We’re always impressed with the exhibitions at the Skirball – they’re intellectually challenging and equally stimulating visually. The Skirball Cultural Center heralds an interest in expanding its reach to all peoples, not just those of the Jewish faith, as might be commonly assumed. The Museum’s mission is “to explore the connections between four thousand years of Jewish heritage and the vitality of American democratic ideals. It seeks to welcome and inspire people of every ethnic and cultural identity in American life. Guided by our respective memories and experiences, together we aim to build a society in which all of us can feel at home.” Inside the handsome walls of this institution, which was designed by Moshe Safdie, are halls and galleries that all Angelenos can call their own.
1. Noah’s Ark
A delightful array of exotic animals constructed entirely of recycled material fills the museum’s premier exhibit. It’s popularity can be attributed to it’s ultra-creative and interactive aspects; pay special attention to the giraffe in the third main room (it will be on your right in the corner) and the elephant in the second to last room. If your kids are adventurous and decide to climb through the play structure created as part of the exhibit, they’ll find a lever—which can only be accessed from inside the structure—that controls the elephant’s trunk. The exhibit is designed in three zones. In the first, the stormy atmosphere is meant to be representative of challenges faced by the animals in the story (and perhaps this can be extended to your own life). In the second, you and the animals will find shelter inside the ark itself and enjoy the time to play. In the third, the flood has receded and a rainbow signifies hope for a better world. If you and your kids are feeling more hopeful after experiencing the exhibit, go ahead and channel that into artwork of your own–there are craft tables set up at the very end of the exhibit.
2. Noah’s Ark Store
If you can get your child to leave Noah’s Ark without wanting to take something from it home, we commend you. If not, head to the gift shop upstairs. Souvenirs such as drawing and picture books, calendars, key chains, and stuffed animals are available. It’s a great way to give your kids something to remember the exhibit by without hurting your wallet.
3. Dig It!
The second floor above the Noah’s Ark exhibit holds the opportunity for children to make their own archeological discoveries. Before you head there, you can give them an idea of what to look for by examining the archaeological findings showcased outside the main entrance to Noah’s Ark. Have your kids dig through the sand pits for archeological treasure. Keep in mind that this feature of the museum is only open Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
4. Family Amphitheater
Once you exit Noah’s Ark, you’ll immediately come across Skirball’s gorgeous outdoor amphitheater. Summer at the Skirball is prime time to bring the kids along for a fun afternoon of dance and music performances (like Sunset Concerts). Go to the museum’s calendar for a full schedule of performances dates and times.
Down the stairs and across the amphitheater from the amphitheater is the Art Studio. Here, children can apply their inspiration and create their own artwork, whether it be a crayon drawing or an animal puppet modeled after animals from the ark. With three large wooden tables, a plethora of art supplies and copious amounts of natural light, the Art Studio contains all the necessary supplies for your children to make their own masterpieces. We suggest checking out the Art Studio during a Family Weekend, held on the last Saturday and Sunday of every month from 10:00 AM-4:30 PM.
6. Rainbow Arbor
After spending some time in the Art Studio, lead your kids outside to Rainbow Arbor where children can cool down in the mist without getting too wet. When your kids decide its too hot outside but too soon to go inside, take them to Rainbow Arbor, located just across from the amphitheater. Here, children can cool down in mist without getting too wet. Not only is this a beautiful photo opportunity with the garden surrounding a mist-engulfed bridge, it’s also a great way to escape L.A. heat!
7. Statue of Liberty Hand
In the Visions and Values exhibit located just to the right of the main entrance, one room in particular is dominated by an impressive replica of the Statue of Liberty’s hand holding a flaming torch. The exhibit as a whole contains rotating items from the Skirball’s permanent collection, and aims to educate its visitors about the history of the Jewish people. This includes immigration—of both Jews and other races—to the United States. Keep in mind that this exhibit also touches on the history of the Holocaust, which may be heavy for youngsters.
8. Mark Taper Foundation Courtyard Pond
After your tour of Visions and Values, walk beyond the membership desk, around the corner and out the door to arrive at a lovely outdoor pond. There is usually plenty of seating outside, so we recommend you grab a sandwich or cookie from the café and soak up the sun. And besides pretty scenery, the pond offers a nice mid-museum trip break from all the walking around.
9. Zeidler’s Café
Zeidler’s always offers some interesting new cuisine. The café has everything from fresh fish to gourmet sandwiches to satisfy every member of the family. Oftentimes the museum coordinates it’s food offerings to match themes of an exhibit, so be sure to stop by and make the most out of your visit!
10. Family Sleepovers
The opportunity to sleep over at museums around the country is becoming increasingly prevalent, and the Skirball’s “Art After Dark” program is one you won’t want to miss. The museum’s sleepovers always draw upon themes of current exhibits, and a great way to spend extra time with some favorite family art. Festivities include an after-hours tour, bedtime stories, dinner, and breakfast. Advanced registration is required; call the museum at 310-440-4500 to find out when the next sleepover is scheduled.
Past articles about The Skirball Cultural Center:
Gary Baseman at the Skirball: The Door is Always Open
Exodus Steps at Skirball Cultural Center: Fun for all ages!
American Hanukkah: A Celebration of Freedom festival at the Skirball
Creating the United States at the Skirball Cultural Center