Any survey of classic museums should begin with the Petersen, one with a mission to explore automotive history and its global impact on life and culture using its home city as a prime example. Following a $90 million renovation in 2015, the museum's current exhibitions explore Japanese automaking, Porsches and lowriders. Don't miss the Vault, a docent-led, behind-the-scenes look at some gems not on display.
Billed as America's oldest car collection, this spot 10 minutes from downtown Boston began as a Sunday tradition. In the early 1900s, wealthy socialites Larz and Isabel Anderson would open the doors to their home's carriage house, sharing their collection of American and European autos with the public. Today, a gallery shows off some of the collection, while popular weekend lawn events include museum-sponsored shows and those conducted by local car clubs.
The Henry Ford is the largest indoor-outdoor museum complex in the U.S., spread across 250 acres. Find exhibits celebrating American history and industry at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, where you can tour "Driving America," plus Greenfield Village (ride a real Model T there), and the Ford Rouge Factory Tour.
It's no surprise that Michigan, the nation's car capital, has a few auto museums of note. At the Gilmore, some 400 vehicles fill 189,000 feet of display space. Diverse exhibits touch on topics ranging from racing legend A.J. Foyt to muscle cars to autos of the Dust Bowl era. You'll also find a restored 1930s gas station and a collection of motorcycles that spans 100 years.
This car museum features selections from The Harrah Collection, amassed by gaming pioneer and noted collector William Fisk "Bill" Harrah. Maybe some of Hollywood's glamor will rub off on you in the National Automobile Museum's celebrity car section, which includes cars owned by Lana Turner (a 1941 Chrysler Newport Dual Cowl Phaeton) and Elvis Presley (a 1973 Cadillac Eldorado Custom Coupe).
Find out why Yankee Travel magazine named this institution the best special-collections museum in New England. The newly renovated and expanded Newport Car Museum is guaranteed to thrill car buffs with galleries dedicated to Fords and Shelbys, Corvettes, tailfins, and more.
Kykuit was the palatial hilltop home of four generations of the Rockefeller family, built by oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller in the suburbs of New York City. The mansion and grounds are now open to the public, and the Coach Barn contains a wonderful collection of antique carriages and classic automobiles.
In 1966, the bankrupt Studebaker Corporation donated its 33-vehicle collection to the city it had called home since being founded in the 1850s. The collection has since grown to include several U.S. presidential carriages plus the Studebaker family's Conestoga wagon. "Ten Cars That Changed the World" opens, with an exhibition on Studebaker mascots opening July 13.
Interactive exhibits abound here at the former international headquarters administration building of the Auburn Automobile Company. Visitors can explore the mechanics of a V8 engine or draw their own model in the Design Studio. Displays include the Gallery of Special Interest Automobiles, the Evolution Showcase, and the Gallery of Racers and Record-Setters. Special events are held throughout the year.
This museum is dedicated to Chevrolet's classic American sports car, still in production at the adjacent General Motors Corvette Assembly Plant. Car buffs will thrill to this summer's special exhibit on Chevy racing history. Don't forget to check out the display on the 2014 sinkhole in the museum's Skydome that swallowed eight Corvettes.
Billed as the second-oldest continuously operating antique car museum in America, this destination celebrates all things automotive from antiques and exotics to European and one-of-a-kind models. What began as in 1953 as a private car collection now contains the Rolls Royce collection of the Ringling circus family and John Lennon's 1965 Mercedes Benz, along with classic muscle cars and more.
Nothing beats a classic car cruise to the Jersey shore, and this one's a double delight. Two shows are held every year in this beach town, one on Mother's Day weekend and another the weekend of Sept. 21. Come for the classic cars, stay to stroll the boardwalk. Visit their website.
This car museum was established in 2010 to showcase the personal car collection of Peter W. Mullin, a businessman and philanthropist. Open only on select Saturdays, the Mullin feels more like a private showroom than a museum. Not too surprising, considering that the building used to house the auto collection of newspaper publisher Otis Chandler.
From Le Mans to Watkins Glen, the history of racing is celebrated at this collection of racing sports cars. Assembled over 50 years, the collection includes more than 65 historically significant cars. Check out the history of Nascar or time your visit to see one of the many special events held year-round, including classic car shows.
It's no surprise the home of the Indy 500 has a museum dedicated to its own rich history and the history of auto racing. Expect race cars of all kinds, from Indy cars to NASCAR to Formula One, Sprint, Midget and more along with plenty of memorabilia. You can even take a lap on the track when it's not being used for events or testing.
This museum began with a collection donated by the family of Harold LeMay, a local businessman said to have the largest private car collection in the world. Today, the display features a 350-car gallery based on the collection. Rotating exhibitions include Route 66, BMW, and the British Invasion.
If one day or even a weekend of classic cars isn't enough to satisfy you, then head to California. Every August, the Monterey area becomes the biggest auto show in the world for a whole week. Find car parts and collectibles at the Automobilia expo, plus auto shows, rallies, and car auctions, all culminating in the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
Blackhawk, affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, is dedicated to stimulating an interest and understanding of art, culture, and history. Inside the elaborate Automotive Gallery, you'll find a collection of 50 historically significant automobiles like the 1970 Dodge Challenger convertible as well as traveling exhibitions.
Founded in 1971 by collectors J.B. and Dorothy Nethercutt, this museum is dedicated to the couple's collection of Americana. At its heart are more than 250 rare American and European automobiles dating from the end of the 19th century through the late 1990s. You'll also find exhibits on musical instruments and a collection of antique furniture.