An era will end May 10 for Southern California museum-goers: It will be the last day adults can get into a major museum for less than $10 -- not counting the periodic free days or hours that most museums offer, and the handful of venues that are always free.
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a request by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County to hike its prices from $9 to $12 at the main museum in Exposition Park, and from $7 to $12 at the George C. Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits -- although museum leaders have decided to raise the Page's admission only to $11 for now.
In a letter to the supervisors requesting the increases, NHM President Jane Pisano noted that this would be the first price hike since 2003 at Exposition Park and since 1994 at the Page Museum. She said the museum needs the revenue boost to help defray rising costs for exhibitions and education programs. The museum's $135-million NHM Next campaign is expanding the offerings in Exposition Park step by step -- an Age of Mammals hall debuted last year; next is a new Dinosaur Hall that promises to be a big draw when it opens in July.
For the budget-conscious, free admission will continue at both sites the first Tuesday of each month. Like most museums, the Natural History Museum offers unlimited free access to members, who pay $40 a year for an individual membership and $60 for two people.
At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the single-digit admission charge went extinct more than three years ago when the Broad Contemporary Art Museum opened and prices rose from $9 to $12. Last year brought another new venue -- the Resnick Exhibition Pavilion -- and another price increase, to the current $15. Factoring in its $10 parking charge, LACMA is the area's priciest museum at $25 for most solo adult visitors; next comes the $20 weekend charge at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, where parking is included (the weekday price is $15). The Museum of Tolerance also charges $15, including parking. LACMA offers one free Tuesday per month, and is free for visitors under 18.
Other museums with recent price hikes are the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, where admission rose from $8 to $10 on Jan. 1, and the Hammer Museum in Westwood, where the price went from $7 to $10 in February. They joined four other $10 museums in L.A.: the Museum of Contemporary Art, Autry National Center, Petersen Automotive Museum and Skirball Cultural Center.
In Orange County, exhibitions at Muzeo in Anaheim cost $13, and the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach and the Laguna Art Museum all charge $12. In San Diego, fees are $12 at the San Diego Museum of Art, $10 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, and $17 at the San Diego Natural History Museum (which includes screenings of 3-D nature films). All prices noted are for general admission and don't reflect add-ons that LACMA, the Bowers and some others require for certain special exhibitions.
Admission is always free at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Brentwood and the Getty Villa in Malibu, although parking costs $15, and there's no street parking and little convenient mass transit for those intent on avoiding the fee.
Permanent exhibits at the California Science Center in Exposition Park are free, and so is admission to its neighbor, the California African American Museum. Others with free admission are USC's Fisher Museum of Art, the Fowler Museum at UCLA, Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis College of Art and Design and the Irvine Museum in Irvine, which shows California Impressionist works from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Single-digit museum admissions survive at specialty museums and smaller venues.
The price is $9 at the Japanese American National Museum and the just-opened La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, both in downtown L.A., the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena and the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach. For $7 you can visit the Long Beach Museum of Art, the Pasadena Museum of California Art, L.A.'s Craft and Folk Art Museum and the Mingei International Museum in San Diego. The Santa Monica Museum of Art posts $5 as its "suggested donation."
The nation's highest general-admission museum charge appears to be $29.95, at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco -- which, in keeping with its environmental mission, will knock off $3 for visitors who take mass transit or hike or bike to the museum in Golden Gate Park.
It's comparably expensive to take in all the attractions at the academy's two leading peers, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City ($32) and the Field Museum in Chicago ($29), but they offer general admission of $16 and $15, respectively.