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Guide to the Petersen Automotive Museum

Updated for 2022

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 on 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.”

Petersen Automotive Museum
6060 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 964-6331

Lightning McQueen from Pixar's "Cars" movie on display at the Petersen Museum
Fun Fact: Lighting McQueen from the Pixar movie Cars, is the only car on display at the Petersen Museum kids can touch!

The Petersen Museum Hours

The Petersen Museum is open seven days a week, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm each day. 

The Petersen Museum: An Overview

The Petersen is organized into three floors and allows visitors the opportunity to travel through time, in a sense, as you look at some of the earliest automobiles to some of the most advanced automobiles currently being produced.

The Petersen Museum’s unique exterior facade is made up of “ribbons” of stainless steel over red painted aluminum.

Because the vehicles on display are often rotated, and there are many temporary exhibits being staged, a visit to the Petersen Museum always feels fresh, and you’ll always see something new.

Petersen Museum Vault Tours

In addition to the vehicles on display at any given time, the Petersen Museum also offers visitors the chance to participate in a 90-minute Vault Tour (for an additional fee).

“Discover some of the most iconic and rare cars, motorcycles, and trucks spanning over 120 years of automotive history” including “turn-of-the-twentieth-century cars, head-of-state vehicles, American classics, the personal rides of Hollywood legends, award-winning hot rods, cars that pushed the boundaries of innovation, and many other surprises.”

Among the vehicles in the Vault are a Round Door Rolls Royce, a 1947 Ferrari 125S, the 1989 Batmobile, and the 1981 DMC Delorean (made famous from the Back to the Future movies). 

Keep in mind – no strollers and no children under 10 are permitted in the Vault. There is also no photography allowed in the Vault. Tickets for Vault Tours must be pre-purchased.

the discovery center at the Petersen Museum
The Discovery Center within the Petersen Museum is a terrific place to hang out and play with kids.

Activities for Kids at the Petersen Museum

Most kids will probably designate the Cars Mechanical Institute in the Discovery Center as their favorite section of the Museum. Inspired by the popular animated film series created by Pixar, this space provides children with the opportunity to learn about the mechanical systems of cars through interactive stations.

There are lots of hands-on opportunities here including a small racetrack and toy cars to play with, a sketching/tracing station, a motorcycle for a fun photo op, and much more! Touching is allowed and encouraged, which is not true for most of the cars on display in the rest of the Petersen.

young boy driving a car simulator at the Petersen Museum
Try your hand at racing, even before you get your licence!

Another fun activity at the Museum is the Forza Motorsport Racing Experience. “Visitors get behind the wheel and experience the dynamic feeling of racing a car in one of eight specifically curated experiences. Ten racing simulators offer a custom version of Forza Motorsport.” Keep in mind there is a height requirement to participate. (This experience is included in general admission.)

kid riding a motorcycle on a simulator at the Petersen Museum
This kid is a whiz at riding a motorcycle – at least on this simulator!

Special Exhibits at the Petersen Museum

The Petersen currently has several special exhibits on display. Here are just a few:

A photo from the Andy Warhol: Cars exhibit at the Petersen Museum, photo courtesy of the Petersen Museum.
A photo from the Andy Warhol: Cars exhibit at the Petersen Museum, photo courtesy of the Petersen Museum.

Andy Warhol: Cars
Works from the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection

Commissioned on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the motor car, Andy Warhol’s uncompleted 1986/87 Cars series was to include 80 pictures intended to record the history of the motor car from the Daimler Motor Coach and Benz Patent Motor Car, both dating from 1886, to the present day.

The last series of pictures to be undertaken in his lifetime, only 36 silk-screen paintings and 13 drawings representing eight different Mercedes-Benz models were completed. Much like his previous work involving the iconography of branded consumer products and celebrities, Warhol managed to bring together the image of the automobile, and more specifically the Mercedes-Benz brand, within the context of high art.

A photo from the McLaren Papaya Livery exhibit at the Petersen Museum, photo courtesy of the Petersen Museum.
A photo from the McLaren Papaya Livery exhibit at the Petersen Museum, photo courtesy of the Petersen Museum.

