Kids-elementary age and older
Cost-Adults-$12, kids and students-free
Pasadena is one of my favorite cities in SoCal. Ask me why and I couldn't give you a very specific reason. Maybe it's the world class museums, the restaurants, the old homes and storefronts and vintage California feel, or that fantastic book store on Colorado Blvd. It's certainly a magic combination of all of those attributes, plus many more, that makes it a great place to spend the day.
The Norton Simon Museum is one of those world class museums I mentioned. Almost everyone has seen it, even if they don't realize it. Remember back to countless New Years Days while watching that endless loop of the Rose Parade. In the background was a brown brick building (which are actually umber tiles and not brick at all) with a giant rose on the side-that's the Norton Simon.
The Museum is separated into five main galleries and a sculpture garden: 14th-16th centuries, 17th-18th centuries, 19th century, 20th century, and South and Southeast Asian. All the galleries are impressive, but personally we always find the collection of impressionists of the 19th century and the stunning Asian collection most awe-inspiring. Before heading inside, though, be sure to walk out front along Colorado Blvd. and visit Rodin's Thinker.
The sculptures surround the building, but are concentrated in and around the garden behind the museum. If the area looks a bit familiar it is because the inspiration comes from Monet's very famous painting of Giverny. The path is flat and very easy to walk. There is a lot of shade too, so don't let warm weather keep you away from this stunning garden.
I won't speak for the art; I'm no expert and it can speak well enough for itself. Everyone should see some of these master's works at least once in their lives. Lucky are those of us who can visit more than that.
I don't generally recommend this one for small children, but of course all little ones are different. Hushed voices are requested in the galleries and there is nothing hands on. In fact it is very hands off! Some kids handle that better than others. Of course there is the sculpture garden outdoors if kids need a break or some fresh air. There is also a nice little cafe outside and, on the plus side, the food is very tasty. (Cupcakes!) Older kids should absolutely make the visit. I am a strong proponent of introducing kids to art, live music and theater. It brings so much to all our lives, and here they will see works by masters everyone recognizes.
There is a very cool app you can download before you go to listen to the audio tour (does require data usage). There is also an alternative kid-friendly tour. But if data usage is an issue you can listen to the audio tour with one of the museum's devices for $3.00.
It takes several hours to get through the museum, and they are open evenings on Fridays and Saturdays. Most important, they are closed on Tuesdays so don't make the mistake of heading out before checking. Admission is free to everyone the first Friday of every month from 5pm-8pm. Be sure and check out their family events and youth programs on the website.
If you haven't been to this Southland museum, GO! What are you waiting for?
Norton Simon Museum