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Guide to the Petersen Automotive Museum

Updated: The Petersen Museum is scheduled to re-open on March 25, 2021.

If you or your child is at all into cars, then make sure and visit the The Petersen Automotive Museum; it’s like Disneyland for car enthusiasts. The Museum, located in Museum Row in Los Angeles, was founded in 1994 by Robert and Margie Petersen.

The Petersen is housed in a historic department store building, dating back to 1962. The Museum reopened in 2015 after a major renovation. The goal of the museum is to “explore and present the history of the automobile.” The Museum features 25 rotating exhibits with more than 150 vehicles on view to the public.


The Museum is open seven days a week from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm each day.

The Museum is organized into three floors — History, Industry, and Artistry. Throughout the Museum, you’ll find famous Hollywood cars (including the DeLorean from the Back to the Future films), vintage cars, Hot Rods, motorcycles, and race cars. Learn how the automobile has changed from the 1886 Benz Patent-Motorwagen (also known as The First Practical Car) to the 2016 Toyota Mirai.

Most kids will probably designate the Cars Mechanical Institute in the Discovery Center as their favorite section of the Museum. The area is inspired by the popular animated film and allows children to learn about the mechanical systems of cars through interactive stations. There is also a small racetrack and toy cars for kids to play with as well as a sketching/tracing station.

Children can also create their own virtual race car. The CARSpad “Build a Virtual Racecar” Game utilizes an iPad, and with the “help” of the Cars characters, children move through the galleries, making choices, and customizing their race car. 

Special Exhibits:

The Petersen currently has several special exhibits on display. The High Art of Riding Low: Ranflas, Corazón e Inspiración focuses on the “diversity and complexity with which 50 artists visualize, celebrate, and interrogate the lowrider car through vehicles, paintings, sculptures, and site-specific installations.” The exhibition will be on display through July 2018.

Also on display is Seeing Red: 70 Years of Ferrari. This exhibit, on display through April 2018, features “highlights from the Italian automaker’s 70 year history.”

The Art of Bugatti, on display until January 13, 2018, is a retrospective which “aligns the pursuits of fine art, fine craftsmanship and inspired automative design to tell” the story of the Bugatti Family.

And the newest exhibition, Sidewalk Speedsters: The Grown-Up World of Children’s Cars, opens December 16th. This fun exhibition “examines the development, purpose and meaning of vehicles that were often campaigned in friendly competition, but because of their tiny size, effectively preclude their use by adults.”


General admission to the Museum is $16 for adults, students (13-17) with current ID are $13, children ages 3-12 are $8, and children younger than 3 are free. Vault Tours require an additional ticket (with a $20 fee) and are not for children under 10. Vault tours allow visitors to experience a “behind the scenes” tour of many of the cars in the Museum’s collection that are not currently on display in the galleries. Vault Tours are docent-led.

“6060 Membership” offers several levels of membership so families can select the option that best suits their needs. All members receive free Museum admission, parking discounts, discounts or complimentary passes to different events throughout the year, store discount, early access to gallery viewings, and much more. In addition, current Auto Club members can receive a discount on select levels of membership.


Families may park in the Petersen’s parking structure for a flat rate of $13; though parking is free if you spend $75 or more at the Petersen Store. Also note, street parking isn’t currently available due to the construction in the area for the Metro Purple Line Extension.


The Petersen Automotive Museum. One of the many attractions on Museum Row.

Drago Risorante is the Museum’s on-site restaurant. The restaurant is a collaboration between the four Drago brothers, a family that is “widely credited for bringing authentic Italian cuisine to Los Angeles.” You’ll find an elegant dining experience offering housemade pastas, wood-fired pizzas, and a selection of entrees. Note that the restaurant has different hours than the Museum’s exhibits, open from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm daily.

Love Cars? Check out the Nethercutt Collection as well.

Nearby Attractions:

The Petersen Automotive Museum is located on famous Museum Row. There are several other nearby museums to visit, but it really is too much to do in one day. Click here to read our post “Family-Friendly Guide to Museum Row in Los Angeles.This part of town, is also referred to as Mid-Wilshire. Click here to read our post 9 Things To Do In (Or Near) Mid-Wilshire With Kids” to give you some ideas about other fun spots to visit in the neighborhood.

MomsLA is your source for Things to do with Kids in Los Angeles.

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