Top Los Angeles Museums for a Rainy Day

Get out of the rain and into the art

Yayoi Kusama, "Longing for Eternity" at The Broad
Yayoi Kusama, "Longing for Eternity," 2017 [detail]. Photo by Maris Hutchinson/EPW Studio. Image © Yayoi Kusama. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York; Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai; Victoria Miro, London/Venice; Yayoi Kusama Inc.

There is no shortage of world-class museums in Los Angeles, but given that the average temperature is 72 degrees and sunny, many cultural institutions are designed with the outdoors in mind. On those rare days when it rains in L.A., here are ten arts destinations you can visit without feeling guilty about skipping any adjacent gardens and outdoor sculptures, so you can see art and still stay dry.

"Infinity Mirrored Room - The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away" by Yayoi Kusama at The Broad
Yayoi Kusama - "Infinity Mirrored Room - The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away" at The Broad | Photo: @sterlingsanders, Instagram

The Broad

Founded by avid art collectors and philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, the eponymous museum houses 2,000 works from the couple's collection of international and American contemporary art. The 120,000-square-foot, $140-million building was designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler, and its edgy facade has become yet another iconic L.A. landmark, not unlike its neighbor, the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall. The permanent collection offers primer on the best and biggest names in contemporary art.

Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

Across the street from The Broad, the Grand Avenue outpost of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) houses a permanent collection of postwar art that's just as compelling as The Broad's. Founded in 1979, MOCA has three locations: the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, MOCA Pacific Design Center, and MOCA Grand Avenue, which shows pieces from the museum's permanent collection of thousands of pieces of contemporary art. At any given time of the year, the museum presents retrospectives of influential artists, as well as traveling exhibitions and temporary installations. MOCA is also well-known for its cultural and community programs, and the Grand Avenue location is always a safe bet for arts lovers, rain or shine.

GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE

To coincide with the 50th anniversary of the GRAMMY Awards in 2008, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) celebrated another institutional milestone: the opening of the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE. The modern, hyper-organized space is a must-see for any musician, music lover, and all those curious enough to go behind the scenes of one of America’s most revered music awards programs. The 30,000 square-foot museum showcases a dizzying array of rare music-related artifacts, located on four floors' worth of both permanent and traveling exhibits. The museum is also super interactive, with high-tech installations that invite visitors not just to view the exhibitions, but to actually experience them firsthand. When an outdoor concert isn't feasible, a visit to the GRAMMY Museum is a viable (and drier) option.


Japanese American National Museum

From photographs of Japanese American World War II soldiers to a wildly popular Hello Kitty retrospective, the exhibitions at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) reflect the huge span of influence Japanese Americans have had on art and culture in the United States. The museum's mission is to both preserve and present the Japanese experience in America, yet instead of sticking to one genre or time period, it addresses a range of topics, eras, and events through art. JANM is the largest museum in the country devoted to Japanese Americans, and the thought and effort that go in to its unique exhibitions are as interesting and important as the museum itself.

California African American Museum

California African American Museum

Located at the eastern end of Exposition Park, the California African American Museum (CAAM) exists to research, collect, preserve and interpret the history, art and culture of African Americans. Opened during the 1984 Summer Olympics, the museum conserves more than 3,500 objects of art, historical artifacts and memorabilia.

CAAM also maintains a Research Library with a non-circulating collection of more than 6,000 books, periodicals, records and ephemera. The collection is available for use by the public, including students, researchers, teachers, curators, historians, and rare book enthusiasts.

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Renzo Piano, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opened in September 2021 and houses more than 13 million objects in a spectacular 300,000 square-foot campus. Be sure to shop the Academy Museum Store, which features exclusive merchandise, including Oscars® memorabilia and other film-related treasures.

Craft Contemporary
Photo courtesy of Craft Contemporary

Craft Contemporary

While London has the Victoria & Albert, L.A. has the Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM), which packs a lot of punch into its Museum Row space. Since 1965, it's exhibited everything from tarot decks to artist Sonya Clark's weavings using human hair, just to name a few of its countless outstanding exhibitions. The museum prides itself on risk-taking initiatives that nonetheless always seem to pay off, offering opportunities to gifted, unlikely artists and makers to show their work when they may not otherwise have the chance. CAFAM is also big on offering family-friendly workshops as well as working with other local civic-minded institutions. Plus, given that its focus is not just on visual art, but (as its name suggests) craft and folk art as well, you can expect to spend some extra time and moolah in its outstanding onsite gift shop.

Photo courtesy of LACMA

Los Angeles County Museum Of Art (LACMA)

Speaking of LACMA, no visit to L.A. would be complete without a trip to the biggest art museum in the western U.S. Here, you can marvel from more than 120,000 art objects from antiquity to the present day. LACMA's collection of Latin American art includes works from the pre-Columbian period as well as art from modern masters. The museum also features an impressive selection of Asian art, and its collection of Islamic art is regarded as one of the most important in the world. LACMA has grown significantly since it began as the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art in Exposition Park in 1910. It was established as an institution in 1961, and opened to the public in 1965 at its current location, where it has continued to expand ever since. Scheduled for completion in 2023, LACMA's new Building for the Permanent Collection will be approximately 368,000 square feet and replace four existing buildings in the museum’s East Campus.

1955 Porsche Continental Cabriolet | Photo courtesy of Petersen Automotive Museum

Petersen Automotive Museum

Not far from LACMA is the spectacular Petersen Automotive Museum, one of the biggest car museums in the world. The museum was founded by automotive magazine mogul Robert E. Petersen and his wife Margie, and features more than 100,000 square feet of space that features a rotating exhibit from the museum's permanent collection, as well as vehicles on loan. First located as part of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, it moved to the site of a former department store in 1994 and emerged from a $125 million renovation in December 2015. Fittingly located at the busy intersection of Wilshire and Fairfax, the Petersen Automotive Museum is the perfect place to admire a quintessentially Los Angeles icon: the automobile.

Hannibal Lecter’s jail cell from "The Silence of the Lambs" displayed at the Hollywood Museum
Hannibal Lecter’s jail cell from "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991) | Photo: Hollywood Museum

Hollywood Museum

With many Hollywood-area attractions such as the Walk of Fame and the TCL Chinese Theatre outdoors, the Hollywood Museum is an indoor alternative that can be just as immersive as the rest. Located in the historic Max Factor Building, whose titular makeup doyen transformed the faces of Golden Age screen sirens for decades, the Hollywood Museum holds the world's most extensive collection of movie-related memorabilia, with four floors and more than 10,000 Hollywood artifacts such as photos, posters, clothing, props, scripts and more. The costume collection includes everything from Marilyn Monroe’s glamorous dresses to Elvis Presley's not-so-glamorous bathrobe, all the way to threads donned by contemporary celebrities such as George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Miley Cyrus.

But it's not all glitz and glam: there's a creepy lower level where visitors are invited to peek into Hannibal Lecter’s jail cell from Silence of the Lambs, as well as encounter characters from classic horror and cult films such as Boris Karloff’s mummy, Frankenstein and his bride, and more.

Hammer Museum 1

Hammer Museum

With free admission, it's hard to go wrong with a visit the Hammer Museum at UCLA. What began as a place to house old master paintings and drawings collected by late Chairman of Occidental Petroleum Corporation, Dr. Armand Hammer, the Hammer eventually partnered with neighboring UCLA and has since become a major museum in the L.A. area. After it first opened to the public in 1990, the Hammer has developed a contemporary collection with more than 2,000 artworks, and its popular series, Hammer Projects, has featured more than a hundred exhibitions and installations from contemporary international artists as well.