Located a few miles west of the Getty Center, the hilltop Getty Villa is modeled after the Villa dei Papiri, a 1st-century Roman country house in Herculaneum, near Pompeii, that was buried by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius. It houses the Getty collection of ancient Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art. Polished marble in huge variety adorns floors and walls throughout. My favorite display holds a mummified ibis that is inside an intact human mummy whose head covering bears a painted portrait of the deceased. Interior and outdoor gardens are a delight, and performances are sometimes scheduled in an outdoor semi-circular theater. Kids gain insight in a hands-on Family Forum space and with free Art Detective cards that encourage them to find specific art pieces to solve a mystery. Informal tours run throughout the day, and an audio player can be rented. The Cafe serves casual Mediterranean fare--the grilled portabella sandwich is The Best--and has spacious indoor and outdoor seating. An espresso cart is also an option, and picnic lunches are available by advance order.
Getty Villa Malibu 17985 PCH/Surfview Dr., 1 mi. N of Sunset Blvd., in Pacific Palisades, (310) 440-7300. Thur-M 11-5. Free; parking $15 cash; no neighborhood parking; bus info 800-266-6883. No pets.
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image c2010 Cassidy Meyers