Family visiting LACMA

Families Everywhere: Tips on Visiting LACMA with Kids

December 22, 2016
Alicia Vogl Saenz, Senior Education Coordinator
Julia Velasquez, Education Coordinator

As educators focused on programming for families and children at LACMA, we are thrilled to see kids in the galleries. During winter break, bring your kids to LACMA for some creative adventures. We’ve gathered the top five tips to help you navigate LACMA and engage with art. And remember, strollers are always welcome in the galleries and will help you cover more ground!

1. The ideal time to spend in the galleries? Twenty minutes to an hour, looking at a few works of art.

There is no one right way to explore—one of us (Alicia) encourages families to wander into a building or gallery to see what catches your eye, while the other (Julia) suggests tailoring your visit to your child’s interests. Here are some suggestions on what to see. 

Netsuke gallery in the Pavilion for Japanese Art

Pavilion for Japanese Art

Check out the netsuke (NET-skay) gallery on Level 2. Netsuke are functional miniature Japanese sculptures that often depict animals and humor. What kind of animals can you find? What are they doing? (The cases are a bit tall. Lift the little ones up so they can see, but please don’t carry them on your shoulders!) Take the swirling ramp up and make it a game of I Spy. If you make it all the way up to the top floor, you’ll find some samurai armor. 

Art of the Ancient Americas galleries

Art of the Americas Building

Go up to Level 4 and notice how the installation in these rooms is different from the rest of the museum. The waves of sandalwood walls, the curtains near the ceiling, and the beautiful chandeliers enhance how you experience the art. Encourage everyone in your family to share the colors, textures, and materials they see.

Families in the Egyptian galleries

Hammer Building

Go up to Level 3 and check out the Egyptian galleries. Do you have a stroller or a wheelchair? Use the elevator across the way, just outside of the Art of the Americas Building, and up to Level 3. Cross the bridge and make a left when you enter the doors. We have a mummy and lots of cats in this gallery; look for a cat on the sarcophagus!  

Ahmanson Building

Enter the Ahmanson Building through the double doors (tip for these heavy doors: there is a big button you can press so the doors will auto-magically open, hands-free) and make the first right down the long hallway. If you take it all the way to the end, you’ll find oversized fun sculptures like giant pool balls and a human-sized comb. You are in the Pop Art gallery! The Abstract Expressionist galleries in the adjacent rooms are also super family-friendly—look for bright colors and shapes.

BCAM escalator up to Level 3


For the adventurous kids, the outdoor escalator will take you straight up to Level 3, adding a ride element to your visit! You can also take the oversize elevator inside. While waiting for the elevator, check out the work of art that wraps the inside of the elevator shaft. It’s by Barbara Kruger, and it’s called Untitled (Shafted). Great views can be found once on Level 3. Check out the Hollywood sign, LACMA's Primal Palm Garden (a living work of art), and the construction site of the neighboring Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

Chris Burden, Metropolis II, 2010, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, courtesy of the Nicolas Berggruen Charitable Foundation, © Chris Burden Estate

We've never met a kid who doesn't love the kinetic sculpture Metropolis II, on view on Level 1; you can see the cars in action during select times on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Even when the sculpture isn’t in motion, spend some time looking for different trains, miniature cars, and recognizable buildings.

Visitors sketching in the gallery

2. Bring a pad of paper and pencils. Take a seat on the gallery floor, look, and sketch. 

Didn’t bring paper or pencils? Stop by the Boone Children’s Gallery to pick some up. (Tips for drawing: no pens, please! And offer up pencils after you are seated so that no unintended drawing gets on the walls.)

Speaking of the Boone Children’s Gallery, your kids can paint and draw to their heart’s content here. We also have baskets of books if you want to take a storytime break. Boone staff are more than happy to give you personalized, tailored tips on what to do at the museum; just ask us!

Visitors looking at and talking about a landscape

3. Make up a story about what you’re looking at.

Look and then ask. Start with, "What do you see?" and work your way up to a story. Children are observant storytellers. Let them tell you what is going on. This works even with landscapes. Ask: what would you do if we were living there? For older kids, make a game out of guessing the title of the artworks based on what they see.

Playing in Hancock Park, just outside LACMA

4. Ants in their pants? Burn off some energy outdoors.

Bring a ball to play in the park (just don’t play ball in the galleries!), and go exploring. Enjoy the native gardens, roll down the hill at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, look into the tar pits, and count how many squirrels you see. 

Also check out works of art that are outside, such as Levitated Mass, Urban Light, the Cantor Sculpture Garden, and the Alexander Calder fountain tucked in the Director’s Roundtable Garden. Walk through Jesús Rafael Soto's Penetrable, or, as families like to call it, "the spaghetti." There is no running or pulling on the strings, but take a moment to immerse your family in the work for a tactile and optical art experience. 

Family picnicking at LACMA

5. Take a snack and bathroom break.

You can picnic in the park or at one of the outdoor tables throughout campus. Or you can grab a treat from one of LACMA’s many dining establishments.

Need a bathroom break? On the east side of the campus, the best family-friendly bathrooms are in the Pavilion for Japanese Art. Go to the very bottom of the swirling ramp for big, quiet bathrooms. You can also get there via elevator. On the west side of campus, the Resnick Pavilion has spacious family-friendly restrooms as well.  

These are just some of our family-friendly tips; we’ll be sharing more tips and suggestions on Unframed in 2017. Enjoy your time at the museum!