Full disclosure - I did not bring my kids along with me to this one (it’s a bit of a trek to be honest) but I was accompanied by a baby so that should count for something.
Weather: It’s LA people… so… oddly misty but very warm and brightened by sporadic glorious sunshine.
Logistics: The drive we did is so bad there’s even a mug commemorating it.
Do not get me started on the LA freeway system being a metaphor for the dark heart of the American Dream… it may get its own blog post one day.
Activities: Art and stuff. And gardens. And sculptures. And wildlife. And an excellent little shop. This place has the whole package.
I am sure that there is a lot of stuff for older children to explore here - the ones we saw seemed particularly focussed on endlessly rolling down the smooth grassy hills - but as we were with a baby it was more about finding feeding friendly areas (not enough sofas) and managing the glare - the buildings are very very white. (The museum, pleasingly, does provide beige umbrellas for sun shade but babies need a bit more than that - luckily the stunning architecture does offer ample shady areas and there are plenty of indoor spaces as well.)
There are a large number of exhibitions in the various galleries and we chose a fantastic exhibition on Egypt and the Classical World, which had some familiar pieces from the British Museum and other museums across the world. It was excellently curated and I was unable to resist stalking the most fabulous young man who was acting as children’s museum guide. I am entirely happy to have the same level of understanding of the exhibits as an enthused nine year old.
Coffee: I genuinely don’t understand how Americans make filter coffee so good, but they do. Well done America.
Food: Well, the baby is on breast milk so her opinion is not hugely relevant but us grown ups really enjoyed our not too horrifically over-priced sandwiches. Even the portions were relatively sane, for America, though I did manage to resist a cinnabun the size of my head.
Grounds: Coming here from England, the opportunity to explore a sculpture garden in the sunshine is very tempting indeed. And this one is magnificent. Art and planting are combined in a variety of ways to stunning effect. Succulents make considerably more sense in this climate and grow gorgeously, as they are meant to (mine always look a little forlorn). I must admit I wasn’t overly keen on the onion-y whiff from the alliums but they do look magnificent arranged in large banks of single colours. I think my favourite part was the inverse fountain - gorgeous and pleasingly shady to boot. There’s also the bonus of spotting butterflies and hummingbirds and butterflies bigger than humming birds skimming about the place.
There is a preponderance of Henry Moore sculpture - I’m at the point now where I feel he needed to take a little break and give some other artists a chance, as he seems to have infested every large cultural space I visit. That said, there were works by a large number of other artists again who I am sure are equally respected, if you know about that type of thing. Anyway, from this layman’s view - the pretty pieces were pretty, the challenging pieces were challenging and the abstract pieces were my favourites.
The design of the whole place is a reason to visit in and of itself - the buildings are very impressive, walkways open up onto unexpected vistas, stairways exhort you to look up and incorporate the blue blue sky into your experience and the interplay of water and stone delight in myriad ways. This whole place is a joy.
Accessibility: The scale of the place lends itself to wheelchairs and other people with mobility difficulties - and buggies of course. It is so vast and free flowing that it allows you to work at your own pace and find areas of peace and quiet whenever necessary, which would suit people who can find crowds a little tricky - though the exhibits themselves may well feel a bit hectic.
Overall: I feel so lucky to have been able to come to such a place, my only regret was not bringing my own kids as I know they would have absolutely loved it as well. All this and I haven’t even mentioned the tram that takes you from car park to centre with the most amazing views as well.
If you can, go.