-knacks.

Upcoming events for families at the Getty include Family Art Stops, a half-hour experience for families with children ages 5 and up where the focus is a single work of art, Family Drawing Hours where guests learn sketching by studying works of art and Family Storytelling with stories inspired by artwork.