Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Head count: About 1 million annually; more than 35 million specimens on display and in the archives
Beyond the fossils: With its satellite museum at the La Brea Tar Pits roping in fossil-seeking tourists by the busload, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County has long found its strength not in dinosaurs but in permanent exhibits such as a crazy-large collection of shells, an insect zoo, a treasure trove of ancient Latin American artifacts and enough grade-A dioramas to keep restless sixth-graders preoccupied for hours on end, such as the African Mammals Hall (pictured). There's also a 14,000-square-foot Dinosaur Hall serving up some fierce competition to existing paleontology powerhouses such as the National Museum of Natural History in D.C. while boosting the 100-year-old museum's attendance levels.
For those who prefer flora to fossils, the Nature Gardens are a 3.5-acre urban habitat where visitors can see birds and butterflies, enjoy guided nature walks, take gardening workshops and learn to track and observe different species.