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The Ultimate LA Family Guide ™
Wells Fargo History Museum
The address for the museum is 333 S Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles. The museum is housed in the Wells Fargo office building. The hours are Mon.-Fri. from 9 am-5 pm. We parked on a street right next to the building at a meter which cost $4 per hour. This is what we would recommend for all of you because the parking at the building is $4 every 10 minutes and the paid lots around the area start at $10/day. You could also park at Grand Central Market which is maybe a 5-10 minute walk.
This museum is one of 12 similar museums on different cities throughout the United States. The overall learning experience centers the impact of the Wells Fargo company, famous for the covered wagons that brought mail, people and goods out west along with the financial institution that we are familiar with today. The whole museum is in one huge room that is separated into many different areas. I was immediately impressed with how the exhibits are rich in detail and in excellent condition. They are also all hands on.
The first area we explored had an authentic telegraph machine with a chart showing how telegrams were sent. We all had the opportunity to try creating our own message using the machine which my kids really enjoyed. There was also an area to see how gold nuggets were weighed on scales and many interactive videos and touchscreens with audio storytellers describing their experiences during the mid-nineteenth century when the west was being developed and what they witnessed while being part of the gold rush. There is a 27 ounce gold nugget and a replica of a stagecoach that we all climbed into. Once inside a video played showing what the route was like for one man who traveled to San Francisco. He described how rough the roads were which in turn made the stagecoach ride very uncomfortable. The food (mostly beans), the weather and the stations where horses were exchanged as he continued on his journey were all described by an actor portraying the man on a recording that played while we were in the stagecoach. One part I really enjoyed was an interactive display which showed where he was on each day of his journey on a map. The kids took turns picking the day and the the map would light up to show the city and state. It showed the kids just how long the journey took to get all the way to California from the Midwest.
The gold mining part was very interesting to my kids as were the authentic treasure chest. One display showed the equipment the miners used to get the sand to sift away and reveal gold. There is also a historic Concord stagecoach in beautiful condition on display. I was impressed! It looks big but it’s hard to believe 9 people sat in it for days and weeks at a time. We read about various parts of the stagecoach, how it was built and what roles the various parts played and then we took a picture in front of it. We also enjoyed the huge panoramic painting of what LA looked like in 1859. My kids couldn’t believe how little there was here then. There is a lot to learn here about westward expansion and I would think the ideal age group would be ages 8-10 but there is enough to experience hands-on that younger kids would like it too. The free admission is also so nice for families because kids have short attention spans!
I highly recommend this museum and it would be easy to pair this with a visit to many other downtown sites like Grand Central Market, the contemporary art museum, Olvera Street, the Bradbury Building, the music center, Chinatown and Central Library. Another thing to note here is that there are places to eat lunch in walking distance and even in the same building.