Whatever your interests may be — Old Hollywood, Latino art, horror films or aviation, for example — there is a place in Los Angeles to learn and nerd out a little, filled with artifacts and people who know everything about said topic and its history. Here are some that are very much worth a visit.
Best Place to Buy Sharon Tate's Lipstick
Possessions sometimes seem to possess us; whether we are cleaning out our closets or going on a shopping spree, things seem to have a life of their own. For most of us, when we die, our worldly effects are left to family and friends, donated to thrift shops or given to the garbage man. But when it comes to dearly departed celebrities, this stuff is elevated to collectible status, and it's big business. From Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson to George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Mackie and Jerry Lewis, Julien's Auction House takes care of the business of dealing with famous (usually dead) people's stuff and finding new owners based on the highest bidder. With a large showroom in Beverly Hills and a worldwide reaching website, it has handled Marilyn Monroe's convertible, Hugh Hefner's bed, Sharon Tate's wedding dress and thousands more personal, historical and cultural items of the rich and famous. A visit to the showroom is almost like visiting a museum. Subscribe to Julien's emails for updates on exhibitions and current auctions. 257 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills; juliensauctions.com. —Nikki Kreuzer
Best Place for Latin Love
Located near El Pueblo de Los Angeles, where the city was founded back in 1781, LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes celebrates the influence of Mexican culture on Los Angeles and beyond with art exhibits, educational programs and a plethora of evolving public events. The project, created by L.A. County and a Smithsonian affiliate, includes the inviting plaza area as well as historical landmarks the Vickrey-Brunswig Building and the 1883 Plaza House, both of which showcase Mexican culture by celebrating the past and cultivating the future. There is nowhere better in Los Angeles to learn and understand the history, traditions and accomplishments of Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and Latinos in general. Permanent exhibits (“L.A. Starts Here!” and “Calle Principal: Mi Mexico en Los Angeles”) provide a personal look at families recruited from New Spain in 1781 to colonize Los Angeles, sharing their immigrant journeys via photos, touchscreens, video and artifacts. Regular bookings complement the exhibits, and recurring events (Pláticas y Pruebas, Molcajete Dominguero, Family Day) incorporate food, shopping and music, so it's informational and fun for all. 501 N. Main St., downtown; (213) 542-6259, lapca.org. —Lina Lecaro
Best Trip Back in Time Behind the Cold War Iron Curtain
Culver City may be a quite unexpected place to find a museum dedicated to Soviet political propaganda, but since 2002 the Wende Museum has accepted the mission to preserve and teach the art and culture created by Eastern Bloc countries during the Cold War era of 1945 to 1991. “Wende” in German translates to “turning point,” and this free museum gives an inside glimpse into the Communist world before the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall and the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. The museum showcases more than 100,000 artifacts — often bizarre and intriguing — from a time when everything behind the Iron Curtain was viewed with suspicion, fear and secrecy. From home design such as tableware, telephones and radios to toys, paintings, uniforms, huge chunks of the Berlin Wall and political banners celebrating Communist ideals, the Wende Museum may cause some to reflect on the value of free ideas in our own country and how important it is to question who is controlling us and why. 10808 Culver Blvd., Culver City; wendemuseum.org. —Nikki Kreuzer
Best Place to Learn the History of Masked Maniacs
For fans of slasher pics and video nasties, the Los Angeles branch of the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies offers the opportunity to study up on the culture of cinema carnage. Started in 2016 by Kier-La Janisse, the institute began in Winnipeg as a workshop before launching branches in London and New York. Now in Los Angeles, classes use local scribes, directors and experts to help enlighten the masses on the art of the onscreen kill. However, the goals of the institute are not just to educate but to help the genre as a whole. “The long-term goal is to have more frequent classes making up more in-depth courses, and some kind of internal accreditation … which may be helpful to people hoping to establish a career as writers or filmmakers in the genre,” Janisse says. With topics such as “History of Splatterpunk” and “Big Scares on the Small Screen,” the institute offers regular classes, as well as hosting special events worldwide. The Philosophical Research Society, 3910 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Feliz; miskatonicinstitute.com. —Erin Maxwell
Best Flight Flashback
In the shadow of LAX, the Flight Path Learning Center & Museum has a spectacular collection dedicated to the history of aviation and also gives flight simulator lessons. Spread over several large rooms, colorful exhibits and timelines trace the evolution of flying and display fun memorabilia including model planes, historic photos and airline swag, fascinating to both aviation enthusiasts and vintage aficionados. Probably most impressive is the extraordinary assortment of 500-plus original flight attendant uniforms, including bags and hats; it's the largest public conglomeration of them in the United States. From the very first “stewardess” uniform, a 1930 United Airlines green woolen dress, with cape and beret, to suggestive 1960s mod numbers, psychedelic early-'70s Hawaiian muumuus and everything in between, they are a sure head trip to fashion's past. Finally, outside the museum's back door, gleaming on the LAX tarmac, is an original DC-3 aircraft, where guests can climb aboard, walk down the aisle and take the captain's seat for impressive social media photos. 6661 Imperial Hwy., Westchester; (424) 646-7284, flightpathmuseum.com. —Nikki Kreuzer
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