Museums in Los Angeles are not hard to come by; just jump over the hill and visit some of the country’s best hubs for art, science, and history. But what about a cultural mecca in the San Fernando Valley?
The nearly 2 million people that call the Valley home have been hankering for a place to rest their cultural souls for quite some time. It looks as if the 818 is finally inching closer toward that goal.
Within the past year, an online museum became a physical institution, an art-focused nonprofit expanded its reach to include traveling exhibits, and a 71,000-square-foot children’s science center, which could have easily been constructed downtown or on the Westside, found its home in Lake View Terrace.
Read on and discover 9 free museums that deserve your love and attention (and possible donation) for, at the very least, giving you a Monday-morning worthy answer to “What did you do this past weekend?”
Discovery Cube Los Angeles
11800 Foothill Blvd.
Lake View Terrace, CA 91342
Open every day, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Free admission for children under 2
$10 for everyone else (pricing valid through June 2015)
Discovery Cube Los Angeles has a storied past even though it’s only been open a little more than two months. According to the Los Angeles Times, the large children’s museum sat empty and unopened since 2007 after the planned operator went bankrupt, so last year’s opening was especially poignant. The first major museum in the San Fernando Valley is free for kids under age two and has a 4D theater, rock wall, and simulated helicopter tour of L.A.
Few things can compete with the way things used to be, “the good ol’ days”, or the sense that the past was somehow simpler, purer, and, in turn, better. Except maybe a place completely dedicated to that very feeling and teeming with vintage signs, yearbooks, photographs, automobiles, and other artifacts from the Valley. SFV-obsessed (I say that in a tender way) Tommy Gelinas has long been collecting memorabilia and The Valley Relics Museums is his way of preserving and sharing that local history.
On Feb. 7, 2015, 11:11 A Creative Collective, the best San Fernando Valley arts organization according to L.A. Weekly, opened its gallery and event space in Reseda. The 11:11 ACC Traveling Gallery, so called because it’s temporarily housed on Sherman Way but may move in the future, is hoping to bridge the gap between Valley-based artists and the rest of the L.A. arts scene. Their first exhibit, “Gracias Por Nada,” highlights the San Fernando Valley skate culture and runs through March 7, 2015.
I’m not a car enthusiast (unless you count the unhealthy obsession with my MINI), but anyone who can appreciate beauty will enjoy gawking at more than 120 antique, vintage, black iron and classic automobiles. Take advantage of the Nethercutt’s close proximity as it’s the only automobile museum in the Valley and the Petersen is the only other in the L.A. area. If you call to reserve a tour, you’ll be shown the Nethercutt Collection – 50 more beauts, mechanical musical instruments and other early 20th century knickknacks in a stunning marble showroom.
For years, the Museum of the San Fernando Valley was nothing more than a group of volunteers who wanted a home for the history and cultural contributions this slice of L.A. has to offer. They planned, plotted and persisted, organizing one-off events and the bi-monthly Pacoima Walking Tour. Now, after nearly 10 years in the making, a physical location exists in Northridge and plans for the museum continue to grow. Catch their “Conversations with Heroes,” stories from war veterans, on March 7 and every first Satruday of the month.
La Galeria Gitana
120 N. Maclay Ave., Suite E
San Fernando, CA 91340
Tuesday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m.
Karen Nichols wasn’t sure if San Fernando was ready for an art gallery when major developer Severyn Aszkenazy approached her about the project. Ready or not, with the opening of La Galeria Gitana (The Gypsy Gallery) in 2008, the city got one of the first downtown spaces to offer consistent cultural events.
San Fernando Museum of Art and History
519 South Brand Boulevard
San Fernando, CA 91340
Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
The San Fernando Museum of Art and History is a bit of an enigma as there isn’t much information about it online and many San Fernando residents don’t even know it exists. But the museum, located at a mid-century firehouse on Brand Boulevard, is a great resource if you’re researching the city of San Fernando or simply want to see who was crowned Ms. San Fernando in 193o. And if you’re into antiques, think steamboat trunks and old record players, this is your place.
1100 Pico St.
San Fernando, CA 91340
Call to schedule a visit
The Lopez Adobe is the oldest standing building in the City of San Fernando and one of the oldest private residences in the San Fernando Valley. Geronimo and Catalina Lopez had the home built by Geronimo’s cousin sometime after 1882; it was the first two-story adobe built as a residence in the Valley. All very impressive, but my favorite fun fact? The first local newspaper, The San Fernando Times, was printed here in 1889.
Andrés Pico Adobe
10940 Sepulveda Blvd.
Mission Hills, CA 91345
Monday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Every third Sunday, call to confirm hours
You’ll easily miss the oldest home in the Valley if you’re not paying attention. The Pico Adobe, also known as Ranchito Rómulo, was built in 1853 and is the second oldest home in the city of Los Angeles, but the original structure was constructed in 1834 by Native Americans from the San Fernando Mission. The San Fernando Valley Historical Society now manages the building for the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, and fills the “living museum” with community donations of early California artifacts, along with items that belonged to politician Andrés Pico and his family.