Top 10 Museums In Southern California, USA - Updated 2024

Trina Joy Cassey
Trina Joy Cassey 
| 5 min read

Dramatic coastlines and sunny weather are Southern California’s main attractions. It charms beach lovers and adventure seekers from all over the country and the world. Besides being an awesome summer destination, this region has landmarks that make it a lovely holiday paradise all year round. Exquisite dining spots and luxurious shopping districts are scattered everywhere. If you are a history buff, there are a lot of places you should not miss, such as Union Station Los Angeles, Heritage Square Los Angeles, Fort Tejon State Historic Park, and Mission San Juan Capistrano. Airbnb tiny houses and beachfront rentals in Southern California are also available for your accommodation needs. To make your holiday on this side of the country worthwhile, browse through this list of the top museums in Southern California, USA.

1. Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Gunnar Klack used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Southern California is home to many fascinating museums, and one of them is Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Informally referred to as LACMA, this iconic museum has been featured in many Hollywood movies because of its visually pleasing aesthetics. Did you spot it in No Strings Attached (2011)? Los Angeles County Museum of Art was founded in 1961, and since then, it has been continuously showcasing diverse artworks collected throughout history. Also, it has temporary exhibits on its roster. The most recent ones are Sam Francis and Japan: Emptiness Overflowing and Cauleen Smith: Give It Or Leave It. Film screenings and concerts are held in LACMA on special occasions as well.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Address: 5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036, United States

Website: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Opening hours: 10am - 10pm (daily)

Price: 25 USD

Visited this place?

2. Maritime Museum of San Diego (from USD 24.0)

Maritime Museum of San Diego is the ultimate venue for tourists who have a deep appreciation for everything nautical. Located on the San Diego Bay, this fascinating museum has breathtaking surroundings. It has been in operation since 1948, and it boasts the biggest collection of marine vessels that are relevant to American history. Included in its displays are the iconic Star of India, a 19th-century iron bark, USS Dolphin, a research submarine, and some ships. Also, Maritime Museum of San Diego features hands-on exhibits for kids.

Visited this place?

Maritime Museum of San Diego Admission Ticket

Duration: 1 to 2 hours

83 reviews

3. Palm Springs Air Museum

Palm Springs Air Museum (307197744)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Edward O'Connor used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Palm Springs Air Museum is located in Palm Springs. It is a museum that centers on the relevance of air power during World War ll and how it resulted in the liberty that the United States citizens get to enjoy at present time. At this museum, you will see old planes that were used during the wars in Vietnam and Korea. Some of these aircrafts are in good condition and still flyable. Also, Palm Springs Air Museum has a gallery of pilots, dead and alive, who participated in World War II.

Palm Springs Air Museum

Address: 745 N Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs, CA 92262, United States

Website: Palm Springs Air Museum

Opening hours: 10am - 5pm (daily)

Price: 16 USD

Visited this place?

4. Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena

Norton Simon museum
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user dizzymissytrolly used under CC BY 2.0

What was once called Pasadena Art Institute is now Norton Simon Museum. It is an art museum that plays with visitors’ creative minds through its wide collection of stunning sculptures. If you have an interest in foreign arts, you will be thrilled to see the European and Asian art pieces at Norton Simon Museum. Some of its most recent exhibitions include Paul Gauguin’s ‘The Swineherd,’ 1888, Beyond the World We Know: Abstraction in Photography, and By Day & by Night: Paris in the Belle Époque. Expect more exhibits coming this year, such as Unseen Picasso, The Expressive Body: Memory, Devotion, Desire (1400 - 1750), and Alternate Realities: Altoon, Diebenkorn, Lobdell, Woelffer.

Norton Simon Museum

Address: 411 W Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91105, United States

Website: Norton Simon Museum

Opening hours: Mon, Wed & Thu: 12pm - 5pm; Fri, Sat & Sun: 11am - 8pm (closed on Tue)

Price: 15 USD

Visited this place?

California Tour Guide

Stephanie Eley

Stephanie Eley

I'm a graduate of ITMI, International Tour Management Institute and 17 years as a licensed Tour Director and Program Director. My expertise began in NYC and Washington, DC where I'm a licensed guide and has expanded to Europe, South America, Cuba and the Western / Southwestern National Parks of the US. I'd love to introduce you for a day or a week to Denver, Colorado and the 4 corners region of... Read more

Tours by Stephanie

5. Museum of Making Music, Carlsbad

Wall of guitars, Museum of Making Music
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user doryfour used under CC BY-SA 2.0

If music is your passion, you shouldn’t miss the chance to visit Museum of Making Music on your Southern California holiday. It is a bright and fun-filled museum for music enthusiasts and families. It might showcase contemporary furnishings, but its exhibits follow a timeline that includes the past. It has old and new instruments, photographs, and memorabilia. You can see how instruments were made, used, and even marketed. Live shows and events are held in Museum of Making Music occasionally, so check out its website before you plan your visit.

