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Getty Center

Los Angeles, California, USA


The Getty Center, a wonderful contribution to LA by oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, offers modern architectural and landscape design at its best. It can feel stark with its harsh, white lines, but that's what modern architecture strives for.
After parking, you take a free monorail to the top of the hill. It's really fun to ride up, and there are great views over LA. At night, it's magical. Once there, be awed by the wide open expanses of white marble flooring, and the straight lines all about you. A fountain with spigots in a perfect row greets you. At night, it is lit, which adds to the effect.
The gardens, like the buildings, are modern, with strong geometric lines. There is a maze of floating hedges, which fans out to flowerbeds. I thought it was a shame that the gardens did not take advantage of the fantastic panoramic views of LA. Instead, they are sunken and hide the views. In summer there's an abundance of wonderful flowers in the garden. The sound garden is easy to miss, but make sure you see and hear it! Lush green plants of all sorts are mixed with rocks and a natural stream to create lovely sounds and pleasing scenes all about you.
It's also nice to sit out on the sloped lawn and take in some UV rays. Tons of people lay out there to relax after walking the museums and this makes it feel like a jardin in France. If you're hungry grab a sandwich or soup at the self-serve cafe above the gardens- bring your jacket because the air is always cold up there.
To see panoramic views of LA, head to one of the windy balconies. There you can see the cactus gardens, and enjoy your high position on the hill. At night, it's fantastic. You can also find great views at the fairly minimalistic sculpture garden.
The museum is made of huge blocks of travertine marble that were brought from Italy from the same quarries that supplied the marble for St Peter's Basilica in Rome. It's quite astounding if you think of how much effort it must have been to bring that much marble over!
There are sometimes good temporary exhibits- the last time I visited there was a fantastic photography exhibit. Permanent exhibits include a Family Room with activities for kids (such as creating your own sculpture out of metal tubes), and Information Rooms with real objects to show how a bronze statue is made and real ingredients used to color illuminated manuscripts. When in the main galleries, check out the automatic panels above that adjust to let in the perfect amount of light. Not to be missed is the darkened room with medieval, illuminated manuscripts on sheep skin. Check out the Van Gogh and five Cezanne paintings. But to me even better than the exhibits are the architecture and gardens, and the wide open outdoor spaces paved in white.
Make sure you also spend a day at the original Getty museum, the Getty Villa. I like it even more than the Getty Center. It's an absolutely gorgeous hillside villa filled with Roman and Greek antiquities. The formal gardens with grape vines hanging beside a long reflecting pool are blissful.
Head over to Santa Monica Beach and Pier when you're done seeing the Getty Center. It's a perfect end to a perfect day- the golden beach and rolling waves, long walks on the cliffs at Palisades Park, lights and street musicians at 3rd Street Promenade, and the carnival rides and carousel on the pier.

Photo Gallery

The maze of floating azalea hedges in the sunken gardens, wintertime.

The same view in summer.

The maze of floating hedges at the Getty Center gardens.

Winter in the gardens at the Getty Center.

The fountain in the huge entry courtyard of the Getty Center.

View of LA's hills, and gorgeous Bird of Paradise plants, on the balcony near the entrance of the Getty Center.

Chairs under a trellis, upstairs near the entrance to the Getty Center.

A place to sit at the Getty Center gardens, under a bougainvillea arbor.

The cactus garden on a promontory facing south.

The 405 is so much nicer from above!

The modern lines at the Getty Center.

Maple tree near the cafe.

Resting on the lawn, with the city beyond.

White Peter Pan flowers by the stream in the Sound Garden.

The gorgeous plants and rocks in the peaceful Sound Garden.

The cave-like mossy fountain at the top of the Sound Garden.

I love rose cactus!

The calming colors in the Sound Garden.

Wispy flowers in the Sound Garden.

Flowers with eucalyptus behind.

White Peter Pan plant.

The water over the rocks makes a lovely sound.

The stream with large cube-like rocks.

Delicate flowers in the Sound Garden.

The bougainvillea arbors between the Sound Garden and the Central Garden.

The stream that runs through the Sound Garden.

What a beautiful garden!

Looking down on the cafe area with its grand columns.

Climbing vines on arches in the Central Garden.

The Central Garden with its stone waterfall, or chadar, and floating maze of azaleas.

Princess flowers catching the light.

Roses, azalea maze, waterfall, and bougainvillea arbors.

Almost flourescent greens!

And silvery greens.

Sculpture Garden overlooking downtown LA.

The Getty, as seen from the Sculpture Garden.

Like Europe in the summertime- a lawn filled with people lying in the sun.

Cactus Garden and downtown LA.

Views from the Getty.


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Getty Center is located at 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles CA 90049.
From the 101 freeway, take the 405 south, and exit at the Getty Museum signs. Entry is free! Parking costs $15. Parking is free after 5pm on Saturdays.
Open Tues-Fri 10-5:30, Sat from 10-9, and Sun from 10-5:30. Closed Mondays and Jan 1, July 4, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Call (310) 440-7300.
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