Visit L.A. area museums -- free

It’s been said that there’s no such thing as a free lunch -- but a free feast for the eyes is within reach at an L.A.-area museum.

The tally hereabout, not counting special exhibitions, can get as high as the $20 weekend adult admission at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. But savvy people can get comped even at the Huntington, where the first Thursday of every month is free, although you have to reserve tickets in advance. There’s no parking charge.

The Getty Museum in Brentwood and the Getty Villa near Malibu are always free -- the catch being that it costs $10 to park and there’s no on-street option. The Villa requires reservations.

The other prime cluster for all-the-time freebies is Exposition Park, where the California Science Center and the California African American Museum don’t charge admission. And across Exposition Boulevard on the USC campus, the Fisher Museum of Art is free as well. Yes, the Trojans win this one over the Bruins, whose UCLA Hammer Museum charges adults $7 -- but not on Thursdays, when it too is free.

In Orange County and Long Beach, there are Sunday blessings for the broke -- and the merely parsimonious. At the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, admission is free on the first Sunday of each month; at the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach, the second Sunday is gratis; and any old Sunday will do at Long Beach’s Museum of Latin American Art.

They also keep things nice and simple at the Long Beach Museum of Art. If it’s Friday, you’re in -- no charge.

If it’s the second Tuesday, the Museum of the American West in Griffith Park lets you roam free. If it’s the first Tuesday and you want to look at something really big and really old, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in Exposition Park has the right stuff at the very best price. So does the Page Museum and La Brea Tar Pits.

Next door to the tar pits, nighttime is the right time at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. They’ve got a pay-what-you-wish deal for the permanent collection from 5 p.m. on. Closing time is 8 p.m., 9 on Fridays (and closed Wednesdays). No need to consult your watch on the second Tuesday of each month, when LACMA is free all day. Holiday Mondays are freebies as well; next up, Memorial Day, May 25.

The Museum of Contemporary Art near Walt Disney Concert Hall downtown has free admission Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m., while its branch gallery at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood is always free.

You can waltz into the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena without paying from 6 to 9 p.m. the first Friday of the month.

For architecture buffs, the Rudolph M. Schindler House in West Hollywood is free Fridays from 4 to 6 p.m., and all day on May 18 (International Museum Day) and Sept. 10, the architect’s birthday.

By our reckoning, it could cost you, sans freebies, up to nearly $127 per adult for a single ticket-buying visit to each of these fine Southern California institutions. But that’s all in the timing.