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Family Fun at the New Petersen Automotive Museum

We attended as guest of the venue

The Petersen - Photo by David Zaitz

The Petersen – Photo by David Zaitz

On the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire sits the iconic Petersen Automotive Museum. Home to approximately 300 vehicles, the newly redesigned building, beckons car enthusiasts young and old to come and discover the mission set forth by founding benefactors Margie and Robert E. Petersen – to showcase automotive culture from around the world while continuing to celebrate Southern California’s rich history of automotive innovation, competition, and design.

Petersen Ribbons and Trees - Photo by David Zaitz

Petersen Ribbons and Trees – Photo by David Zaitz

The exterior of the building is covered in 308 separate ribbon structures which complete the unified design – they are supported by 25 vertical steel supports called “trees” along with several horizontal outriggers. The design evokes imagery of speed and the organic curves of an automobile. The redesign was just completed in December, so if you haven’t visited the Petersen recently – you need to check it out.

The world-class design continues as you enter the galleries. The museum is comprised of three floors and the “vault.” Regular admission to the museum includes access to all the galleries and experiences on the three main floors. A separate tour ticket will gain you access to the Vault where approximately forty additional vehicles will be viewable.

First Floor Gallery - Photo by David Zaitz

First Floor Gallery – Photo by David Zaitz

The Petersen has a new smartphone app that comes in two basic configurations: A free version provides content on the museum’s current exhibits and is designed to be accessed while physically at the museum. It uses location beacons to facilitate self-guided tours, optimized by the user’s location in the museum. The for-purchase premium app unlocks a rich multimedia experience on a much broader swath of the vehicles currently being displayed.

Screenshot of the Petersen App

Screenshot of the Petersen App

If you begin your tour on the third floor, you’ll be able to experience the history of the automobile from the first “horseless carriages” through modern styling and alternative fuel onto a glimpse of what the future may hold. The third floor is also home to a gallery dedicated to cars of film and television and a unique display specific to Southern California’s history of transportation.

CA Transportation

CA Transportation

Unique projection display showing the progression of CA highways

A close up of the unique projection display showing the progression of CA roads

The second floor is home to the Art Center College of Design Studio, galleries for performance, alternative power, hot rods, motorcycles, and motorsports. It is also where the racing simulators and the Cars-Mechanical Institute are located.

FORZA Racing Simulators

The first floor houses the restaurant and store along with large galleries dedicated to the artistry of the automobile, automotive art & design, along with art & the automobile.

I brought five of my kids along with my parents to experience the all-new Petersen. This provided me the opportunity to truly see how this museum is an experience for all ages. My parents enjoyed taking a step back in time to view the vehicles they drove as their first cars while they likewise appreciated the modern advancements that were on full display as well.

My teenagers not only enjoyed the displays of race cars and the Art Center design gallery, but the sit-down Microsoft Xbox FORZA racing simulators were a huge hit! My younger kids loved the variety of vehicles and the PC gaming stations, but the Cars Mechanical Institute, with the “Carspad” experience was probably the favorite. Actually, all five of my kids completed the “Carspad” design game, so it’s not just for little kids.

Kids of all ages enjoy designing their own car

Kids of all ages enjoy designing their own car

Evidence of the Petersen’s attraction to families and youth, Sarah Weber recently joined the Petersen Automotive Museum as Director of Education. She plays a leading role in implementing the Petersen’s new vision for its educational and public outreach efforts, including programs for schools and teachers, youths, adults, and families. She also oversees the operations and programming of the Cars Mechanical Institute in the Discovery Center, the hands-on interactive gallery designed in partnership with Disney/Pixar Animation Studios, which is a highlight for visitors of all ages. Be looking for announcements of new educational programs in the coming weeks!

The CarsPad at The Petersen

The CarsPad at The Petersen

My nine-year-old has high functioning autism, so sometimes museums aren’t the best outings for him. However, he’s particularly fascinated by cars right now, and he had an incredible experience at the Petersen. I included a video of all the photos he took during our visit. The only ones he didn’t take are the 4 or so that he is in. I hope you enjoy experiencing the Petersen through the eyes of my sweet boy!

The Petersen Automotive Museum Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charity. The Museum is located at 6060 Wilshire Boulevard (at Fairfax) in Los Angeles, California, 90036. Admission prices are $15 for general admission adults, $12 for seniors and students with ID, $7 for children ages 3 to 12. Active military with ID, personal care attendants and children under three are admitted free. Museum hours are 10am to 6pm. For general information, call 323/930-CARS or visit 

Julie is an OC Supermom to six beautiful children in Orange County. She is an editor with Blue Tulip Publishing, active in the community and enjoys running in her free time.
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