I'm not one of those people who can spend a whole week doing nothing
but visiting art galleries and museums, but I do enjoy them in moderation.
Golden Gate Park
The California Academy of Sciences (basically a natural history museum),
the DeYoung art gallery, a Flower Conservatory and a Japanese Tea Garden
are clustered together inside Golden Gate Park. Good stuff, but (apart
from the Tea Garden) not really very different to museums or art
galleries in Sydney (or anywhere else, probably).
The Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix
This botanical garden has the most amazing collection of cacti. It
also has exhibits on Indian adaptations to the desert environment and
a model house designed for desert conditions. I spent
most of a day here, and found it more interesting than the nearby
The Getty Museum
On the coast in North-West Los Angeles, the J. Paul Getty museum is a
reconstructed Roman villa. Set in the trees far enough from the road
that the traffic noise doesn't reach, it is a really peaceful place to
spend a day. Downstairs is all classical stuff, but upstairs there's
an assortment of European paintings, sculpture, manuscripts and
suchlike. Admission is free if you come by bus; you have to pay to
park a car.
The Museum of Tolerance (LA)
Run by the Simon Wiesenthal centre, the museum is mostly devoted to
the Holocaust, but one section is about
intolerance in general (particularly in the US). This is heavily
interactive, with lots of A/V and computer displays. The Holocaust
section is a walkthrough documentary. Upstairs there is a multimedia
resource centre for Holocaust studies. Powerful stuff emotionally, but for me
the A/V approach is never as good as a book at presenting information.
The ideal target audience would be high school children, but from what I saw
most of the clientele appears to be middle-aged and middle-class.