My happy place

The Getty Center is definitely my happy place. Ok, it’s not my ONLY happy place. I’m pretty content in just about any art museum, especially if it’s housed on beautiful grounds. I love major art museums like The Met, the Louvre and The National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), as well as smaller galleries like the Norton Simon Museum (Pasadena, CA), The Phillips Collection (Washington, DC) and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston).

I think my art addiction hearkens back to my early teens in Germany when my wonderful parents toted my brother, sister and me all over Europe in a Volkswagen van. I saw Michaelangelo’s David in Florence. At 15 I stood in the Louvre and vowed to come back and see everything. Years later, on our honeymoon, my loving husband spent at least three days holed up in the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay.

As a parent, a love of art and beauty is definitely something  I want to pass on to the boys. Because of the boys’ current interests, we spend a lot of time at science centers, natural history museums, zoos and aquariums. Still, at least every few months, I make sure we visit one of Los Angeles’s many art museums.

The Getty Museum is relatively easy to visit with small children. Parking is $15 per vehicle, but there is no admission fee. To get to the museum, you take a tram from the parking lot to the hilltop location. This is by far one of my boys’ favorite parts of the visit. Robert Irwin’s beautiful gardens are a perfect place to romp and burn off some energy. There are water features galore, which are especially inviting in the summer months. You’ll find numerous places to picnic, a great way to save money while taking in some culture.

A Family Room between the North and East Pavilions serves as a pit stop for parents of small children. Cooper and Finley used markers to contribute to a giant, erasable, illuminated manuscript. They lounged on the replica 18th century silk bed and read books. And, they used foam pipe insulation to build their own modern sculpture.

A new feature since we last visited was the “Be a Getty Art Detective” brochures with tear-out cards. There were two brochures: one for the North Pavilion and one for the architecture and gardens. In the North Pavilion we showed the boys the first of four cards: a picture of a lion’s paw carved of wood. The card posed a question, “Is this the foot of a cabinet or a lion’s paw?” Once we located the paw on a 16th century French cabinet, we discovered the answer was both. The cabinet had several lion’s paws that served as the cabinet’s feet. On the architecture/garden brochure, one card challenged us “travel back in time” by the South Pavilion sign. There we found a fossil of a leaf on the travertine, which dated back 8,000 years. These hide and seek card definitely made our visit more entertaining.

Yes, art museums are often quiet places where people talk in hushed tones and gaze intently at static artwork — not exactly somewhere you’d want to take a screaming toddler. However, many museums, like The Getty, are taking a more child-friendly approach, putting in children’s rooms, interactive displays and venturing into family programming. Art museum are definitely worth a second (or third or fourth) look when you are planning a family outing.

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