Playing Tourist: The La Brea Tar Pits

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

After our visit to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, we headed over to the La Brea Tar Pits. My dad has been talking about how much he wanted to visit these since Jordan and I relocated to Southern California, so he was pretty ecstatic when we carved out space in our day for a little detour.

For those of you who haven't heard of them before, the La Brea Tar Pits are a cluster of tar pits in the heart of Los Angeles. The fact that they're in the middle of a highly urbanized area make them a pretty unique landmark. But what really makes the tar pits so special is the large amount of animal bones that were preserved in them. Scientists have collected over one million bones from the tar pits from animals such as mammoths, dire wolves, ground sloths, and saber-toothed cats.

There are quite a few different tar pits surrounding the Page Museum, and you can even check out the Project 23 excavation site, where scientists are currently going through twenty-three large boxes filled with fossils that were discovered in 2006. It's pretty impressive, and it looks like an Indiana Jones-type expedition, which I think is ridiculously cool. The pits themselves are absolutely stunning. The shifting color of the tar is beautiful, and the pits bubble up sporadically due to the natural gases in the tar.

There is also a really amazing observation pit, where you can see a large collection of the different types of bones that scientists have discovered in the tar pits. If you look at the upper left corner of the main formation in the center, you can see the skull of a saber-toothed cat. It's crazy to think of all the amazing animals that once roamed the Los Angeles area.

The pits are part of a gorgeous park in the heart of the bustling city. Just beyond the gates, there are tall buildings and roaring traffic. But inside the park, kids run around everywhere, and a talented banjo player serenades everyone from just outside the museum entrance. It's an incredibly unique part of Los Angeles.

Photographic proof that I was there:

We didn't go into the Museum because of the cost (in general, my dad doesn't like to pay for things if he can get away with it - this is the man who flew all the way to Sydney, Australia on a business trip and refused to pay to take a tour of the Opera House). I plan on going back to the museum soon, though, because I thought the tar pits were fascinating, and I want to see more of the animal remains that scientists have collected from them. They have reconstructed a lot of the skeletons so that visitors can get a better sense of the animals found in the pits. Doesn't this ground sloth look amazing?

Have you ever been to the La Brea Tar Pits? What sort of natural landmarks are in your area?


  1. I've never been, but I've heard of them. Thank you for sharing pictures, it looks like an interesting place to check out!

    1. It is such an interesting and beautiful place! A truly unique southern California landmark. It was a lot of fun to visit!

  2. I have extremely fond memories of going to the La Brea Tar Pits as a kid, I though all the ancient mammals looked like strange fantasy creatures. In particular, the giant sloth!

    Seeing the giant sloth I wonder how Kristen Bell would react to a giant sloth. Have you seen her hilarious yet odd meltdown?

    1. Oh, I can only imagine how much fun the tar pits must have been as a kid! I would have loved them! And yes, that Kristin Bell meltdown is priceless. I think I've watched it ten times or so. :)


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