The California Science Center is overlooked too often by tourists

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 07: Space Shuttle Endeavor at the 2018 Yuri's Night - Earthrise event held at California Science Center on April 7, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 07: Space Shuttle Endeavor at the 2018 Yuri's Night - Earthrise event held at California Science Center on April 7, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images) /

When people plan trips to Los Angeles, it’s usually to head to one of many theme parks and maybe the beach. There often isn’t a lot of thought put into the trip beyond that. But the California Science Center definitely deserves to be on any traveler’s list.

This is a place with an incredible range of experiences to enjoy. It has an impressive array of permanent exhibits not to mention some of the best touring exhibits in the world. This could be the highlight of your trip if you give it a chance.

A California Science Center by any other name…

When this Los Angeles institution opened its doors in 1951, it was known as the California Museum of Science and Industry. Given the nature of the exhibits there at the time and the facility’s goals, that name made a lot of sense of the time.

California Science Center
LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 12: A drone aerial view shows the California Science Center at Exposition Park as Los Angeles County allows more businesses and facilities to reopen today, despite rising COVID-19 infections and deaths on June 12, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. After reporting the countys largest single-day jump in coronavirus cases, health officials are warning that the countys transmission rate of the disease could overwhelm intensive-care units in the next two to four weeks if the increase isn’t reversed. Newly allowed reopenings include gyms and fitness facilities, spectator-free sports venues, day camps, museums, galleries, zoos, aquariums, campgrounds, RV parks, outdoor recreational areas including swimming pools, music, film and television production and hotels for leisure travel. The county’s death toll is currently more than 2,800 with the total number of cases nearing 69,000. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images) /

By 1998, the nature of the center had changed quite dramatically so the name followed suit. After going through an extensive remodel, it was officially rechristened as the California Science Center people know and love today.

Visitors will find it in Exposition Park, which makes it neighbors with a few other prominent destinations. Specifically, the University of Southern California, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and the California African American Museum are all nearby.

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Just to give you an idea of the area you’re heading to, Exposition Park is also home to one of the top iconic sites in the entirety of L.A. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is there, which has played host to multiple Summer Olympics and several professional sports teams.

What is there to do?

Based on the permanent exhibits alone, this is an incredible place to spend time. It’s home to multiple exhibits related to flight and space, including the Space Shuttle Endeavour which was an active participant in NASA’s Space Shuttle program.

Ecosystems is another huge draw. It consists of multiple displays of live animals in different environments. This is tens of thousands of square feet spread over two floors, so plan to spend some time exploring it.

Creative World is interesting because it is made up of highly interactive displays with themes such as transportation and construction. On the other hand, World of Life guides visitors through different aspects of biological life on Earth.

The California Science Center is also home to a variety of special activities like the climbing wall and a kind of insane high wire bicycle. It also has an IMAX theater, which always has something outstanding playing. Just don’t forget that these activities are separate tickets beyond your regular admission.

Keep an eye on the tours

A huge reason to swing by the California Science Center is the touring exhibits. Because of its location in a major world city, this place gets some incredible tours. Naturally, that slowed down a lot during the pandemic but it’s poised to pick up, again.

California Science Center
MIAMI, FLORIDA – MAY 27: Vehicles head north along Interstate 95 on May 27, 2021 in Miami, Florida. As COVID-19 restrictions relax, AAA Travel reports that more people are expected to be driving on the highways throughout Memorial Day weekend. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) /

At the moment, The Art of the Brick is currently on display at the center. Artist Nathan Sawaya has taken over a million LEGO bricks and built 100+ sculptures to be enjoyed. And new ones are being added for the first time in the history of the exhibit.

Just to give you an idea of the kind of touring exhibits the California Science Center can offer, it was home to the King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh for most of 2018. It displayed more than 150 real artifacts from Tutankhamun’s tomb and was a huge draw.

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The California Science Center has an incredibly diverse range of exhibits to suit almost any visitor. And it’s the kind of stop that can turn out to be the unexpected highlight of a trip if you decide to swing by it. Add it to your itinerary, and you won’t be disappointed.