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Exposition Park in Los Angeles: A great low-cost homeschooling field trip

Updated on October 8, 2014
Photo of the entrance to Exposition Park taken through the window of a (gasp!) school bus. (I work at a school and we went along on their field trip.)
Photo of the entrance to Exposition Park taken through the window of a (gasp!) school bus. (I work at a school and we went along on their field trip.) | Source

Visit Exposition Park for a fun educational day in Los Angeles

Exposition Park in downtown Los Angeles has a wealth of fun and educational attractions all within one campus. Several of them have free admission as well, which makes it a great spot for an exciting and low-cost field trip for you and your kids.

Here's an overview of what Exposition Park has to offer.

This page is part of my set of pages about homeschooling cheaply in Los Angeles.

So many things to do in one place!

A directional sign at Exposition Park.  Photo by Joan Hall.
A directional sign at Exposition Park. Photo by Joan Hall.

Location of Exposition Park

Exposition Park is on Figueroa Street between Martin Luther King Blvd. and Exposition Blvd., just next to the University of Southern California.

Here's their official website: Exposition Park.

The entrance of the Natural History Museum.
The entrance of the Natural History Museum. | Source
The Butterfly Pavilion, an outdoor exhibit that is a part of the Natural History Museum.
The Butterfly Pavilion, an outdoor exhibit that is a part of the Natural History Museum. | Source

Los Angeles County Natural History Museum

One of the must-see destinations of Los Angeles!

The legendary Los Angeles County Natural History Museum is dedicated to teaching about the history of our planet's nature and culture. The three-story museum has a massive collection, with over 35 million specimens!

Everybody loves their dinosaur and animal exhibits (however, when my kids were very small, they found some of them a little scary). They also have exhibits on Latin-American art, U.S. and California history, gems and minerals, and much more.

The museum is open from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm, 7 days a week. Their website shows the current admission prices.

There is free admission to the Natural History Museum on the first Tuesday of most months (call ahead to confirm the free days).

A view from the third floor of the California Science Center.
A view from the third floor of the California Science Center. | Source

California Science Center

The Science Center is my sons' favorite site at Exposition Park. It is known for its multitude of hands-on, interactive stations that demonstrate scientific principles and discoveries.

The California Science Center got its start as the much-beloved Museum of Science and Industry.

The very popular earthquake demo.
The very popular earthquake demo. | Source

The permanent exhibit areas explore inventions, ecosystems, and biology. You can build a quake-resistant building, power a car with light, have a conversation with someone on the other side of a room without raising your voice, see a demonstration of the digestive process, and much much more.

Also part of the Science Center, but in a separate building, is the Air and Space Gallery, which features real-life airplanes and spacecraft and interactive exhibits about aerospace exploration.

The California Science Center is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. And admission is FREE every day! There will sometimes be temporary exhibits that they charge for, but main activity areas are always free.

The IMAX Theater is also a part of the Science Center and shows captivating science-related movies, but seeing the movies is not free.

I made of video of the "Living Tiles" display in the Science Center.

The Rose Garden welcome sign.
The Rose Garden welcome sign. | Source
Some of the thousands of rosebushes in the garden.
Some of the thousands of rosebushes in the garden. | Source

Exposition Park Rose Garden

(Right: The Rose Garden welcome sign.

Below: Some of the thousands of rosebushes in the garden. Photos: Joan Hall)

The Rose Garden is calming haven of beauty, a lovely place to stroll and enjoy the fabulous fragrances, or just sit and rest for a little bit between other adventures.

The Rose Garden was begun in 1927 and boasts hundreds of different varieties of roses. There are also beautiful statues in the garden and a fountain in the middle of it. The garden is a very popular spot for weddings on the weekends.

The Exposition Park Rose Garden is open seven days a week from 9:00 am until sunset.

IMPORTANT: The Rose Garden is closed from January 1st to March 15th every year for pruning of the rosebushes.

The fountain in the center of the Rose Garden. Even boys have fun there.
The fountain in the center of the Rose Garden. Even boys have fun there. | Source

African-American Museum

The African-American Museum debuted in 1981 and focuses, of course, on the experience and contributions of black people in American history and culture.

There is a permanent exhibit that is California-centered, commemorating the roles of blacks in settling the West. There are also many other short-term exhibits that are featured.

The California African-American Museum is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Tuesday through Saturday. On Sundays, their hours are from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. And admission is free!


Other points of interest

A couple more spots that you might want to take a look at while you're at Exposition Park:

  • Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum: The Coliseum is a legendary sports venue that has hosted Super Bowls, World Series and two Olympiads. There used to be tours given, but their current website doesn't say anything about tours still being available, so most likely you would only be able to look at the outside of it.
  • Expo Center: The Expo Center is dedicated to physical fitness, with swimming pools, gyms, and sports fields. A lot of the activities that take place there are scheduled classes and other paid activities. The swim stadium is free for kids and cheap for adults. They have some hours that are dedicated to family swimming, but that time starts at 5:00 in the evening.

Food options at Exposition Park

Inside the Science Center, there is the typical kind of food place you would expect in a museum. There is also a McDonald's.

But if you're trying to keep things low-cost, you can easily bring a lunch. The parking lot is close by and there are plenty of places where you could eat.

What would be the optimum low-cost field trip to Exposition Park?

To get the most bang for your $10 parking fee, here's what I would recommend for the ultimate Exposition Park trip. But do be realistic about how much your kids can handle in a day.

  • For your field trip date, choose a first Tuesday of the month, any month from April to December. Call the Natural History Museum in advance to confirm that they will be having the Free First Tuesday that month.
  • Pack a tasty lunch for yourself and your kids.
  • When you arrive at Exposition Park, the African-American Museum is right by the parking lot, so you can start your day there looking at American History from a niche perspective.
  • After the Af-Am Museum, head over to the other side of the park for your dinosaur encounter at the Natural History Museum.
  • After the Natural History Museum, stop and smell the roses! Go to the Rose Garden, eat your brown-bag lunch there, and rest for a while.
  • As you leave the Rose Garden, the rear entrance of the Science Center will be right in front of you. Enter the Science Center through this back entrance. Your budding scientists will have a ball there.
  • After you've done the Science Center, exit through the back entrance again and go over to the Air & Space Gallery, which is a part of the Science Center but is in a separate area. Check out the flight and space exploration exhibits. When you finish there, it's a short walk back to the parking lot (you'll pass by the Af-Am museum again).

Vote for your favorite Exposition Park attraction!

Which site at Exposition Park is your favorite?

See results

Your comments are welcome - Thanks for reading!

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    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 

      9 years ago from UK

      I've never been to LA but if I do I'll be heading to Exposition Park. Easy to see why it's a top destination for homeschooling field trips.

    • TeacherSerenia profile image


      10 years ago

      OMG - I have never heard of this Exposition Park before today, and yet it sounds MOST exciting. It reminds of the Smithsonian in Washington DC - several museums in one small area. Now I have a reason to visit Los Angeles - if I ever do get there.

      Thanks for a very informative lens.


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