Do the little ones in your life have a fascination with cars? Are they always quick to spot a Ferrari or Mustang on the streets? Well, Southern California is the perfect hub for exploring the world of automobiles and their evolution over time.
If you’re looking for a way to blend education with entertainment, we’ve compiled a list of the best car museums in California that appeal to kids of all ages. These museums offer a treasure trove of classic cars, rare models, and interactive exhibits that provide an immersive experience for your young ones.
These museums offer more than just cars; they provide a hands-on learning opportunity for your kids to experience the history and evolution of automobiles. So, buckle up and join us as we journey through time and explore the unique collections that make these museums stand out.
From the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, with its sleek modern design and immersive exhibits, to the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, which provides a glimpse into the Art Deco era of automobiles, we’ve got you covered.
Rev up your engines and explore the best car museums in California that are sure to ignite the passion for cars in your little ones!
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The Best Car Museums in Southern California for Kids
You’ll find some of the best automotive museums in the United States here in Southern California. These museums are perfect for car enthusiasts of all ages, but especially for kids who love cars. Here are our top picks:
Petersen Automotive Museum
Location: 6060 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Hours: Open Monday – Sunday, 10 am-5 pm. The admission desk closes at 4:30 pm. EDUCATORS GET IN FREE!
From race cars to hot rods and even movie famous cars, America’s most impressive car museum has it all! The Petersen Automotive Museum is one of the largest car museums, spanning a whole city block and featuring more than 150,000 square feet of exhibit space. It houses a collection of more than 400 rare and classic cars, trucks, and motorcycles. Kids won’t want to miss the Cars of Film and Television exhibit and the Discovery Center featuring the one and only Lighting McQueen on the second floor. And, of course, the gift shop offers an impressive collection of toy cars. The Peterson Automotive Museum also has a variety of educational programs.
For a really unique experience, take a self-guided tour through the Vault. The Vault features over 250 of the rarest vehicles ever assembled. Both a General Admission ticket and a Vault tour ticket must be purchased by those who want to take the Vault tour. Tours often sell out, so buying tickets in advance is strongly advised. Note that kids under 4 are not allowed on Vault tours.
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Marconi Automotive Museum
Location: 1302 Industrial Dr, Tustin, CA 92780
Hours: Open Tuesday – Saturday, 9 am-4 pm – Closed Sunday & Monday
They are open for self-guided tours; no reservations are necessary.
The Marconi Auto Museum boasts a $60 million collection of Ferraris, Lamborghinis, muscle cars, race cars, and more. Movie and television fans will be excited to see the iconic Batmobile featured in the 1989 film and KITT from Knight Rider among the impressive collection.
A visit to the Marconi is not only an exciting experience, but it also helps a great cause. For nearly 30 years, the Marconi Automotive Museum & Foundation for Kids has been committed to playing a crucial role in the development of Orange County. Their goal is to increase public awareness of the at-risk youngsters in the neighborhood through the Marconi Foundation for Kids, a 501(c)(3) charity that contributes to children’s charities and organizations a share of the net earnings from events it hosts and from visitors to its museum.
The Zimmerman Automobile Driving Museum
Location: 610 Lairport St, El Segundo, CA 90245
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm – Closed Monday & Tuesday
The Zimmerman Automobile Driving Museum is one of the top places in Southern California for auto enthusiasts, where museum visitors can experience a variety of vintage automobiles. The Museum is dedicated to keeping these beloved vintage cars in excellent condition for the next generations.
ADM always has something new and exciting for the whole family to enjoy. From car shows to classic car collections. The museum also features a kids’ area where young visitors can play with toy cars and dress up like mechanics for imaginative play. After you’ve toured the museum, stop in at the in-house 1950s-themed Ice Cream Parlor for a sweet treat. If your young car fan can’t get enough, you might even consider hosting a birthday party at ADM, which they are happy to accommodate.
“Sunday Rides” invite guests to take a ride around town with an experienced driver. The event takes place every Sunday from 10 am until 3:30 pm, depending on availability and if the weather permits. Driving is not allowed for visitors, and a child must be at least 55 inches tall to ride. No reservations are needed, and rides are given on a first-come, first-served basis.
Mullin Automotive Museum
Location: 1421 Emerson Ave, Oxnard, CA 93033
Hours: Friday – Saturday, 10 am-3 pm – Closed to the public on Sunday
The Mullin Automotive Museum, tucked away in the coastal town of Oxnard, California, has been named one of the Top Ten Automotive Museums worldwide and is a must-visit location for any auto lover.
The museum collection is focused on the Art Deco and Machine Age periods and includes more than 140 cars, works of art, and artifacts. Many of the vehicles in the collection have won historic races, like the Grand Prix de Pau and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as well as numerous prestigious awards at Concours events around the world. The vehicles include real masterworks of French curve coachwork and inventive artistry as imagined by producers like Bugatti, Delage, Delahaye, Hispano-Suiza, Talbot-Lago, and Voisin.
Location: 15200 Bledsoe St, Sylmar, CA 91342
Hours: Guided Tours Only — Advanced Reservations Required Thursday, Friday, and Saturday
The Nethercutt Museum collection includes over 250 perfectly restored American and European cars and a fully restored steam locomotive and rail car. The collection features vehicles dating back to the early 1900s, including Duesenbergs, Cadillacs, Renault, and Maybach. The museum also houses a vast selection of rare mechanical musical instruments and priceless antique furniture. The facility itself, with its grand marble columns and crystal chandeliers, is a sight to see.
Lyon Air Museum
Location: 19300 Ike Jones Road, Santa Ana, CA 92707
Hours: Daily 10 am-4 pm. Closed on Select Holidays and on occasion, the museum will be closed for maintenance or private events.
The Lyon Air Museum, founded by Major General William Lyon, is located in Orange County on the west side of John Wayne Airport. In addition to military aircraft, the museum also houses rare automobiles, military vehicles, and motorcycles from World War II. The museum often hosts car shows focused on specific types of cars, like Corvette or Porsche; check the calendar for upcoming events.
San Diego Automotive Museum
Location: 2080 Pan American Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101
Hours: Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am – 4:30 pm. Closed Most Mondays
Residents Free Tuesday (4th Tuesday of the month, except in Dec.) 10 am – 3:30 pm
The San Diego Automotive Museum is a unique spot that features all kinds of vehicles like electric car prototypes, customized vehicles, low riders, and even a 1914 Model T. In addition to the automobiles on display, the museum offers some incredible interactive experiences perfect for kids. The Kids Corner features several automotive-themed learning and play stations, a full-sized race car to snap photos in, and racing video game booths to test their driving skills. While exploring the museum, be sure to keep an eye out for the orange Chevrolet bear who likes to hide in different places. If you find him, you can earn a special prize.
Bonus: Coffee and Cars
Want to enjoy the spectacle of great car museums without an admission fee? Spend a Sunday at one of L.A.’s car club meet-ups. Coffee and Cars Los Angeles is a car community meet-up that takes place the last Sunday of every month at Griffith Park 7 – 10 am in the parking lot near the carousel. You can explore new and old cars as car enthusiasts gather to share their wares.
- Check the museums’ websites before you go for any special exhibitions or events, and verify their hours of operation.
- Consider purchasing tickets in advance to avoid long lines.
- Bring snacks and water bottles, as some museums do not have food areas.
- Some museums may offer free admission for children on certain days of the week or month.
- Be sure to ask the staff about any interactive activities designed specifically for kids.
Explore these top car museums with your kids and get ready to experience the thrill of classic and modern cars in Southern California.
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