The asphalt that seeps at the La Brea Tar Pits represent the only consistently active and urban Ice Age excavation site in the world. This makes the Page Museum a unique on-site museum — a place where fossils are discovered, prepared, and displayed in one place. All year-long, you can watch paleontological excavators carefully extract fossils of animals trapped in the seeps 10,000 to 40,000 years ago. Inside the Museum is the next step of the process, as scientists and volunteers clean, repair and identify those fossils.
Located in the heart of Los Angeles, the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits is one of the world’s most famous fossil localities. This on site Museum displays Ice Age fossils — including saber-toothed cats, dire wolves, mammoths and mastodons, as well as fossilized remains of microscopic plant remains, insects and reptiles. But you can also watch the processes of paleontology unfold every day inside the glass-enclosed Fish Bowl Lab, where scientists and volunteers prepare fossils including “Zed,” a recently discovered male Columbian mammoth. The Page Museum is currently excavating and studying a cache of recently unearthed fossils known as Project 23, an endeavor that could double the Museum’s already tremendous collection of more than three million Ice Age specimens and inform decades of new research. Outside the Museum, in Hancock Park, the Pleistocene Garden and iconic life-size replicas of extinct mammals depict the life that once grew, and roamed, in the Los Angeles Basin.
Rancho La Brea was a Mexican Land Grant of over 4,400 acres given to Antonio Jose Rocha in 1828, with the provision that the residents of the pueblo could have access to as much asphalt as they needed for personal use. As Los Angeles grew, the Rancho was eventually subdivided and developed. Its last owner was George Allan Hancock, who recognized the scientific importance of the fossils found in the asphalt deposits. Hancock Park was created in 1924 when he donated 23 acres of the ranch to the County of Los Angeles with the stipulation that the park be preserved and the fossils properly exhibited.
Explore the park, the bubbling asphalt pits, and the excavation sites. Then go inside the Museum to see what they do with all they fossils the find!
Whether you plan to have your visit to the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits be self-guided or organized around their daily public-guided tours, you will discover and explore the largest and most diverse assemblage of extinct Ice Age plants and animals in the world. You can learn about Los Angeles as it was between 10,000 and 40,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age, when animals roamed the Los Angeles basin. Through windows at the Fishbowl Laboratory, you can watch bones being cleaned and repaired. Outside the Museum, in Hancock Park, life-size replicas of several extinct mammals are featured.
Here are a few itineraries to help you plan your visit:
Every day, Page Museum educators bring the museum and the park to life!
Weekdays: 1 pm and 3 pm
Weekends: 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm
* Whether the tour is inside or outside is determined the same day.
In the guided tour of Hancock Park and the La Brea Tar Pits, you learn about the fascinating tar pit formation, and how animals and plants became entrapped in the asphalt. Tour highlights may include: Pit 91 where you can view fossils still embedded in an excavation pit; their current excavation, Project 23, where excavators work seven days a week; and their authentic Pleistocene or Ice Age garden. Tours last 30 minutes to one hour.
The guided tour of the Page Museum highlights their extensive and expanding collection of over 3.5 million Ice Age fossils. See the Fishbowl Lab, where paleontologists process recent finds from their ongoing excavation. The Fishbowl is a busy, glass-walled paleontological laboratory in the center of the Museum that offers visitors an exceptional opportunity to witness how Ice Age fossils are cleaned, studied, and prepared for exhibit. Assisted by skilled volunteers, a team of paleontologists are currently working on specimens from Project 23, a rich deposit that has yielded a cornucopia of Ice Age fossils from animals including extinct saber-toothed cats and mammoths that were entrapped in the asphalt. Tours last 30 minutes to one hour.
One of the most surprising features of the Page Museum is its Atrium. The beautiful, tree-filled courtyard at the center of the museum draws natural light into the building and provides a peaceful spot for you to contemplate the prehistoric wonders nearby. Families snap pictures of children mesmerized by the colorful koi fish swimming in circles in the gurgling pond. Ginkgo trees hang over the plentiful benches, a popular reading spot for visitors. In the Spring, hummingbirds begin to set up their nests in the bamboo trees planted throughout the uncovered, 9,000-square-foot terrain.
Places to Eat
While no food or beverages are allowed inside the Page Museum collections and exhibits area, their Museum Store does sell bottled water, snacks and candy. The store is located in the lobby. There are picnic benches and tables located outside the Museum in Hancock Park.
This is a great family outing and a wonderful secret to discover and learn about Los Angels – a museum that displays ancient treasures at the very site they were discovered.
WHAT: Page Museum – La Brea Tar Pits
WHEN: Monday – Sunday | 9:30 am – 5 pm
WHERE: 5801 Wilshire Boulevard | Los Angeles, CA 90036
CONTACT INFO: (323) 934-7243
- Prices: Children 5-12 $5.00 |Youths 13-17, Seniors 62+, and college students with I.D. $8.00 | Adults $11.00 | Children 4 and under, EBT cardholders with I.D., CA teachers with I.D., and active military with I.D. Free
- Parking: Monday – Friday $9.00 cash only | Saturday, Sunday and holidays $7.00 cash only
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- La Brea Tar Pits (sandwalk.blogspot.com)
- Tar Pit Tour: The Ice Age Miracle From Miracle Mile (wired.com)
- Remarkable Creatures: At La Brea Tar Pits, Relics From Long Before Freeways (nytimes.com)