While it’s best known for its movie stars, one of the City of Angels’ most elegant attractions is this gorgeous 1913 Beaux Arts palace. Like a smaller, west coast version of New York’s American Museum of Natural History, the NMHLA contains a microcosm of the whole world, both indoors and out in the Southern California sunshine.
Highlights of the museum are an enormous Dinosaur Hall full of sea monster fossils and T. Rex skeletons, three halls’ worth of amazingly realistic wildlife habitat dioramas (the African hall is like a safari that stands still), and a 150,000-specimen Gem and Mineral Hall full of gold, diamonds and other sparkly distractions. But be sure not to miss the soaring Rotunda at the center of the building, with its intricate stained glass dome, graceful bronze statues, and colorful paintings by artist Charles R. Knight, which illustrate mid-20th-century scientists’ findings about the prehistoric world.
You’ll rarely see a bigger collection of stuffed animals or a more opulent collection of pre-Columbian treasures. Try to avoid eye(s) contact with the tarantula in the Insect Zoo, but seek out a unique collection of Zuni fetishes; these tiny stone, bone and antler carvings found in a glass case by the ground floor stairs were made by the Zuni people, a Native American tribe from New Mexico.
Outside, take a wander through the Edible Garden to learn the names and leaves of common kitchen herbs, or to see what an artichoke looks like in full flower. Out in the Butterfly Pavilion (open May-October), the popular goal is getting these winged beauties to land on you – even if it’s just for a few seconds.