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Exploring the Petersen Automotive Museum

What is the Petersen Automotive Museum?

Petersen Automotive Museum | Photo by @arch_photos, Instagram
Petersen Automotive Museum | Photo by @arch_photos, Instagram

Los Angeles is known for its plethora of attractions and museums, but the Petersen Automotive Museum stands out among the rest. This iconic institution is a must-visit for car enthusiasts and anyone interested in the history and culture of the automobile. Located on Museum Row in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, the museum draws over 350,000 visitors each year. With its extensive collection of classic cars, cutting-edge exhibits, and interactive displays, the Petersen Automotive Museum offers an unforgettable experience that celebrates the past, present, and future of the automotive industry.

The History Behind the Petersen Automotive Museum

Robert and Margie Petersen in 1982 | Photo:
Robert and Margie Petersen in 1982 | Photo:

The Petersen Automotive Museum was founded by magazine publisher Robert E. Petersen and his wife Margie in 1994. The museum was originally housed within the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County but moved to its current location in 2015 after a major renovation. The new building, designed by architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox, features a stunning exterior wrapped in stainless steel ribbons, symbolizing speed and movement.

Robert E. Petersen, a prominent figure in the automotive world, was the founder of Petersen Publishing, which produced popular magazines like Hot Rod and Motor Trend. His passion for cars and dedication to preserving automotive history led to the creation of the museum. Today, the Petersen Automotive Museum is one of the largest and most comprehensive automotive museums in the world, with a mission to explore and present the history of the automobile and its impact on global life and culture.

Current Exhibitions

"Lowrider Icons of the Street and Show" at the Petersen Automotive Museum | Photo:
“Lowrider Icons of the Street and Show” at the Petersen Automotive Museum | Photo:

The Petersen Automotive Museum is known for its dynamic and ever-changing exhibitions. Some of the current exhibitions include “Best in Low: Lowrider Icons of the Street and Show”, which showcases the lowrider culture and its contribution to the automotive industry in America, and “We Are Porsche: Celebrating 75 Years of Amazing Stories”, featuring vehicles that were first built to racecars and classic designs.  Another notable exhibit is “Eyes on the Road: Art of the Automotive Landscape”,  which features unique automotives and artwork from modern and contemporary artists.

Exhibitions at the Petersen Automotive Museum typically rotate every few months to keep the experience fresh and exciting for returning visitors. This rotation allows the museum to display a wide variety of vehicles and themes, ensuring that there is always something new to see.

Permanent Exhibitions

"The Vault" at the Petersen Automotive Museum | Photo:
“The Vault” at the Petersen Automotive Museum | Photo:

In addition to its rotating exhibitions, the Petersen Automotive Museum also houses several permanent exhibitions. One of the most popular is the “Vault,” a subterranean collection of over 250 rare and iconic cars from around the world. Visitors can take a guided tour of the Vault to see vehicles that are not on display in the main galleries, including presidential limousines, Hollywood cars, and historic race cars. Additional exhibitions that are permanent fixtures in the Petersen Automotive Museum are the Forza Motorsport Racing Experience (the ultimate racing simulator) and the Rob and Melani Walton Discovery Center. The discovery center houses activities for kids that are centered around automotives. Activities can include but are not limited to: racing miniature cars along electrifying tracks, drawing and coloring stations for their dream build, toys and games, as well as books for every age to read.

Most recently, their brand-new Shop Tour, is an exclusive experienc ethat is led by one of their expert docents. This tour can only accommodate 25 guests per week. These tours only occur on Saturdays and they provide a 2-hour immersive experience. Not only does this tour offer access to their renowned Vault, but it also grants access to their workshop. 

Events at the Petersen Automotive Museum

"All-American Cruise-In" at the Petersen Automotive Museum | Photo:
“All-American Cruise-In” at the Petersen Automotive Museum | Photo:

The Petersen Automotive Museum hosts a variety of events throughout the year, catering to car enthusiasts of all ages. These events include car shows, educational workshops, film screenings, and panel discussions with industry experts. One of the most popular events is the annual “Cruise-In,” where car owners and enthusiasts gather to showcase their vehicles and share their passion for cars.

Secondly, the museum also offers programs for children, such as the “Discovery Days” workshops, which provide hands-on activities and learning experiences related to automotive science and technology. Special events like the “Enzo Ferrari Birthday Cruise-In” and “Japanese Car Cruise-In” celebrate specific themes and automotive cultures, adding to the museum’s vibrant calendar of activities.

Visitor Information

The Petersen Automotive Museum is located at 6060 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036. The museum is open daily from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Ticket prices are $21 for adults, $19 for eldery individuals 62 years of age or older, and $12 for children aged 4-11, $13 for youth aged between 13-17. Children under 4 years old are admitted free. The ticket fees increase if you want to add in the Vault. If you’re a local, consider their membership options as there are a few notable perks as well as year-round (unlimited free access to the museum!).

You can take an ride-sharing vehicle to the museum or park your own vehicle by entering their parking lot on Fairfax Avenue. Visitors can expect to pay between $17-$21 for parking, but can get free parking with a $75 purchase from their museum store. A typical visit to the Petersen Automotive Museum can take anywhere from two to four hours, depending on the depth of exploration and participation in guided tours.

If you’re taking private transportation, the bus lines that run next to the Petersen Automotive Museum are #20, #217, and #720. Unfortunately, if you’re taking the Los Angeles Metro, the nearest station is on Wilshire Blvd. and Western Avenue – which isn’t a close walk. We advise either driving your own vehicle, taking a ride-sharing vehicle, or taking the bus to get to this attraction.

Private Tours at the Petersen Automotive Museum

Private tours are available and can be scheduled through the museum’s website or by calling the visitor services department. These tours offer an in-depth and personalized experience, allowing visitors to explore the museum’s collections with a knowledgeable guide.

Final Thoughts on Visiting

Event at Petersen Automotive Museum | Video by @blackmarketdesign, Instagram

The Petersen Automotive Museum is an extraordinary destination in Los Angeles, offering a unique and immersive experience for car enthusiasts and history buffs alike. With its impressive collection, rotating exhibitions, and engaging events, the museum provides a comprehensive look at the world of automobiles and their impact on society.

Experience Los Angeles on your Private Tour in a Classic Car

Black Cadillac DeVille 1970 | Photo:
Black Cadillac DeVille 1970 | Photo:

For an unforgettable visit, consider scheduling a classic convertible tour with Classic Experiences. Arrive at the museum in style in one of our classic cars, and enjoy a true taste of the iconic Southern Californian experience. Not only can you enjoy the Petersen Automotive Museum, that celebrates the beauty, innovation, and cultural significance of the automobile, but you’ll be able to ride around in a 70’s Cadillac Convertible on your privately curated tour.

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