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La Brea Tar Pits & Museum

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Attractions Details

📌 Address

639 S Curson Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036, USA

Opening Hours

8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

Free

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expert
Colm
Local tour guide
"Visit the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum during the weekday mornings to avoid large crowds and have a more intimate experience with the exhibits. Don't forget to check out the Pit 91 viewing station, where you can sometimes chat with the scientists and volunteers working on excavating fossils—it's a unique chance to see paleontology in action that many visitors overlook."

What is La Brea Tar Pits & Museum?

La Brea Tar Pits & Museum is one of Los Angeles's most unique and fascinating attractions. Nestled in the urban heart of the Mid-Wilshire district, this site is a window into the natural history of Southern California, showcasing the prehistoric world through the remains of mammals, insects, and plants that were trapped in the pits over tens of thousands of years ago. As a natural asphalt (tar) seepage where tar has been bubbling up from the ground for millennia, the pits have preserved an incredible variety of fossils, which are continuously being excavated and researched even to this day.

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History of La Brea Tar Pits & Museum

The history of La Brea Tar Pits spans back over 40,000 years, where the natural asphalt on the site began trapping animals, and the preserved fossils provide a glimpse into the past ecosystems of the region. Human interaction with the pits can be traced back to the indigenous peoples using the tar for waterproofing and adhesive purposes. However, it was not until 1913 that the site caught wide scientific attention when geologist W.W. Orcutt conducted excavations revealing large numbers of fossils. This discovery spurred further research and exploration, eventually leading to the establishment of the museum in 1977.

The excavation sites, or 'pits,' were first mistaken by early European settlers as springs, but it soon became evident that the thick sludge was a treasure trove of preserved bones. The numerous finds, such as the well-preserved skeletons of dire wolves, saber-toothed cats, and mammoths, made headlines worldwide. Over time, the Hancock family, which owned the land, recognized its significance and donated the property to Los Angeles County, ensuring the preservation and study of this rich paleontological resource. Today, it remains one of the world's preeminent sites for Ice Age fossils.

Why is La Brea Tar Pits & Museum Important?

The significance of La Brea Tar Pits & Museum lies in its incredibly well-preserved collection of fossils, providing an invaluable record of life during the late Pleistocene Epoch, around 10,000 to 40,000 years ago. For scholars and scientists, it offers a rare opportunity to study this period's flora and fauna, contributing to our understanding of how species have evolved or become extinct. For the public, it's an engaging educational resource that highlights the importance of conservation and understanding our planet's history.

Moreover, the La Brea Tar Pits are a living laboratory, with active excavations that often uncover new finds, shaping our knowledge of prehistoric life. The site is unique for its urban location, which is a striking juxtaposition to the ancient life forms it holds within. It allows for direct observation of paleontological work in a way that few other museums can offer, all while serving as a reminder of the natural history beneath the bustling city of Los Angeles.

Things to Do & See at La Brea Tar Pits & Museum

Visiting La Brea Tar Pits & Museum is a multi-sensory experience filled with engaging activities for all ages. You can roam the park and observe the tar pits where excavation work is often occurring; it's fascinating to see the tar still bubbling to the surface. Inside the museum, you can witness the rich collection of fossils, examining up close the bones of creatures that walked the Earth millennia ago.

Don't miss the opportunity to see paleontologists at work in the Fossil Lab, where they meticulously clean and preserve new discoveries. Another must-see is the immersive Ice Age Encounters show, which brings the past to life with a life-sized saber-toothed cat puppet thrilling both children and adults alike.

For those with a keen interest in botany, the Pleistocene Garden recreates the ancient habitat that once thrived here, and the park surrounding the museum is a great spot for a picnic or leisurely walk. You can take your time exploring the exhibits, such as the Pavilion of Pits, which include Pit 91 and the Observation Pit, offering a vista into the depths where so many fossils were discovered.

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Frequently asked questions

What are the La Brea Tar Pits?

The La Brea Tar Pits are a group of tar pits around which Hancock Park was formed in urban Los Angeles. Natural asphalt has seeped up from the ground in this area for thousands of years, preserving the bones of trapped animals.

What can you see at the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum?

At the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum, visitors can see a wide range of Ice Age fossils that were preserved in the tar pits, including saber-toothed cats, mammoths, and dire wolves. The museum also features exhibits, 3D movies, and demonstrations of the fossil preparation process.

How were the fossils at La Brea Tar Pits & Museum preserved?

The fossils at the La Brea Tar Pits were preserved as a result of animals becoming trapped in the natural asphalt that seeps up from the ground. Over time, their remains were encased in tar, which protected them from decay and scavengers.

Is the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum suitable for children?

Yes, the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum is family-friendly and offers a range of educational and interactive exhibits that are suitable for children. It's a great way for kids to learn about paleontology and the Ice Age.

Where are the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum located?

The La Brea Tar Pits & Museum is located in Hancock Park at 5801 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036. It's part of the larger complex known as the Museum Row on the famous Miracle Mile.

Attractions Details

📌 Address

639 S Curson Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036, USA

Opening Hours

8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

Free

Find it on google maps