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Need a unique holiday gift? Try an L.A. museum membership

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This is part of the L.A. Times 2021 gift guide. See the full guide here.

What if you gave your favorite people the gifts of access, focus and escape? What if, instead of more stuff, you gave them memberships that get them into great places for a year? These memberships might fill the bill. (Prices quoted are for individual membership.)

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

A photo of the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

This long-awaited cinema showcase opened Sept. 30 at Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue next to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Perks include priority admission, early access on member days, screening invitations and 10% off in the museum store.

$100 | 👉 Purchase here

Aquarium of the Pacific

A sea turtle swims inside a tank at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

This Long Beach waterfront fixture opened in 1998. Perks include discounted parking, guest tickets and day camp sessions, and 10% off in the aquarium store.

$89 | 👉 Purchase here

Autry Museum of the American West

A man leans forward to inspect are at the Autry Museum of the American West.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

The main museum in Griffith Park aims to examine all aspects of the West. Perks include admission to exhibitions, 10% discount in the shop and cafe, and discounts on ticketed events and performances.

$55 | 👉 Purchase here

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Bowers Museum

Lali Cervantes, 13, of Covina, views an exhibit at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

This museum in Santa Ana explores cultures worldwide through their arts. Perks include admission, early access to reservations for ticketed shows, and 10% off at the shop and the restaurant.

$50 | 👉 Purchase here

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

A man shows a sea star to students at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro.

(Cabrillo Marine Aquarium)

This aquarium, a San Pedro landmark that dates to the 1930s, covers everything from grunion to whales. Membership perks include invitations to members-only events, free parking, discounts on workshops and other public programs, and 10% off at the aquarium store.

$50 | 👉 Purchase here

California State Parks Explorer parking pass

McWay Falls drops over an 80-foot cliff onto the beach at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The state parks system’s Explorer pass gets you free parking at most (but not all) state parks that charge for parking. It doesn’t affect the price you pay to camp or get you into Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation areas.

$195 | 👉 Purchase here

Catalina Island Conservancy

A North American Bison roams free and grazes near Little Harbor campground in Catalina.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Friends of the conservancy get a campground discount, free access to the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden, and 5% off at the Trailhead Store.

$35 | 👉 Purchase here

Center Theatre Group

 A photo of the Center Theatre Group production of "Linda Vista."

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Known for socially conscious programming since the 1960s, Center Theatre Group runs three stages, including the Ahmanson downtown (live shows to resume Nov. 30). Perks at the $100 friends level include access to digital events and early access to tickets for live CTG productions at preferred prices. This year’s subscriptions (seven shows) start at $245.

Prices vary | 👉 Purchase here

Craft Contemporary Museum

Children climbing in the Craft Contemporary Museum's Hizume Tunnel.

(Craft Contemporary Museum)

The museum, on Wilshire Boulevard’s Miracle Mile in various forms since 1965, focuses on contemporary art “made from craft media and processes.” Members get admission, invitations to openings and special events, a 10% discount in the museum’s shop, a 10% discount at local Artist & Craftsman Art Supply locations, and a subscription to a quarterly newsletter.

$60 | 👉 Purchase here

Descanso Gardens

Tulips bloom at Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

This green retreat in La Cañada Flintridge covers 150 acres. Perks include admission, early entrance, discounts on special events, 10% off at the cafe and the gift shop, access to member-only classes and events, and reciprocal privileges at other gardens.

$70 | 👉 Purchase here

Friends of Griffith Park

Hikers walk on a paved road in Griffith Park near the Hollywood sign.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

This group works to preserve and improve the 4,310 acres of Griffith Park. Perks include a member newsletter, invitations to public programs and volunteer opportunities. (Park admission is free to all.)

$25 | 👉 Purchase here

Grammy Museum

A man stands in front of a mural of angel wings outside the Grammy Museum.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

This downtown shrine to music has been open since 2008. Perks include admission, early access to tickets and discounts on many museum events, 10% off at the museum store, and discounts at many neighboring L.A. Live businesses.

$75 | 👉 Purchase here

The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

A person takes a photograph at the Chinese Garden at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

At this 207-acre San Marino compound, once a private estate, perks include admission, 10% store discounts, invitations to events, and savings on some lectures and classes.

$159 | 👉 Purchase here

Japanese American National Museum

New US Postal stamps "Go For Broke" at the Japanese American National Museum.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

For 30 years, this Little Tokyo landmark has been telling stories of the Japanese American community. Perks include admission, free or discounted admission to programs and workshops, invitations to museum events, discounts from some neighboring businesses and 10% off at the museum store.

$60 | 👉 Purchase here

Kidspace Children’s Museum

A child playing at Kidspace.

Perks at this Rose Bowl-adjacent space in Pasadena include admission for a child and adult, access to members-only events and early registrations, and discounts on camps, classes and store purchases.

