photo Visit California/Carol Highsmith
For culture fans, California hits the jackpot with world-class museums and art galleries.
In the San Francisco Bay Area travelers will want to visit the de Young museum. Housed in a dramatic copper-clad structure in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, this museum has one of the world’s finest collections of American art, including many international masterworks. Its observation tower offers exceptional city and bay views.
Also in San Francisco, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is a must-see for art connoisseurs. The museum houses some 26,000 pieces within a visually striking building in the city’s South of Market, or SoMa, district.
Visitors stopping in Gold Country will want to explore the California Museum. Revitalized by the state’s former first lady, Maria Shriver, this Sacramento site celebrates notable figures and moments in the state’s history. It also includes the California Hall of Fame.
One of the most beloved spots along the Central Coast is Hearst Castle. Perched high on a coastal bluff, this ornate, art-stuffed compound, built by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, includes the grandiose Casa Grande and three guest houses. Crowd favorites include the outdoor Neptune Pool and the indoor Roman Pool. Booking in advance is a must for many of the tours.
In Los Angeles County, the Getty Center is an iconic museum in the hills overlooking downtown L.A. Its European collection includes works by Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Monet, as well as sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, and photographs from Europe and America.
The seven-building Los Angeles County Museum of Art in downtown Los Angeles is the largest art museum in the western United States, with some 100,000 objects dating from antiquity to the present. The downtown campus includes outdoor performance spaces and the Broad Contemporary Art Museum with works by Richard Serra, Jeff Koons, and other modern art superstars.
In San Diego, Balboa Park is billed as America’s largest urban cultural park, with 17 museums. Stroll or bike from one outstanding site to the next: Museum of Man, San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego Natural History Museum, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, San Diego Air & Space Museum, and other cultural sites including the renowned San Diego Zoo.