We’ve always felt that Southern California doesn’t get enough credit for our museums. Not only do we have a wide selection, we’re fortunate that many of them have outdoor attractions including well-appointed gardens, stunning views, and outdoor dining options.
As an added bonus, many of these are free museums and most offer free admission on select days.
To get you started on your art education, here is our list of SoCal’s best museums.
Discovery Cube Orange County
"The Discovery Cube science museum is geared toward children and features interactive learning activities"
ADDRESS: 2500 N Main St, Santa Ana, CA 92705
"Located on the Pacific Rim, LACMA is the largest art museum in the western United States, with a collection of more than 147,000 objects that illuminate 6,000 years of artistic expression across the globe. "
ADDRESS: 5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Maritime Museum of San Diego
"The Maritime Museum of San Diego enjoys a worldwide reputation for excellence in restoring, maintaining and operating historic vessels."
ADDRESS: 1492 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
Kimberly Crest House and Gardens
"Kimberly Crest House and Gardens is a 6-¼ acre estate in Redlands, CA featuring a Victorian Chateau and Italian Renaissance styled gardens"
ADDRESS: 1325 Prospect Dr, Redlands, CA 92373
California Citrus State Historic Park
"California Citrus State Historic Park is an open-air museum in the state park system of California, United States, interpreting the historic cultural landscape of the citrus industry"
ADDRESS: 9400 Dufferin Ave, Riverside, CA 92503
Channel Islands Maritime Museum
"Maritime history, culture & art exhibits are the focus of this educational venue by the harbor."
ADDRESS: 3900 Bluefin Cir, Oxnard, CA 93035
Guiness Book of records museum
"Exhibits on records such as the tallest man are displayed at this Hollywood Walk of Fame attraction."
ADDRESS: 6764 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Heritage Museum of Orange County
"Attraction featuring restored homes & buildings from the 1890s set amid extensive floral gardens."
ADDRESS: 3101 W Harvard St, Santa Ana, CA 92704
Japanese American National Museum
"As the national repository of Japanese American history, JANM creates groundbreaking historical and arts exhibitions, educational public programs, award-winning documentaries, and innovative curriculum that illuminate the stories and the rich cultural heritage of people of Japanese ancestry in the United States. "
ADDRESS: 100 N Central Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center
"Nature-focused activities include an earth science museum & hands-on learning with rocks and fossils."
ADDRESS: 7621 Granite Hill Dr, Riverside, CA 92509
Laguna Art Museum
"LAM exclusively features California art and is the oldest cultural institution in the area. It has been known as the Laguna Beach Art Association, as well as the Laguna Beach Museum of Art."
ADDRESS: 307 Cliff Dr, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Mary Vagle Nature Center
"Nature center with exhibits on local natural history, plus native plant gardens, a pond & trails."
ADDRESS: 11501 Cypress Ave E, Fontana, CA 92337
"The Museum of Latin American Art expands knowledge and appreciation of modern and contemporary Latin American and Latino art through its Collection, ground-breaking Exhibitions, stimulating Educational Programs, and engaging Cultural Events."
ADDRESS: 628 Alamitos Ave, Long Beach, CA 90802
Museum of Making Music
"A museum about making music with galleries of instruments, special exhibitions & live events."
ADDRESS: 5790 Armada Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Museum of Ventura County
"Celebrated regional museum provides cultural artwork & history exhibits, plus educational programs."
ADDRESS: 100 E Main St, Ventura, CA 93001
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
"The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is the largest natural and historical museum in the western United States. Its collections include nearly 35 million specimens and artifacts and cover 4.5 billion years of history."
ADDRESS: 900 W Exposition Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90007
"Compact, minimalist sculpture garden intended as a representation of the state of California."
ADDRESS: 611 Anton Blvd, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Ojai Valley Museum
"Town history exhibits & contemporary local artwork showcased in a former Catholic church."
ADDRESS: 130 W Ojai Ave, Ojai, CA 93023
Palm Springs Air Museum
"The Museum's mission is to exhibit, educate and eternalize the role of the World War II combat aircraft and the role the pilots and American citizens had in winning the war."
ADDRESS: 745 N Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs, CA 92262
Riverside Art Museum
"The museum is a non-profit organization which focuses on addressing social issues and offers art classes as well as other events in order to inspire and build community"
ADDRESS: 3425 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, CA 92501
San Bernardino County Museum
"Educational exhibits on local culture & natural science, plus cactus gardens & a live-animal center."
ADDRESS: 2024 Orange Tree Ln, Redlands, CA 92374
San Bernardino History and Railroad Museum
"Set in an 1918 train depot, this museum showcases artifacts dedicated to railroad & local history."
ADDRESS: 1170 W 3rd St, San Bernardino, CA 92410
San Diego Natural History Museum
"It was founded in 1874 as the San Diego Society of Natural History. It is the second oldest scientific institution west of the Mississippi and the oldest in Southern California"
ADDRESS: 1788 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
Santa Paula Art Museum
"The Santa Paula Art Museum occupies two historic buildings in downtown Santa Paula, California."
ADDRESS: 117 N 10th St, Santa Paula, CA 93060