Education, Getty Center

What Can You Do with Kids at the Getty Center?

Road-tested tips for a family outing to the Getty, with bonus tips for Thanksgiving week 2015


A friend recently asked me for some tips on visiting the Getty with kids, figuring I’d be an expert since I’ve worked here for a few years now. While I see kids and their families in action here all the time, I’d never experienced the Getty Center with them first-hand. So I asked some real experts—my colleagues with young children—and their collective advice was both imaginative and practical.

Update for Thanksgiving week 2015! It’s the holiday season—and many L.A. kids are enjoying lots of extra days off from school. What are parents to do? The Getty Center is here to help you entertain your little ones during their school vacations—and celebrate the holiday. I’ve added some special tips for enjoying the Center with kids.

The Art of Food mobile tour1. Enjoy a Mobile Tour for Families

The Art of Food scavenger hunt is fun for all ages. Using just your mobile phone, you can take your family on a merry tour of the two food-themed exhibitions currently open at the Getty Center: Eat, Drink and Be Merry at the Museum North Pavilion; and The Edible Monument at the Getty Research Institute (located near the Getty Restaurant). Even better, there are prizes available for those who complete the tour!

2. Enjoy the Holiday Lights

Starting November 28, 2015, the Getty holiday lights are back. The architecture is lit up and warm cider will be available on Saturday evenings, when the Getty is open until 9pm.

3. Explore in the Galleries with an Educator

Join us for Family Art Stops—half-hour, hands-on art experiences geared for families with children ages 5 and up. Special dates are scheduled for Thanksgiving weekend.


4. Take Advantage of Bonus Days

We’re also staying open a few extra days during the holidays. The Getty Center will be open Mondays, December 21 and 28 (10am-5:30pm), and the Villa will be open Tuesdays, December 22 and 29 (10am-5pm). Both sites will be closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

5. Ride the Tram

I see it every day when I ride the tram with schoolchildren—they love the view of the 405, the houses on the hills, and the tall buildings in Westwood and beyond. And if they look hard enough and have luck on their side, they might even see a deer or two hiding among the trees.

6. Imagine Yourself an Aristocrat

Come see the decorative arts galleries in the South Pavilion! Kids love the period rooms, which look like an 18th-century French aristocrat’s, and the galleries filled with fancy furniture, giant clocks, and silk beds.

7. Run and Roll on the Garden Lawn

This is a great way to burn off excess energy, as well as a good place to chill out and enjoy some quiet time. Pack a lunch or pick up some sandwiches at the cafe and enjoy a picnic on the green while the kids romp and enjoy the outdoors.

8. Visit the Giant Bug

Yes, the giant bug! (Also known as Specimen (After Dürer) by John Baldessari.) It’s located right outside the Museum Lecture Hall; ask a friendly volunteer in a blue vest for directions.

9. Mix Up Your Visit

While the Getty’s galleries make for fun, there’s just as much to explore around the site. Take breaks in between your gallery explorations to enjoy the views and the garden’s zigzag path, or grab a snack at one of our cafes or coffee carts, which all have outdoor seating.

10. Create Your Own Scavenger Hunt

Make the paintings galleries extra entertaining by making your own scavenger hunt. Have kids look for pretty dresses, men in armor, flowers, monsters, etc. Or keep count of all the dogs or cats or horses you can find in all the paintings. Which animal had better PR and appears in more paintings? Celebrate a successful hunt with a cookie in the garden.

Here’s a tip: In the Entrance Hall, go up the stairs and start the galleries on the second floor. From there you can go all the way around the four pavilions and see the paintings in chronological order.

11. Strike a Pose

Have the kids pick their favorite painting in each gallery and try to emulate the subject. (I bet you can get some good photos this way.)

And of course, stop by the ever-popular Family Room. I’ve since visited it myself with my niece and nephew, and we had a great time. Here they are showing off a hand-decorated mask and playing in the tube sculpture.

A girl shows off a mask she decorated in the Getty Center's Family Room

A boy plays in the tube sculpture in the Getty Center's Family Room

There are tons of other possibilities for entertaining young children here at the Getty Center, including our do-it-yourself Art Detective Cards and our many free programs led by museum educators.

One last thing: If you’re coming up here with your kids, make sure there’s plenty of space on your camera phone. You’ll want to relive watching your kids laughing as they run across a lawn high up above the city noise.

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  1. Deborah De Bono
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Fantastic article. So many think the only kid-fun is in the Family Room but these suggestions are a great way to add to the museum experience. I especially like the link to Exploring Art on the website.

  2. Dina Scheel
    Posted November 19, 2015 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Love the ideas! I’d add two more: tell them the stories in the paintings or ask them to tell you a story about the paintings. These can be done simultaneously. My nieces had were Tweens when we visited a museum together. The medieval paintings of saints and mythology came alive for them when I told them that they illustrated stories. It was story time after that when they pretty much ran around the gallery after that saying “what’s the story for this one” I’ve also gotten kids to explain what they think a painting means and gotten some pretty amazing answers! Everyone likes to be listened to and respected, not talked at. They will love it if they get to engage with the art rather than being told what to think!

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      #ThyCaptionBe: You Look Like Hell

      You captioned this detail. And we’re revealing the full story now.

      Escaping the in-laws or medieval Sea World? It’s actually an extreme punishment for a dress code violation. 

      Here’s the full story:

      The Christian tale of Saint Josaphat is roughly based on the life of the Buddha in a kind of medieval game of telephone, in which the sources for the text passed through Christian circles in the Middle East in the 8th century before appearing in European versions in the 11th century. 

      Here an unsuitably dressed guest—we can see that his tattered clothing and scruffy facial hair have no place at the well-dressed gathering—is cast into the dark, open mouth of a terrifying animal. 

      To make matters worse, the story is a parable in which Barlaam, Josaphat’s Christian teacher, describes the sinful who do not make the cut at the Last Judgment.

      Holiday Lesson: Always check the dress code.

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