Special Events at The Natural History Museum of LA

Natural History Museum LA Front

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is the largest natural and historical museum in the western United States. Its collections include nearly 35 million specimens and artifacts and cover 4.5 billion years of history.

Did you know that this space is available for private events? Corporate, social, non-profit, or weddings, The Natural History Museum is a unique and nontraditional venue location to check out!

The History of The Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles opened in Exposition Park in 1913 under its original name, The Museum of History, Science, and Art. The moving force behind it was a museum association founded in 1910. Annually, this 107-year-old museum welcomes about 1,000,000 visitors and is approximately 6 acres in size. Please join Anything But Gray Events, T-Rex Tina, and Aurelia D’Amore Photography as we tour behind the scenes sharing fun facts and looping you in on all the details for your next special event!

With several location options within the museum for special events, both indoors and outdoors, The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles is a unique and interesting venue for weddings, social, corporate, and non-profit events!

Dueling Dinos in the Grand Foyer

The first stop on our behind the scenes museum tour happens just steps from the entrance. These “Dueling Dinos” command attention as you enter the Grand Foyer of the museum. The fossils of the Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops locked in battle are 67 million years old and were discovered by paleontologists in Montana. This space is ideal for a wedding ceremony or cocktail hour as it is smack dab in the middle of both The North American Mammal Hall and African Mammal Hall. From all directions, your guests will be transported back in time to when dinos roamed the Earth!

Natural History Museum Dueling Dinosaur
Natural History Museum
Photo Credit: Jenn Emerling Weddings

Here is that same space as a wedding cake and dessert bar display. As potted plants are not permitted in the museum, please note the ones surrounding the table are faux.

Natural History Museum Dueling Dinosaur

Across the two floors of the Jane G. Pisano Dinosaur Hall, you’ll roam under, around, and above 20 mounted skeletons of the largest and most interesting dinosaurs and sea creatures to ever inhabit prehistoric Earth. T-Rex Tina is trying to get in on the action…

With floor to ceiling marble and wood, the museum stays a moderate temperature all year round.

Natural History Museum Special Events

Don’t forget to look up! The museum’s original ceilings and chandeliers are just as stunning as the subjects in the display cases.

Natural History Museum Dueling Dinosaur

The Grand Foyer is the perfect spot for indoor wedding photos. Who else but your Great, Great Aunt Carol can say they had dinosaurs IN their wedding album? All jokes aside, the natural light flooding into the room creates a soft glow.

Kissing under the Dino!
Photo Credit: Jenn Emerling Photography

To give you an idea of the layout of the museum, here is an aerial-view map of the first floor created by Cecile’s Paper Co. for my clients, Amanda and Mike’s wedding.

African Mammal Hall

Wedding Ceremonies can happen in several locations within the Natural History Museum. The African Mammal Hall, The North American Mammal Hall, The Rotunda, and The Stairs/Garden are the most popular options.

From first-hand experience planning weddings at The Natural History Museum, one of the best pieces of advice I can give couples is to invest in additional lighting. There is no other way of saying this but bluntly. One of the downsides to the museum for special events is the lack of light.

The main source of light in the dark mammal halls comes from the animal dioramas. In a space that dark, so you’ll need to talk with your photographer and videographer about how they best document events in low light. I highly recommend having your photographer and videographer present for a tour along with your lighting designer and wedding planner to you can figure out a lighting plan that works for the vibe of the space and also enhances the background atmosphere of your photographs. Teamwork makes the dream work!

Photo Credit: Jenn Emerling Weddings

To achieve the lighting in the wedding photo above, we rented overhead lighting as well as multiple spotlights. Trying to go without additional lighting is not recommended.

Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum African Mammal Hall

The Becoming Los Angeles Exhibit

The Becoming Los Angeles Exhibit is ideal for locals and visitors alike. As another exhibit that can be added on to your rental package of the first floor, the unique exhibit is home to Los Angeles memorabilia, city dioramas, cultural artifacts as well as Hollywood cinematic treasures.

Natural History Museum Los Angeles History

T-Rex Tina is ready to move in!

Natural History Museum Los Angeles

 Becoming Los Angeles is full of artifacts and stories that will surprise you. You will have the opportunity to meet the diverse groups of people who made this city their home through first-hand stories and experiences from those who lived through it. Drawn to the fertile soil, mountains, beaches, and endless sunshine, LA is home to all kinds of diverse cultures and people which help create the fabric for our colorful city of angels.

Natural History Museum Ofrenda

In this exhibit, content is provided in English and Spanish. Contenido está disponible en inglés y español.

