VIDEO: Getty Up! (The Getty Center)

Posted In: Airstream, Blog, California, Destinations, Video

Suppose you had an extra couple of billion dollars in your bank account that you wanted to give back to your community. What would you do with it?

Here in the United States, you could just cut a check to each individual resident. It would be one hell of an automatic bill pay. Assuming we have 300 million people in the States, we’d each get a check for $6.66. Of course, the Satanic overtones of this gift would cause mass hysteria, civil unrest, and riots.

Okay, so what else would you do?

A dead fellow in California (or at least his estate) faced this unfortunate dilemma and crafted a novel solution. His $2 billion went towards the construction of a ridiculously nice arrangement of buildings. Outside the buildings is a lavish assortment of water features and lush greenery. Inside the buildings are some outrageously valuable paintings, statues, and pictures.

Is this the best use of $2 billion? I don’t know. But the J. Paul Getty Center is pretty damn impressive.

The facilities of the Getty are immaculate. This is no ordinary museum – it’s a custom-built Italian travertine palace. It’s perfectly positioned on 740 acres of land in the Santa Monica mountains. It’s so well removed from the rest of Los Angeles that it has its own monorail system.

The architecture and grounds of the Getty are so compelling that they arguably overshadow the art. You can take an audio tour (highly recommended) that does nothing but discuss the complex itself.

I’m not really a “museum guy.” I like museums as much as the average person. But when we arrive in a new place, I don’t make a beeline for the nearest museum. I find LIVING people much more interesting than dead people. I’m more likely to be found staring at a tall glass of ale in a local pub than staring at an ancient marble statue.

With that said, I’ve had some wonderful experiences in museums around the world. The Getty is one of the most memorable.

What strikes me as most unusual about the Getty is its cost. No, I’m not referring to the $2 billion, but rather the admission fee. THERE IS NONE. Admission is free.

Yes, $2 billion of Mr. Getty’s money went towards building a spectacular museum that ANYONE can access pretty much any day of the week for FREE. You can go seven days a week, if you like. Just stroll right in like you own the place.

That $54 million Van Gogh painting? Oh, that old thing? Gaze at it as long as you like (or at least until they close up shop).

When I think about the “no cost” activities we’ve enjoyed on our Airstream travels, my mind usually goes towards outdoorsy adventures like hikes. But in truth, hikes often aren’t completely free. You pay fees to enter national parks. Those parks are maintained by your taxes.

The Getty is about as free as it gets.

There is one charge at the Getty, and that is parking. If you want to park in the Getty lot (which is located at the base of the mountain), they’ll stick you for $15. I’m told there are other parking options nearby, and you can take public transportation to the Getty. So with a little planning, you can go enjoy this billion-dollar bonanza with zero expense.

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