Museum of Making Music

Address: 5790 Armada Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008, United States

Website: Museum of Making Music

Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 10am - 5pm (closed on Mon)

Price: 7 USD onwards

Visited this place?

6. Bowers Museum, Santa Ana

Historic Belltower Entrance
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Eric Stoner used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Located in Orange County in Santa Ana, Bowers Museum is a Mission Revival-style museum with a wide collection of global art in diverse forms. Over 100,000 fascinating pieces are housed in this museum. It features Native American art and pre-Columbian Mesoamerica art. You can also find Asian, African, and Oceanian masterpieces at Bowers Museum. Since its opening in 1936, it continuously teaches its visitors not only about art but of culture and history as well. Some of Bowers Museum’s notable exhibits include AFRICAN TWILIGHT: Vanishing Rituals & Ceremonies, American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times, Mummies Of The World, and many more.

Bowers Museum

Address: 2002 N Main St, Santa Ana, CA 92706, United States

Website: Bowers Museum

Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 10am - 4pm (closed on Mon)

Price: 10 USD onwards

Visited this place?

7. San Diego Natural History Museum

San Diego Natural History Museum, Balboa Park
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Gentletouch1954 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Located in Balboa Park, San Diego Natural History Museum is a family-friendly destination for tourists who are into science and history. Open since 1874, this museum is the oldest scientific institution in Southern California. It has exhibits about Baja and Southern California. Fossils, dinosaurs, and everything about earth science is tackled at San Diego Natural History Museum, making it one of the best places to visit in Southern California. It also has a giant screen theatre that features informative films.

San Diego Natural History Museum

Address: 1788 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101, United States

Website: San Diego Natural History Museum

Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 10am - 4pm (closed on Mon)

Price: 11-20 USD

Visited this place?

8. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (from USD 18.0)

If you are planning to visit Los Angeles County on your upcoming Southern California escapade, be sure to swing by Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. It is a fascinating museum that all members of the family will surely enjoy. 35 million specimens and historical artifacts are housed in this museum, and some of these items date back to billions of years ago. Exhibits of dinosaurs, rare gems, and fossils are some of the main attractions at Natural Museum of Los Angeles County.

Visited this place?

Los Angeles Natural History Museum Admission Ticket

Duration: 3 hours

60 reviews

9. Battleship USS Iowa Museum, Los Angeles (from USD 30.0)

Travel back in time and get to see the lifestyle of the marines during World War ll when you visit Battleship USS Iowa Museum in Los Angeles. Nestled at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, this maritime museum is home to the famous USS Iowa, a battleship that was used during the war. Inside, you’ll see a collection of weaponry, missiles, and the crews’ living quarters. This museum is not only for adults. Kids will surely enjoy children’s tour programs that take them to the captain’s cabins and the deck with stunning sea views.

Visited this place?

Battleship USS Iowa Museum Admission

Duration: 2 to 3 hours

19 reviews

10. Guinness World Records Museum, Los Angeles (from USD 25.0)

Are you curious about the trivial facts of the world? Do you want to know who the tallest man in the world is? How about the shortest? If things like this arouse your curiosity, be sure to quench your thirsty mind at Guinness World Records Museum. Located a short walk away from Hollywood and Highland Center, this attraction is a good stop after exploring the city of Los Angeles. It displays documents that name record-breaking people in the world and in which field. Besides this, Guinness World Records Museum has fun arcade games, iconic life-size statues, and interesting objects on display.

Visited this place?

Guinness World Records Museum Admission Ticket in Hollywood

Duration: 1 to 2 hours

Have a memorable holiday in Southern California

Whatever type of tourist you are, there is something in Southern California for you. The beautiful beaches, warm climate, and natural wonders in Southern California attract all kinds of travelers. It also has excellent dining spots and luxurious boutiques for foodies and shopaholics. Moreover, if you are into history, Southern California will overwhelm you with its historic landmarks and museums. Book a stay at a modern cabin rental in the area and use this list of some of the best museums in Southern California when you’re planning your travel itinerary in the state.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


Get Trip101 in your inbox

Unsubscribe in one click. See our Privacy Policy for more information on how we use your data

Trina, a preschool teacher, is a working mom and a devoted wife to an analyst programmer. She's also a writer, cook, and travel enthusiast. Trina firmly believes that travel is a valuable...Read more

 Want to contribute as a Local Expert?
Explore California
Looking for accommodation?
Good things are meant to be shared!
Back to top
Visited any of these places? Click this button to activate our "Add a Tip" feature to share your experience.