The La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California was on our MUST SEE list during our epic 9000 mile road trip. I’d always heard how it was right in the heart of LA but wasn’t prepared for how LITERALLY right next to everything it was!
On one side of the street are beautiful little apartments, and right across the street are bubbling ponds of tar, well, asphalt really. You will SMELL the La Brea Tar Pits before you see them!
Are the La Brea Tar Pits free?
Yes! Well, the grounds are free to visit which includes all of the actual tar pits and outdoor observation areas! If you want to visit the museum you will need to purchase tickets.
How much is parking at the La Brea Tar Pits?
On-site parking for $15 per vehicle or the No. 20 bus also stops by the property.
We put the address in our GPS and headed to the La Brea Tar Pits. When we arrived we pulled into this slim packed parking lot a little confused as to where we actually needed to go. You’ll actually walk down to the end of the parking lot and come to a vast open field of sidewalks and see SOME of the tar pits right there fenced in!
Hold your nose! They are STINKY!!! But the grounds are VERY well kept (and free!) and arriving at this fencing is JUST the beginning of what you need to see before leaving the La Brea Tar Pits! There is a stunning museum AND far more pits to discover around the property! In fact my favorite one was the last thing we discovered before leaving!
Each fenced off tar pit had signs to read about the area which was absolutely fascinating and gave you a greater understanding of what you were looking at…..and smelling! It’s amazing to think you’re looking at this bubbling pit of goo that scientists have pulled up enormous amounts of skeletons from! Very primal!
La Brea Tar Pits Museum:
You can visit the La Brea Tar Pits (outside) for FREE, but the museum has a fee. We found it cheapest to buy a package deal on the Go City Card for the various attractions we needed in California.
Perhaps one of my kids’ favorite exhibits was in the beginning of the La Brea Tar Pits Museum when we got to try and pull things out of trapped tar! It really gave us a better realization of just how hard it was for these animals to try and escape once they were stuck.
How many fossils have been found at the La Brea Tar Pits?
Over 3.5 MILLION fossils have been discovered at the La Brea Tar Pits! WOW! They have discovered snakes, mollusks, sloths, mountain lions, dire wolf, saber tooth cats, mastodons, bees & insects, plants, birds and even an occasional squirrel gets trapped.
As you can imagine the museum was FULL of skeletons, skulls, and other bones from animals that have been pulled out of these tar pits over the years. Although my 4 year old moved through the museum pretty quickly, my older kids and I spent a LOT more time here.
The museum felt very open with plenty of space to move around.
The quality of the exhibits were impressive. Make sure you look up too! Some of my favorite pieces from the exhibit were displayed far up above your head near the ceiling!
Inside the museum is also a beautiful nature walk area that makes a PERFECT spot for photos near the waterfall! And you absolutely CAN’T MISS the Dire Wolf Wall – it’s absolutely astounding and my favorite “WOW” moment in the museum!
Outside on the Grounds of the La Brea Tar Pit:
After we visited inside the museum we realized that there were MORE tar pits outside that we didn’t know about! DON’T MISS THESE!!
Aside from the one or two large fenced in tar pit areas when you arrive on the grounds there is an entire “tar pit walk” including the above area (my favorite area outside!) where you can actually see an ACTIVE “digging” site!
Looking at this area not only gave you a greater grasp on just how DEEP these tar pits are but also how incredibly sticky and messy the work is that these scientists are doing!
The pathways will wind you through various lab areas and storage crates holding specimens from the pits.
There is even a giant ground sloth (actually a few!) that is fun for kids to take pictures with! There’s plenty of green grassy areas to run around with the kids on the grounds of the La Brea Tar Pits – just watch your footing because little bubbly areas of gooey tar are popping up everywhere! It was incredible!
Is it worth it to visit the La Brea Tar Pits museum?
This was a question we debated for quite some time as a family, simply because we were already driving 9000 miles on our road trip and we had to justify the expense of every attraction to decide what we wanted to do the most.
I will say the museum is high quality and beautifully done and certainly helped us understand the vast spectrum of research and importance of the tar pits. If you’re traveling from a far distance I do recommend adding the museum on your list to do. It was a fascinating experience and this makes a great couple hour to half day trip in LA.
Other Pacific Coast Adventures: