Developing a car obsession is a rite of passage when you grow up in LA. Well worth the year long wait, the newly renovated and reopened in December Petersen Automotive Museum is the perfect place to go to feed that pint-sized need for speed. Hop in the family ride and cruise on over because you won’t want to miss the hottest new wheels in town, and the stunning architecture alone is worth braving the 405.  Read on for our scoop on what kids will want to race to see first.

photo: The Petersen Automotive Museum

It looks like a space ship has landed on Wilshire, but it’s actually a shrine to a different mode of transport. So take in the stunning facade before heading inside.  Then you could spend a good long visit to just the Grand Concourse lobby, where your tiny car aficionados will go gaga over some the most impressive vehicles in the collection, before you even pay the price of admission.

But admission paid, scoot them past the gift shop and jump in the elevator and for a ride up to the third floor, where you’ll start your visit learning about the history of cars. Make your way around the wide-open gallery, with ample room for wiggly tots and strollers, featuring cars and motorcycles from every era.

Petersen Lobbyphoto: Shahrzad Warkentin

Your kids will definitely want to stop at the Southern California: A Region In Motion exhibit where they can swipe and tap on the tablet displays to learn about how LA’s intricate roadways developed. Next pop over to the Cars of Film and Television where your superhero-fans can get a glimpse of the Batman Car. Don’t leave without snapping a shot of your kiddos pretending to drive the Ford Model T.

Petersen Model Tphoto: Shahrzad Warkentin

Race down the central spiral staircase to the second floor where it’s all about Pixar. This is where you can park yourself for the majority of the day.  Head straight for the Cars Mechanical Institute at the center of the gallery, where you can snap another photo-op with a life-size Lightening McQueen, before you unleash your crew into the Discovery Center. Little ones will love racing toy cars around the racetrack play table, while the older kids can use light tables and tablets to draw and decorate cars from the Pixar films.

Petersen Cars Institutephoto: Shahrzad Warkentin

When they’re played out there, head to the center kiosk to check out the CARSpad Experience. Your little car enthusiasts will receive bright orange covered iPads that they will use to navigate their way around the gallery, featuring exhibits on Vehicle Manufacturing Production and Custom Cars, as Mater guides them in designing their own virtual race care.  It’s where little tech fans and young gear heads alike will thrill with the “how things work” learning adventure.

Petersen CARSpadphoto: Shahrzad Warkentin

If your pack includes kids in the tween and teen set (or just a video-game loving Dad), lead them over to the Forza Motorsport Racing Experience, where they can race against the clock on the popular arcade-style game for a chance to get their names on the Lap Time scoreboard. Wait times can be up to 30 minutes and drivers must be approximately 5 feet tall in order to reach the pedals. First thing in the morning or late afternoon are the best times to go to beat the line.

Petersen First Floor Galleryphoto: Shahrzad Warkentin

Finally, make your way back to first floor Grand Salon, where you can ogle some of the most artistic vehicles in the collection. This is the perfect time to remind your little explorers about the no-touch museum rule, because these shiny beauties are just screaming to be touched. Don’t miss the Art and the Automobile exhibit as you make your way to the exit. Point out the paint-speckled BMW and the accompanying video that shows how the car was used to create a massive painting. Make a mental note to try the Pinterest version of this art project at home using Matchbox cars…

Petersen Car Paintingphoto: Shahrzad Warkentin

Your visit will come full circle as you arrive back in the lobby where a giant screen displays The Petersen Instagram feed. Pick your cutest kid shot and post it with the hashtag #ThePetersen for a chance to spot yourselves on the board. No visit would be complete without your mini museum-goers herding you over to the gift shop, which is brimming with Cars toys and die cast cars of every make and model you can imagine.

Food: A restaurant will be opening sometime in 2016, until then you can take a short walk down Wilshire Blvd. to the food trucks that are usually parked along museum row, or pop back in your car and drive over to the Original Farmer’s Market.

Hours: Open every day from 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

Tickets: Adult admission is $15, child admission is $7 and kids 3 and under are free. Timed entrance tickets can be purchased in advance online.

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Parking: For a $12 flat rate, the massive museum lot offers ample parking, but there are no elevators so if you are planning to bring your stroller (which is allowed in the museum), try to find a spot on the ground floor.

The Petersen Automotive Museum
6060 Wilshire Blvd.
Miracle Mile
Online: petersen.org

Have you checked out the newly re-opened Petersen Museum yet? What was your favorite part?

—Shahrzad Warkentin