When our boys were little, the Petersen Automotive Museum was one of our favorites in Los Angeles, and the all new museum is better than ever! On three large floors, discover the history of cars, contemporary car design and technology, cars as art.
You could start your museum visit on the third floor with history of cars, but we made a beeline to the second floor Cars Mechanical Institute. Pixar and Petersen teamed up to create this hands-on gallery for kids. Little ones can paint and race toy cars, older kids will find out how cars work – the engine, drive train, brakes and suspension. Check out the Carspad Experience, an interactive app where families can design, build, optimize, race your own cars, and explore the second floor galleries like a treasure hunt.
Also on the second floor, head over the Art Center College of Design studios to watch students working on real car designs, and view exhibits of car designs in process, e.g. new cars made of carbon fiber, latest mechanical technology etc. In the galleries are winning race cars (along with video of the races), classic motorcycles, hot rod and custom cars, and the Forza racing simulator (fun for teens).
Hollywood loves using impressive cars in movies, and on the third floor check out a collection of movie cars – the Batmobile and Batcycle (motorcycle with sidecar), cars used in James Bond movies, Steve McQueen’s favorite green convertible and more. Kids can sit in a model T Ford, and see some early 20th century cars, including a 1915 electric car!
On the first floor are beautifully preserved, very rare, one-of-a kind grand touring cars, hand-made with exquisite design details, such as the 1936 Bugatti or 1938 Delahaye. Kids will enjoy the gallery with “art cars,” BMWs painted in bright colors by artists such as David Hockney and Alexander Calder. (If kids get ideas for paintings your cars at home, try painting model cars instead.)
Here’s just a few of the cars in the museum:
1910 Ford Model T
1966 Yamaha “Batcycle”
1938 Delahaye touring car
BMW art car
1954 Mercedes Benz racing car
1955 Chevrolet Biscayne
1969 Porsche racing car
1915 Detroit Electric car
Tip: The Petersen Automotive Museum is right across the street from the La Brea Tar Pits. You’ll also want a fun place to stay – West Hollywood is very convenient to these museums: Los Angeles family hotels.