Travel Near: La Brea Tar Pits & the LACMA

For those of you who speak Spanish, The La Brea Tar Pits is quite a redundant name, but I assure you, “The La Brea Tar Pits” is how we refer to it here.  (For my non-Spanish speakers, “La Brea” means “The Tar,” so when you call them The La Brea Tar pits, you’re saying “The The Tar Tar Pits.” Fun fact.)

I’m always on the hunt for local places to explore that are inexpensive to visit, and I’ll be honest, this one pushed my budget a little over the edge.  La Brea is located a mile away from The Grove, for those of you familiar with the area.  I frequently park in a Beverly Hills neighborhood and walk when I visit The Grove to evade the high price of parking.

Unfortunately, these streets are no-parking zones on the weekdays before 6 PM, which makes free parking spaces within walking distance very hard to find! (For me, “walking distance” is anything less than a mile and a half.  So do with that information what you will.)

Needless to say, I got on with my day and just paid for parking.  It costs $12 to park at the La Brea Tar Pits.  You can’t drive in and out of the lot and there is no substantial food available for purchase.  Unless you count $6 bags of trail mix as a substantial meal.  Come prepared!  Once again, our cooler made an appearance for a picnic lunch on the hill.

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If you want to brave it on your own, all of the tar pits (and some of the smaller tar-holes) are outdoors.  Feel free to wander the park grounds, and check out all the tar pits, caged up like animals at the zoo.  There are educational signs at each stop, also much like a zoo, to tell you about what you’re looking at and how it was formed.  You’re even able to stop at two excavation sites and take a peek inside, absolutely free of charge.

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With kids, I would consider a peak at the bubbling grounds and a picnic on a hill a full day.  The Page Museum is not quite as child-friendly.  There are lots of things to read, and not a lot to look at.

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That being said, Jason and I did check out the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits, and it was well worth the visit to understand more about the area.  Inside, we were able to learn about the excavation process more thoroughly.  There were hundreds and hundreds of bones that they’ve found inside the tar from tens of thousands of years ago.  Pieces of bones that have answered questions and educated paleontologist for decades.

[Photos from Jason’s Phone inside the Museum]

Learning more about what these tar pits has contributed to our understanding of this area and its history was incredible.  They even had a completely constructed mammoth skeleton that was pulled out of the tar, as well as a few saber tooth tigers, an ancient sloth, and hundreds of dire wolf skulls!

[Photo]

There is also an area where you can watch volunteers sort microscopic bones that were discovered in the tar pits.

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I know all of this sounds incredibly awesome and kid-friendly, and it truly is fascinating.  That being said, an adult admission will cost you $12 a pop, and children’s admission is $5.  If your children aren’t fascinated by prehistoric bones, they might be happier checking out all the outside exhibits, many of which you can poke with sticks at your leisure.

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Our visit got even better when we discovered that the LACMA was just on the other side of the park.  There are lots of things to look at outside the LACMA (that’s Los Angeles County Museum of Art) which are absolutely free.

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We were in luck because our trip was on a Friday we both had off, and lucky for us, SoCal residents get into the museum free after 3 PM on weekdays!  Even better, the museum is open until 8 PM on Fridays.

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The parking lot at the tar pits stays opened even after the Page Museum closes, so we were able to keep our car parked right where it was, and explore the museum for a few hours at no additional charge.

The LACMA is not as photo-friendly as the Getty Museum is, so no photos of the art inside.  But they do have plenty of Picasso on display. I ran into a Pollack and a Warhol as well.  Lots of great art to see inside!

Two-for-one destinations crossed off my list.  A great stop to get the most out of a single destination.  I find driving in this city to be a pain, the less I have to do of that, the better.  I loved that I was able to park my car one time at 11 AM, and stay all day covering two huge local destinations.  This was a great stop!

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