$90 | 👉 Purchase here

Los Angeles County Arboretum

Visitors admire plants during a cactus and succulent show at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia.

(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

This 127-acre preserve in Arcadia goes back to the 1940s. Perks include member-only hours from 7:30 to 9 a.m. most days and admission to the Arboretum Summer Nights concert series, which is scheduled to return in 2022.

$70 | 👉 Purchase here

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Chris Burden's "Urban Light" installation at LACMA has become one of the city's most popular landmarks.

(Maria Alejandra Cardona / Los Angeles Times)

LACMA, the largest art museum in the American West, stands on Wilshire Boulevard’s Miracle Mile, partially open while its sleek new main building is taking shape, with completion due in 2024. Perks include admission, members-only access hours and events, and 10% to 20% off at the store.

$80 | 👉 Purchase here

Los Angeles Philharmonic

Violinist Randall Goosby takes bows as conductor Gustavo Dudamel claps at the L.A. Philharmonic's Hollywood Bowl.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

At the Prelude level, perks from one of the world’s foremost orchestras include 10% off at the L.A. Phil and Hollywood Bowl stores and Hollywood Bowl seat-cushion vouchers.

$75 | 👉 Purchase here

Los Angeles Times

The homepage of the Los Angeles Times

We’re all about Southern California and we never stop gathering news at the Los Angeles Times. The prices below are for a web-only subscription. After the first six months, the price rises to $4 per week.

$1 for first 6 months | 👉 Purchase here

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

A giraffe stands on the green hillsides in its habitat at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Perks at this Palm Desert collection of plants and animals include admission, 10% off on food and gift shop items, discounts on programs and guest passes, and free or reduced admission to scores of zoos and other institutions nationwide.

$89.95 | 👉 Purchase here

Los Angeles Zoo

N'djia eats an ice treat in the Western Lowland Gorilla exhibit at the L.A. Zoo.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Perks at this Griffith Park institution include daytime admission, access without reservations and 10% off in shops and restaurants.

$60 | 👉 Purchase here

Museum of Contemporary Art

People waiting in line.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

This downtown museum’s membership perks include admission, discounted parking, access to opening receptions and members-only hours, priority entry into programs, and 10% off at store and restaurant.

$79 | 👉 Purchase here

Museum of Latin American Art

The exterior of the Museum of Latin American Art.

(Museum of Latin American Art)

This Long Beach museum goes back to 1996. Perks include admission, 10% off at the store, and discounts at local restaurants and retailers.

$60 | 👉 Purchase here

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Visitors at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Perks include free access to the museum in Exposition Park (including traveling exhibitions and the butterfly and spider pavilions), as well as the La Brea Tar Pits on the Miracle Mile and the William S. Hart Museum in Newhall.

$99 | 👉 Purchase here

Palm Springs Art Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum

(Lance Gerber / Palm Springs Art Museum)

Perks include admission, guest passes, 10% discounts are shop and restaurant, priority entry for museums, and a digital magazine.

$65 | 👉 Purchase here

Theodore Payne Foundation

The Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers & Native Plants has created a clever set of flashcards.

(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

The Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers & Native Plants has a 22-acre nursery in Sun Valley. Perks include 10% off on plants, seeds and gear, up to 25% off on classes and a newsletter subscription.

$60 | 👉 Purchase here

Petersen Automotive Museum

 Petersen Automotive Museum on Wilshire Boulevard.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

You can’t miss this Wilshire Boulevard shrine to the car — it’s wrapped in stainless steel ribbons. Perks include guest admission, 10% off at the museum store, early access to some programming and reciprocal privileges at similar museums.

$85 | 👉 Purchase here

Sherman Library & Gardens

Kelly McCann relaxes in the sun garden at the Sherman Library & Gardens.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

This Corona del Mar institution includes a library specializing in the history of the Pacific Southwest. Perks include access to the gardens, 15% off in garden shop and reciprocal privileges at scores of other American Horticultural Society gardens nationwide.

$60 | 👉 Purchase here

Norton Simon Museum

The Norton Simon Museum's Garden Pond.

(The Norton Simon Museum)

This Pasadena institution is rich in European Impressionists and Asian works. Perks include admission, audio tours, preview invitations, 20% off on classes and museum store purchases, and 10% off in the cafe.

$85 | 👉 Purchase here

South Coast Botanic Garden

A tree at the South Coast Botanic Garden.

At this green space on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, perks include admission, discounts on special exhibits and programs, reciprocal privileges in gardens beyond Southern California, and discounts at some local nurseries. Also, members can visit without reservations Monday through Friday.

$45 | 👉 Purchase here

USC Pacific Asia Museum

 USC's Pacific Asia Museum features a green tile roof.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Devoted to the art, history and culture of Pacific Asia, this Pasadena institution has been partnered with USC since 2013. Perks include admission, invitations to members-only previews, a newsletter subscription and discounts of 10% (occasionally more) at shop.

$41 | 👉 Purchase here

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