Updated for 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 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
The Museum is open six days a week, Tuesday through Sunday, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm each day.
Closed on Mondays.
The Museum 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.
Because the vehicles on display are often rotated, a visit to the Petersen never feels like a visit to the same place.
In addition to the vehicles on exhibit, The 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 movie).
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.
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 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!
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.)
The Petersen currently has several special exhibits on display. Here are just a few:
Reclaimed Rust: The James Hetfield Collection is on exhibit until November 7, 2021. James Hetfield may be best known as the co-founder, songwriter, singer, and guitarist for the heavy metal band Metallica. However, he is also widely known in the automotive world “for his unique collection of entirely bespoke vehicles. Hetfield, a lifelong car enthusiast, has described seeing cars in the same way he sees music: as forms of freedom and expression that convey the passions of their creator.” (This exhibition is included in general admission.)
Supercars: A Century of Spectacle and Speed is on exhibit until February 6, 2022. “This exhibition highlights those vehicles that pushed the boundaries of their respective periods, offering drivers of their day the ultimate motoring experience.” You’ll marvel at the over 30 vehicles on display “ranging from the big-bore monsters of more than a century ago to more recent and recognizable exotic machines embodying modern technical sophistication and exceptional performance.” (This exhibition is included in general admission.)
Pole Position: The Juan Gonzalez Formula One Collection is on exhibit through June 5, 2022. On display is a “selection of decommissioned race cars and official show cars from the collection of Juan Gonzalez.” These vehicles “vividly illustrate the technological innovations that make them capable of the astounding performance for which they are renowned.” (This exhibition is included in general admission.)
There is one special exhibition that does require a special ticket (and has an added charge). The exhibit features the Porsche 956 which was the “first racing car to feature an aluminum monocoque chassis and ground effect aerodynamic elements.” The Porches 962 became one of the most dominant race cars ever. Also keep in mind, no strollers or children under 10 are permitted in this special exhibition.
Pre-Purchased Tickets are required and are available online.
Adults (age 18-62): $16
Seniors (age 62+): $14
Child (age 4-17): $11
Children 3 and younger: Free
Vault Tours (require an additional fee): $28
Special Exhibition (require an additional fee): $25
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
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 $17. (The entrance to the parking structure is on Fairfax Avenue.)
There is limited street marking due to the construction in the area forthe Metro Purple Line Extension.
Additionally, the Petersen is conveniently located adjacent to multiple Metro bus stops.
Drago Ristorante 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. However, Drago currently remains closed.
Love Cars? Check out the Nethercutt Collection as well.
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 Angeles” for 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 Kids” will 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.