Art, sci­ence and cul­ture flour­ish on the Left Coast

Travel Guide to California - - CONTENTS - BY JEFF GREENWALD & LAURIE WEED

Cel­e­brat­ing the Hu­man Spirit


The Nor­ton Si­mon Mu­seum be­gan as the Pasadena Art In­sti­tute in 1922 and was re­named in 1975 for art col­lec­tor and mu­seum di­rec­tor Nor­ton Si­mon. The mu­seum com­prises a col­lec­tion of about 12,000 ob­jects that in­clude paint­ings by Raphael, Rem­brandt, van Gogh and De­gas, and a sig­nif­i­cant col­lec­tion of In­dian and South­east Asian sculp­ture that spans more than 2500 years. Above, an art stu­dent traces the lines of a sculp­ture in one of the mu­seum’s gal­leries. The Golden State is rich in mu­se­ums, sci­ence cen­ters and thriv­ing arts scenes, all in as­ton­ish­ing va­ri­ety. From the San Fran­cisco Bay Area to San Diego, you are never far from a world-class art col­lec­tion. In ad­di­tion, there are mu­se­ums high­light­ing nat­u­ral and cul­tural his­tory, sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy, and many that cel­e­brate the di­verse cul­tures of the state’s more than 39 mil­lion res­i­dents. Whether you pre­fer to ogle mod­ern art or an­tiq­ui­ties, space shut­tles or steam en­gines, you’re sure to find at least one mu­seum to dazzle you.

The Arts

Vis­it­ing LA? It’s easy to spend hours glee­fully lost in the gal­leries at the Los An­ge­les County Mu­seum of Art (LACMA). The Mu­seum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and Gef­fen Contemporary show­case the best in 20th- and 21st-cen­tury paint­ing, sculp­ture and con­cep­tual art­work.

The renowned Getty Mu­seum in­cludes both the Getty Cen­ter, a mod­ern ar­chi­tec­tural won­der perched atop a hill in the Brent­wood district, and the Getty Villa in Mal­ibu, which fo­cuses on clas­si­cal Greek and Ro­man art and is styled after an an­cient Ro­man villa. Pasadena’s Nor­ton Si­mon dis­plays a spec­trum of Euro­pean and Mod­ern artists amid a serene sculp­ture gar­den. In nearby San Marino, The Hunt­ing­ton fea­tures an im­pres­sive li­brary, art col­lec­tions and 120 acres of botan­i­cal gar­dens.

The Santa Barbara Mu­seum of Art de­serves recog­ni­tion for its am­bi­tious and imag­i­na­tive ex­hi­bi­tions. San Diego’s Mu­seum of Contemporary Art fea­tures a va­ri­ety of ex­hibits in two lo­ca­tions, the his­toric Ja­cob build­ing down­town and their

sparkling ocean­front La Jolla prop­erty. In Bal­boa Park, the Mu­seum of Pho­to­graphic Arts is Cal­i­for­nia’s only mu­seum ded­i­cated ex­clu­sively to pho­tog­ra­phy, film and video.

San Fran­cisco’s Le­gion of Honor, set in Lin­coln Park, holds an ex­tra­or­di­nary per­ma­nent col­lec­tion as well as chang­ing ex­hi­bi­tions from around the world. In nearby Golden Gate Park, the de Young show­cases the arts of Africa, Ocea­nia and the New World.

The San Fran­cisco Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art (SFMOMA), which re­opened its doors in 2016 after a mas­sive ex­pan­sion project, now spans 10 daz­zling floors of gal­leries and 45,000 square feet of free pub­lic art space.

The Oak­land Mu­seum of Cal­i­for­nia (OMCA) is ded­i­cated to na­tive arts, his­tory and ecol­ogy. Fam­ily-friendly OMCA also spon­sors many events, hands-on ex­hibits and ac­tiv­i­ties to en­gage young artists and bud­ding nat­u­ral­ists. While you’re in the East Bay, check out the Berke­ley Art Mu­seum and Pa­cific Film Ar­chive (BAMPFA), which re­opened last year in a roomy, light-filled new build­ing on Cen­ter Street.


The mar­velous Cal­i­for­nia Sci­ence Cen­ter in Los An­ge­les’ Ex­po­si­tion Park presents on­go­ing ex­hibits on in­ven­tion, space travel and life sciences. The most amaz­ing thing of all? It’s free!

San Fran­cisco’s Cal­i­for­nia Academy of Sciences, in Golden Gate Park, fea­tures the im­pres­sive Stein­hart Aquar­ium, a walk­through rain­for­est with free-rang­ing birds and but­ter­flies, the world’s largest all-dig­i­tal plan­e­tar­ium and a “Liv­ing Roof” with 1.7 mil­lion na­tive Cal­i­for­nia plants. The long ad­mis­sion lines can be daunt­ing, but they move fast and it’s worth the ef­fort.

At Piers 15 and 17 on the Em­bar­cadero, the leg­endary Ex­plorato­rium houses more than 650 in­ter­ac­tive ex­hibits—in­clud­ing an amaz­ing “Tinker­ers’ Clock” and the crawlthrough Tac­tile Dome (reser­va­tions re­quired).

De­signed for chil­dren un­der eight, the Bay Area Discovery Mu­seum in Sausal­ito is a pint-sized Won­der­land ded­i­cated to pro­mot­ing cre­ative think­ing.

The Mon­terey Bay Aquar­ium de­serves to be in­cluded among the Won­ders of the World for its as­ton­ish­ing dis­plays of sea ot­ters and jel­lies, its mes­mer­iz­ing three­story kelp for­est and a stag­ger­ing mil­lion-gal­lon “Outer Bay” tank.


Cal­i­for­nia is a rare and en­dur­ing al­loy of more than 50 eth­nic groups. Its mu­se­ums re­flect the racial diver­sity and cul­tural his­tory of this melt­ing pot in mi­cro­cosm. What fol­lows is but a sam­ple; there are many, many more to choose from.

Sacra­mento’s Cal­i­for­nia Mu­seum fea­tures a Hall of Fame, cel­e­brat­ing lo­cal le­gends from John Muir to Sally Ride. In San Fran­cisco, the Contemporary Jewish Mu­seum and nearby Mu­seum of the African Di­as­pora (MOAD) pro­vide fas­ci­nat­ing in­sights into two of Cal­i­for­nia’s most cre­ative eth­nic tra­di­tions. Vis­it­ing the Asian Art Mu­seum in Civic Cen­ter is the next best thing to a trip along the an­cient Silk Road. The city’s small but beloved Mex­i­can Mu­seum has plans to move from Fort Ma­son to Yerba Buena Gar­dens—and en­joy a long-over­due ex­pan­sion.

In Long Beach, the Mu­seum of Latin Amer­i­can Art (MOLAA) fea­tures mod­ern and contemporary work by artists from the New World.

LOS AN­GE­LES ART DISTRICT, right; the ex­pan­sion of the San Fran­cisco Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art, which re­opened in 2016, bot­tom.

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