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The Getty Villa For The Whole Family

January 16th, 2012 by Sarah Auerswald

The reflecting pond at The Getty Villa

The Getty Villa sits in a canyon overlooking Malibu and makes for a wonderful day out for the whole family.

Although you might think the rarefied air of a museum for antiquities wouldn’t really appeal to children, I say you just have to get creative with your approach. My son’s class had recently been to the Getty on a field trip, so he got to play tour guide in the herb gardens and showed us the only art you can touch.

Herb Garden at the Getty Villa

The Statue you can touch at the Getty Villa

The statue you can touch at the Getty Villa

Please touch sign at the Getty Villa

See? It’s OK to touch it. I wasn’t making it up.

Touching the art at the Getty Villa


The Getty Villa is patterned after a estate near Naples, Italy that was destroyed in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The Villa and grounds are simply beautiful, and there’s a fascinating film that plays at the Villa that explains why J. Paul Getty chose this style of architecture and really demonstrates his love of antiquities.

Inner courtyard at the Getty Villa

The Getty Villa has a great family room, which they call their Family Forum, where you can decorate your own (faux) ancient vase, play “Ancient Art” dress up behind a shadow-pose stage, stand inside the replica of an oversized ancient vase, and see inside the diorama of a kiln where ancient vases were made.

Family Forum at the Getty Villafaux ancient vase to decorate in Family Forum at Getty Villafaux ancient vase decorated with marker pen in the Family Forum at Getty VillaShadow pose stage in the Family Forum at the Getty VillaInside the Vase at the Family Forum at the Getty Villa

The other way to explore the Getty Villa is to be a Getty Voyager or Getty Villa Art Detective, which are two great self-guided, family-friendly scavenger hunts you can take through the museum.

Getty Voyager at the Getty VillaGetty Art Detective at Getty Villa

And for my Tween Boys, nothing beats scanning the galleries for ancient statues that are, how shall I put this? Anatomically-correct. What you and I may take as the glorification of the human form, they will see as a punchline. It’s the nature of the Tween Beast for them to be embarrassed by seeing naked bodies, and giggling is the by-product. Works for me – at least they’ve found some reason to walk through and see the art that they’ll one day study in Art History without complaining.

No matter how you explore, I recommend enjoying a meal at the cafeteria. Not only will you experience the lovely views of the museum and surrounding canyon, but you’ll get a very good meal, too! Delicious food, with something for just about everybody.

Admission to the Getty Villa is always free, but you’ll need to make reservations. They do charge for parking, however. Worth the drive up PCH any day.

Sarah Auerswald is a co-Founder of MomsLA, and writes about navigating 21st Century Los Angeles with her 2 Tween Boys at Sarah And Sons.

Sarah Auerswald (359 Posts)

Sarah Auerswald is the CEO and Co-Founder of MomsLA. She writes about life in LA while raising her 2 sons and is the founder of She was an English Major at Brown University, and yet nowadays feels free to ignore grammar rules anytime she wants. Like Now. She's married, uses a Mac, and grew up in Hawaii.


  1. I’ve been meaning to make a trip out to the Getty for awhile now. Sounds like I’m going to have to make it happen sooner or later.
    That’s funny about your son’s being aware of the naked body parts!

  2. My 7- & 3.5-year-old boys & I had a lot of fun at the Getty Center this summer – we actually spent the entire time strolling the gardens outside! This place is also on our to-do list, too, so it’s great to read that it’s worth the visit.

  3. Adrienne Van Houten

    Sounds like I need to take the grand daughter. Still think the twins are too young

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