Even if you’ve never been within a thousand miles of California before, you’ve probably heard of the La Brea Tar Pits and the wonders found within them. Nothing can stop the smell of the tar, or the slow bubbling of the shallow miasma of water that covers the tar.
But where once tour groups made their stinky way around crude fences protecting them from the pits, now paved paths lead around the most accessible pits, and others (mostly those that are in active excavation) are accessible by guided tour only.
If what interests you most are the fossilized contents of the tar pits, head for the beautiful Page Museum (5801 Wilshire Blvd., 323/934-7243, www.tarpits.org , Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., adults $7, children $4.50, parking $6–8 in lot). The Page contains the bones of many of the untold thousands of animals that became trapped in the sticky tar and met their fate there.
The museum’s reasonably small size and easy-to-understand interpretive signs make it great for kids, and good for a shorter stop for grown-ups. You’ll see some amazing skeletal remains—like sloths the size of Clydesdale horses. Genuine mammoths died and were fossilized in the tar pits, as were the tiniest of mice and about a zillion dire wolves.
One of the coolest things for science geeks is the big windowed cage housing the paleontologists at work. You can watch them cleaning, examining, sorting, and cataloging bones from the most recent excavations.