The Color of Success: McLaren’s Papaya Livery

The Color of Success features cars representing multiple racing disciplines, all sporting McLaren’s beloved papaya livery and marking key moments in the team’s 60-year history. McLaren quickly made a name for itself in auto racing, but it took considerable time for the team to establish a distinctive identity. The cars sported many liveries until the 1967 Can-Am season, during which McLaren debuted the color it would become synonymous with—papaya orange. The company later used the distinctive hue on successful cars in a wide variety of series, including Can-Am, Champ/Indy car, Formula 1, Formula 2, and Formula 5000.

A photo from the Hypercars exhibit at the Petersen Museum, photo courtesy of the Petersen Museum.
A photo from the Hypercars exhibit at the Petersen Museum, photo courtesy of the Petersen Museum.

Hypercars: The Allure of the Extreme Part II

Hypercars: The Allure of the Extreme Part II promises to be even more exhilarating with 9 all-new vehicles on display. Walk amongst elusive cars representing the pinnacle of recent and current efforts to produce the best, most technologically advanced vehicles on the road. Explore iconic brands such as Bugatti, Ferrari, and Koenigsegg, while discovering some of the newest players in the hypercars space.

Tickets and Admission Prices for the Petersen Museum:

Pre-Purchased Tickets are required and are available online. 

Adults (ages 18-62)$16
Seniors (age 62+)$14
Children (ages 4-17)$11
Children (ages 0-3)Free
Vault Tours (Additional Fee)$28
Special Exhibitions (Additional Fee)$25
The Petersen Museum Ticket Prices
a luxury car on display at the Petersen Museum
One of the fabulous luxury cars on display at the Petersen Museum.

Petersen Museum Membership Options:

Membership benefits include unlimited standard admission to the museum, a discount in the retail store, subscription to the membership newsletter, and more. 

Dual Membership (1 adult and 1 guest): $114

Family + (2 adults and 2 children): $168

Friends and Family (2 adults, 2 children, and 2 guests): $240

The Ghostbusters iconic vehicle is just one of the many movie and TV cars from the collection at the Petersen Museum.
The Ghostbusters iconic vehicle is just one of the many movie and TV cars from the collection at the Petersen Museum.

Parking at the Petersen Museum:

Convenient, on-site, covered parking is available at the Petersen. Parking is free for the first 30 minutes. Otherwise, parking is available for a flat rate of $19 if visiting the Museum; if not, the cost is $21.

The entrance to the parking structure is on Fairfax Avenue. Note: There is limited street marking due to the construction in the area for the Metro Purple Line Extension.

Additionally, the Petersen is conveniently located adjacent to multiple Metro bus stops. 

Dining at the Petersen Museum:

The Meyers Manx Café is the on site dining option, open from 9am – 1pm, serving coffee, breakfast, and grab + go options.

The Petersen Automotive Museum. One of the many attractions on Museum Row.
A view of the super cool exterior of the building at the Petersen Museum, part of Museum Row in Los Angeles.

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. Be sure to check our post “Family-Friendly Guide to Museum Row in Los Angelesfor other fun things to see and do in the area.

This part of town, is also referred to as Mid-Wilshire. Our post “9 Things To Do In (Or Near) Mid-Wilshire With Kidswill give you some ideas about other fun spots to visit in the neighborhood.

Wendy Kennar is a mother, writer, and former teacher who has lived her entire life in the same Los Angeles zip code. You can read more from Wendy at her website WendyKennar.com where she writes about books, boys, and bodies (living with an invisible disability).

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

Disclaimer: MomsLA has made every effort to confirm the information in this article; however, things can often change. Therefore, MomsLA makes no representations or warranties about the accuracy of the information published here. MomsLA strongly urges you to confirm any event details, like date, time, location, and admission, with the third party hosting the event. You assume the sole risk of relying on any of the information in our list. MomsLA is in no way responsible for any injuries or damages you sustain while attending any third-party event posted on our website. Please read our Terms of Use which you have agreed to based on your continued use of this website. Some events have paid to be listed on MomsLA.

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