Count the dozens of neighborhoods that make up the Natural History Museum altar (ofrenda) to Los Angeles. Featuring Mexican, Filipino, Korean, African American, Thai, Italian, Jewish, Armenian, Chinese, Japanese, and Muslim cultures, this colorful art piece is a love letter this great city.

Gem and Mineral Hall

One of the hidden “gems” of The Natural History Museum is the Gem and Mineral Hall. Filled with treasures from across the globe, it is truly a sight to behold. Just when you think you have found your favorite piece, you spot another one!

Natural History Museum Hall of Gems
Natural History Museum Hall of Gems
Photo Credit: Jenn Emerling Weddings
Natural History Museum Hall of Gems

T-Rex Tina is ready to rock!

There are over 2,000 minerals, rocks, meteorites, and gems from across the globe in this room! All marked and weighed for your educational pleasure.

Natural History Museum Hall of Gems

The rare gem vault within the Gem and Mineral Hall is available to be opened during weddings, corporate, or social events for an additional fee and added security. Food and drink are not permitted in the Gem and Mineral Hall so having a sign at the door and tray for your guest’s cocktails is key.

Natural History Museum Hall of Gems

T-Rex Tina loves to gaze upon rare and exquisite diamonds, emeralds, and rubies. Sadly, dinosaurs can not read and therefore she can’t tell the difference between real and synthetic gems. Regardless, they are all shiny!

Natural History Museum Hall of Gems gold

The 1840s California was golden. Literally. The first gold discovered in L.A. County was found in 1842. The Natural History Museum has one of the largest gold collections on display in North America including the “Mojave Nugget,” which is the largest known nugget of California gold.

Natural History Museum Hall crystal ball

This quartz crystal ball is showing me you are enjoying our behind the scenes tour and want more information!

North American Mammal Hall

Natural History Museum Bison

A reminder of the additional lighting needed to illuminate this room. The overhead ceiling lights were only on as we prepped the room. Overhead string lights and spots helped illuminate it throughout the evening.

Photo Credit: Jenn Emerling Weddings
Natural History Museum Special Events

Fun Fact!

As an LA native, I have been visiting this museum since childhood. In fact, my mother was a part-time docent at The Natural History Museum and their fellow property, The La Brea Tar Pits when I was an infant.

Natural History Museum Special Events

Romanesque, Neoclassical, Beaux-Arts, Plateresque architecture styles can be found throughout the museum’s design. If you are an architecture junkie, this is the place to be!

Natural History Museum Special Events

So I KNOW what you are thinking! Taxidermy!? The Natural History Museum is one of the few institutions in the country that has continuously staffed a taxidermy department, going back to the introduction of its habitat halls in the early 1920s. While most museums are glassed and sealed their dioramas after completion, the Natural History Museum keeps theirs open. Over the years, new scenes have been added, old dioramas have been rehabbed or replaced, and others have been simply maintained with dusting, repair, and the occasional replacement specimen. While some of the more antique animals have been here for decades, ones that have been updated come from zoos or preserves after the animal has passed naturally.

Natural History Museum Special Events

Three Graces of the Natural History Museum Rotunda

Natural History Museum Rotunda

Walk back in time over 100 years to stand in the beautifully restored Haaga Family Rotunda at the museum’s original Beaux Arts entrance. This area has recently been made available for both small wedding ceremonies in the round as well as wedding photography in conjunction with the rental of the first floor.

Natural History Museum Special Events

Take time to bathe in the soft, glowing light of the sweeping stained-glass dome created by Walter Horace Judson.

The Three Graces statue was created by, Julia Bracken Wendt, one of Los Angeles’ first prominent female sculptors.

In 1911, she was commissioned to create one of her best-known pieces, an allegory sculpture for the rotunda of the Los Angeles County Museum called The Three Graces: History, Science and Art. Completed in 1914, the 11-foot tall sculpture depicts three women in bronze holding aloft a globe illumined by electric light. A fitting theme to be showcased at a museum that holds all three subject matters within its walls.

Natural History Museum Rotunda

Fun Fact!

In mythology, The Three Graces were known as Aglaia (Brightness), Euphrosyne (Joyfulness), and Thalia (Bloom). They are said to be daughters of Zeus.

Natural History Museum Mural
Natural History Museum Special Events
Natural History Museum Mural Wall

Fun Fact!

 The Tyrannosaurus (T-Rex) lived throughout what is now western North America, on what was then an island continent known as Laramidia.

Terrace Staircase & Rose Garden

Wedding ceremonies can also take place on the stairs facing the building or on the cement pathway facing the rose garden followed by an outdoor cocktail hour in the garden and an indoor reception inside the museum.

Natural History Museum Special Events

There is no shortage of amazing areas for wedding or event photos at The Natural History Museum! Rent additional time for photos with your photographer throughout the property on event day to capture all its incredible details.

