Have a love affair with automobiles? Although not a prerequisite for a visit to the Petersen Automotive Museum, it couldn't hurt. The driving force behind this rare collection of steel and chrome is the founder of Petersen Publishing Company, Robert E. Petersen, who provided 15 million dollars to acquire the Los Angeles landmark Ohrbach's Department Store building and launch its renovation into world-class museum.
The Petersen collection is primarily a celebration of automotive history and how it shaped the American landscape, particularly in relationship to southern California. Enchanting re-creations of drive-in malt shops, gas stations, and a car dealership, are on display along with 200 rare and classic cars, trucks, and motorcycles. A mix of life in the fast lane and a trip down memory lane, the museum sports a unique collection of early children's pedal cars from 1900 to 1920.
As part of the museum's attractions, visitors experience the impact of the automobile on history and culture through the windshield of an automobile. Walk through the exhibits and experience Los Angeles at the turn of the century. Remember the Hollywood streets of the 1930s or how the inside of a 1960s suburban garage looked. If you don't remember, the Petersen Museum does. They have collected the details of sight, sound, and smell, authentically recreating each period in our history.
The second and third floors of the museum are given over to hot rods, movie cars, land speed record cars, Indy cars, motorcycles, artwork and sculpture.
Opened in November 1997, the May Family Discovery Center, with its interactive learning stations, is a 6,500 square foot experience targeted at children ages six to sixteen that teaches basic scientific principles of motion, force, energy and mass distribution using the car. The Discovery Center consists of the East and West Wings and the VroomRoom. The East Wing houses the interactive exhibits, while the West Wing is a sit-down activity area geared toward toddlers. In the VroomRoom you can sit in a state-of-the-art computerized Driver's Education automobile simulator that replicates real-time driving situations including freeway congestion and hazardous driving conditions.
Children can interact with the exhibits and become 'human spark plugs' in a giant combustion engine. With over 20 learning stations to peak their awareness of the world around them, this museum is a marvelous experience for the young and the not so young.
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