Updated for 2023
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
Current Exhibits at the Petersen Museum – Summer 2023
Some of the current exhibits on display include:
- Splendor and Speed: Treasures of the Petersen Collection, which showcases some of the most spectacular vehicles in the permanent collection.
- Cars of Film and Television, which is a hit with movie buffs of all ages.
- Inside Tesla: Supercharging the Electric Revolution, which tells the story of the startup and now titan of the automotive world.
- Maranello Masterpieces: The Legacy of Enzo Ferrari, perfect for fans of the super fast cars!
- We Are Porsche, which tells the story of this classic brand and how it became an American favorite.
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.
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 Petersen Museum Hours
The Petersen Museum is open seven days a week, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm each day.
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.
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.)
Special Exhibits at the Petersen Museum
The Petersen currently has several special exhibits on display. Here are just a few:
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.
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.
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|
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
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.
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.
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).
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