La Brea Tar Pits

Wooly Mammoths in the Middle of LA!

Wooly mammoth

Rancho La Brea

One of my favorite early memories is visiting the La Brea Tar Pits with my family. Trying to work a bone out of the “tar” in one of their exhibits is something I remember having a lot of fun with as a kid!

Today the exhibits are still there and may not be the most cutting edge of the museums LA has to offer, but it still remains an interesting attraction, especially for kids.

La brea tar pits

The Tar Pits themselves are smack dab right in the middle of Los Angeles, which is pretty unusual. Driving down Wilshire Blvd. I always marvel at the giant pool of “tar” bubbling away still doing it's thing after 40,000 years!

Actually, tar isn't quite the correct word, the black substance making up the pits is actually asphalt, produced by the breakdown over eons of marine plankton. LA used to be at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

la brea tar pits

It turns out this asphalt is incredibly sticky and is great at trapping animals and then preserving their remains. “Rancho La Brea” as it is known, has the world's largest and most diverse collection of ice age animal and plant fossils in the world.

Since 1906 over 1 million bones have been extracted from the pits. These bones come from around 231 vertebrates that lived during the last ice age. Extinct creatures like the sabre tooth tiger, dire wolf, giant sloth and wooly mammoth have all been found in the pits.

Even today, the “Tar Pits” are still trapping their prey. On particularly hot days in LA everything from lizards to birds still get trapped in the black gunk.

Sabre tooth tiger

The Page Museum

You can certainly come by the La Brea tar pits simply to wander around, take in the giant tar pit near Wilshire boulevard and enjoy the park the site is situated in. But the George C. Page museum is where the main displays of fossils and Rancho La Brea history can be found.

This is where the proof can be found that the concrete jungle that is LA was once in fact home to roaming animals like the american lion and the giant ground sloth!

page museum

george c. page museum

Inside the museum there are over 30 different exhibits, including reconstructed animals made from their actual fossilized bones. Also, there are robotic sculptures and a glass walled working laboratory.

As I said the museum could use an update, but remains a classic LA attraction. People interested in prehistoric times should definitely put it on their list.

ice age fossils

Pit 91

During the summer months of recent years past “Pit 91” has remained a working excavation site, that visitors could come and view. Unfortunately, work at the site has been temporarily suspended.

Admission and Directions

  • Open 9:30 am to 5:00 pm Daily

    Admission is free on the first Tuesday of each month.

    The museum is closed on Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.

  • Adults: $7.00 Seniors 62 and older and Students with I.D.: $4.50

    Youths 13-17 years old: $4.50 Children 5-12 years old: $2.00 Members and Children under 5: Free

    In terms, of parking their is a structure on Curson st., east of the museum. It costs 9 dollars for the day or 7 dollars with museum validation. We suggest however, trying to find meter parking on 6th street just north of the park. Do NOT park on Wilshire between 7-9am and 4-7pm monday-friday, you will be towed!

    Here is a map of the La Brea Tar Pits' location.

    All in all the La Brea Tar Pits are a fun Los Angeles attraction to visit, especially worthwhile if you can combine the visit with a trip to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) which is just to the west of the George C. Page museum.

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