Getty Center

High art on the hill, this museum and research complex has boosted LA’s reputation as a cultural epicenter.

On a hillside in the Santa Monica Mountains, this postmodernist temple of high culture with curving walls and Italian marble facade is one of the most spectacular sights on the LA landscape.

Originally built to showcase the vast art collection of oil magnate J. Paul Getty, the galleries are now filled with impressionist paintings, drawings, sculpture, 19th- and 20th-century American and European photographs and a collection of French furniture and decorative arts. New pieces are added all the time. The exhibits are housed in five two-story pavilions set around an open courtyard.

A stellar art collection is just one of the reasons to put the Getty Center on your itinerary. In addition to works by such luminaries as Van Gogh, Monet and Gauguin, you can take in the center’s beautifully manicured gardens and gorgeous architecture.

Designed by architect Richard Meier, the billion dollar cluster of white buildings (built without public money) are as exciting to look at as the works of art inside. The edges, railings, windows and terraces are sculptured and stark, and the exterior surfaces catch the dusk light, daubing the center in honey and amber tones.

In the Central Garden, created by artist Robert Irwin, you’ll only be a few miles from the city but you’ll feel a world away. This soul-soothing, tranquil oasis has tree-lined walkways, more than 500 varieties of plants and a magnificent maze of azaleas surrounded by a reflecting pool.

The center isn’t an adult-only zone. The museum has a number of children’s programs and activities to help ensure that art appreciation appears on the top of a child’s agenda. Little ones can enjoy a Family Room with hands-on activities, festivals, performances and specially designed journeys through the galleries.

The Getty Center is an eight-mile drive from Beverly Hills.Entrance is free, but there is a cost for on-site parking.

For more details on interesting local attractions and activities, check out our things to do in Los Angeles page.