9 Little Known Museums In Southern California Where Admission Is Free
In Southern California, there are a lot of choices when it comes to exploring art, culture, and education. There are museums, education centers, and programs centered on history, art, science, nature, architecture, literature, and the list goes on. Some are well-known while others are hidden gems that do not get much attention. Many such institutions charge admission fees, but we have put together a list of little-known museums with free admission in Southern California that focus on a variety of subjects and interests, and best of all, will not cost you a thing to visit.
1. Los Angeles Fire Department Museum and Memorial - Harbor
Los Angeles Fire Department Museum, also known as Harbor Museum “Old 36s,” is located in San Pedro City Hall and is one of the oldest existing buildings in San Pedro. The museum commemorates the history, fire equipment and artifacts, and famous fires in this part of Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Fire Department Museum has a second location in Old Fire Station 27 in Hollywood. Both locations are open Saturdays, with no reservations required.
639 S Beacon St, San Pedro, CA 90731, USA
2. Hilbert Museum of California Art
The Hilbert Museum was opened by Chapman University and, as suggested by the museum’s name, it is wholly dedicated to displaying California art. The permanent collection features works categorized as “California Scene” paintings representing the everyday lives and works of Californians in the 20th Century. There are also rotating exhibits in the museum.
Admission is free Tuesday through Saturday, but reservations are required.
167 N Atchison St, Orange, CA 92866, USA
3. Fullerton Train Museum
This unique museum lets you go back in time as you step into historic railroad cars, decorated as they were decades ago. At the
Fullerton Train Museum, you can tour preserved 1920s freight train cabooses, 1940s Union Pacific cars, and fully restored sleeping cars. Among other things, you will enjoy checking out the train steward’s quarters, commuter lounges, and snack cafe car with the original menu and prices.
The museum is open on the first and third Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
200 E Santa Fe Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832, USA
4. Surfing Heritage and Culture Center
Surfing Heritage and Culture Center (SHACC), you will be immersed in a collection of surfing memorabilia, artifacts, photos, videos, and written works that celebrate the past, present, and future of surfing. The museum’s mission is “to preserve, promote and present surfing’s heritage and cultural impact.”
SHACC is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
110 Calle Iglesia, San Clemente, CA 92672, USA
5. California African American Museum
California African American Museum is focused on the heritage and history of African American culture in the western part of the United States, with the goal of enriching and educating the public through exhibits, workshops, and community programs. The museum was founded in 1977 and is located in Exposition Park.
Visit the museum Tuesday through Sunday. Admission to the museum is free, though there is a fee to park in Exposition Park.
600 State Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90037, USA
6. Forest Lawn Museum
A cemetery may not be an obvious place for a museum visit, but the small
Forest Lawn Museum has been featuring historic and religious works of art since 1952. The founder of Forest Lawn wanted the park to be a center for art and learning, which has led to a permanent collection as well as rotating exhibits and free activities on site.
This museum is open Tuesday through Sunday and parking is available on the premises.
1712 S Glendale Ave, Glendale, CA 91205, USA
7. Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum
Dominguez Rancho Adobe is a registered historic landmark and was built in 1826. Preservation of this adobe ranch home provides visitors with a detailed glimpse into early California history and the life of the Dominguez family.
Admission is free, though donations are encouraged and used to fund school tours as well as ongoing preservation of the site. Tours are available Wednesday through Sunday and reservations are required to visit the museum.
18127 Alameda St, Compton, CA 90220, USA
8. Holocaust Museum LA
Established in 1961, the
Holocaust Museum LA is the oldest museum of its type in the U.S. and the first to be founded by Holocaust survivors. The museum endeavors to expose the impact and enormity of what took place during the Holocaust and features tours, conversations with survivors, artifacts, audio tours, photos, and videos to encourage visitors to think about the lessons that can be learned.
The museum is open every day and is always free for students. General admission is free on Thursdays and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
100 The Grove Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90036, USA
9. Griffith Observatory
While this museum is actually well-known, what is little known, and even hard to believe, is that you can enjoy it for free. Not only is the
Griffith Observatory one of the absolute best places for panoramic views of Los Angeles day or night, but it is an incredible interactive museum that lets you explore the workings of the universe, including looking through the two powerful telescopes during certain times.
The museum is open seven days a week and is always free, with the exception of planetarium shows and parking at the observatory. Free parking is available on the roads leading up to the observatory, which can also be easily reached via public transportation.
2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027, USA
Have you had a chance to visit any of these SoCal museums with free admission? Tell us about your favorite in the comments. Check out more
free activities in Southern California. Address: 600 State Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90037, USA Address: 18127 Alameda St, Compton, CA 90220, USA Address: 1712 S Glendale Ave, Glendale, CA 91205, USA Address: 2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027, USA Address: 167 N Atchison St, Orange, CA 92866, USA Address: 100 The Grove Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90036, USA Address: 639 S Beacon St, San Pedro, CA 90731, USA Address: 110 Calle Iglesia, San Clemente, CA 92672, USA Address: 200 E Santa Fe Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832, USA
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