From the Nature Gardens, take a look at the exterior of the original 1913 building. From the gorgeous red bricks to the stunning marble columns, The Natural History Museum exudes classical elegance and design. Stand on the steps outside, and you can see the original name of the museum in stone—the Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science, and Art.

Edible Garden & Walking Path

Natural History Museum Edible Garden

Historically T-Rex Tina used to be a meat-eater, but she is SO LA now and only eats kale!

Natural History Museum Edible Garden
Natural History Museum Edible Garden
Natural History Museum glass building

As you can see, there are tons of amazing areas for wedding photography both inside and outside the museum. Whether it’s a natural light look you are going for on the bridge with your wedding party, modern angles in the glass rooms or moody shots of just the couple inside the exhibits themselves, The Natural History Museum has lots of spots to catch the perfect snapshot of your special day!

Photo Credit: Jenn Emerling Weddings
Natural History Museum Whale

We had a whale of a good time touring The Natural History Museum today!

Guest Capacities:

Special Event SpacesTheater Style
(Guest Count)
Banquet Style
(Guest Count)
Cocktail Style
(Guest Count)
Grand Foyer (Dueling Dinos) 200 160400
African Mammal Hall250230400
North American Mammal Hall (First Floor)270270450
Rotunda150140200
Otis Booth Pavilion200150250
Edible Garden 15060100
Pond & Pollinator Garden 150100200
North American Mammal Hall (Second Floor)300180300

Rental Details:

Natural History Museum rental pricing begins at approximately $7,500 for one of their spaces and can go up to approximately $35,000 depending on the type and nature of the event and final setup needs. Weddings rentals can range from approximately  $12,500 to $17,500 depending on spaces rented. Nonprofits are eligible for a discounted rate. The venue rental includes standard tables and chairs for up to 200 guests. All other items and vendors need to be outsourced.

Should you wish to add on other galleries for your guests to enjoy, you may do so for $300/hour per gallery.  And don’t forget about the optional Dinosaur Encounters. These 20-minute appearances from the museum’s life-size T- Rex and/or Triceratops dinosaur puppets are sure to be an unforgettable experience.

Vendor load-in begins at 4 pm, 1 hour before the museum closes to the public. Events may go until 12 am with load out until 2 am.

Rules and Regulations:

As with most historical and city-operated venues, there are strict rules to adhere to. These rules are meant to keep guests and the museum’s integrity /historical elements safe. While there are many, it is truly not hard to stay within the rules and regulations as long as you are being cautious and working with professional and experienced vendor partners who are familiar with them. All vendors working at the museum are required to be licensed and insured professionals.

  • All décor items should be pre-approved by the Museum and must be flame-proof.
  • Live flames of any kind, including candles, are prohibited. LED/Battery-operated candles are permitted.
  • The Museum expressly prohibits potted plants or trees inside the Museum (cut flowers and/or greenery are acceptable).
  • Live animals, helium balloons, confetti, glitter, smoke and/or fog machines, nailing, screwing, painting or altering of Museum property are strictly prohibited.
  • Exhibits cases and displays are stationary and cannot be moved.
  • Nothing may be hung or attached on walls, cases, displays, plants, trees, fences, or outside the Museum.
  • Everything must be free-standing.
  • Nothing may be staked into the ground.  Any tents or displays must be positioned in a pre-approved location and must be secured by weight.
  • The client is required to provide to the Museum a Certificate of Insurance in an amount of no less than $1,000,000 of comprehensive general liability, including but not limited to personal injury and property damage.

Preferred Caterers:

Due to its specific load in instructions and space, The Natural History Museum prefers the following caterers for special events. If you do not use one of the following caterers and opt for your own, they must be approved by the museum as well as the client paying a $1500 buyout fee. It is just smarter to choose from one of the following recommended caterers!

  • Patina Catering
  • Good Gracious Catering
  • USC Catering
  • LA Spice
  • Heirloom Catering
  • Thank Goodness it’s Sofia
  • Contemporary Catering
  • Jay’s Catering

Meet the NHM Team!

Natural History Museum Special Events Team

The smiling faces of the Special Events team at The Natural History Museum (L to R):

  • Jasmine Tillar, Sales Representative
  • Lili Parra, Coordinator
  • Simone Arasimowicz, Coordinator
  • Karla Villaseñor, Manager
Natural History Museum Dinosaur

To discuss your next event and set up a tour of The Natural History Museum, please contact Special Events Manager, Karla Villasenor kvillasenor@nhm.org

Natural History Museum with Anything But Gray Events

A special thank you to Aurelia D’Amore Photography for capturing this behind the scenes tour of The Natural History Museum!

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