LeMay America’s Car Museum is the largest car museum in North America and it’s just 30 minutes from Seattle. It’s just one of the many incredible things to do with kids in Tacoma, WA.
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Last week, my son and I spent a few days playing in Tacoma, WA. It’s just about 30 minutes south of Seattle and it’s full of kid-friendly activities.
One of the things we did was explore LeMay America’s Car Museum.
Now, I definitely wouldn’t classify myself as a “car person.” I mean I can barely name the make and model of my own car, let alone some of these classics.
So, you can imagine my surprise with how much I enjoyed poking around this fascinating car museum! It’s no wonder why people travel all over the country to visit!
A Day at LeMay America’s Car Museum: Everything You Need to Know to Prepare For Your Visit
First of all, you need to know that this is the largest car museum in North America. Not only is it the largest in the U.S., but MSN named America’s Car Museum one of the 10 Best Automotive Museums worldwide.
Just take a minute to think about that. How awesome (and unexpected) that it’s so close to Seattle!
This massive 165,000 square feet space features 4 floors of exhibits. Plus, the ramps between the floors also have exhibits.
The way the museum is designed, you see half the museum on your way down to the bottom level, then you see the other half as you work your way back to the top.
It’s kind of like IKEA because there are arrows on the ground so you know where to go!
Currently, the ACM Collection consists of 250 automobiles spanning over 100 years of automotive history. Plus, another 100 vehicles on exhibit loan from private collections.
That’s a LOT of cars!
But, what if I don’t like cars?
Even if you aren’t that interested in the cars themselves, this car museum in Tacoma does an awesome job of really setting the scene.
One of my favorite exhibits was the new “Dream of the Mother Road” exhibit that runs through October 14, 2019.
It’s all about Route 66 and features the iconic “See the USA in Your Chevrolet” advertising campaign. I had fun reading all about why people get such warm, fuzzy feelings when they think of road tripping on Route 66.
Plus, my son thought it was a lot like Disneyland’s Cars Land!
I also have a current obsession with British shows set in the 1950s and 1960s, so I geeked out over their “British Invasion” exhibit that was all about when British culture (like The Beatles) hit America.
And I got a kick out of seeing a replica of the car from the Flintstones!
Before You Go to LeMay America’s Car Museum:
What’s really nice about the LeMay car museum is that it’s right next to the Tacoma Dome and you can see it from the freeway.
From I-5 South (Seattle)
- Use the right lane to take exit 133 for I-705 N
- Keep right, follow signs for Tacoma Dome
- Use the right lane to turn right onto E 26th St
- Turn right at the 2nd cross street onto E D St
From I-5 North (Olympia)
- Take exit 133 toward City Center
- Keep right, follow signs for East 26 Street/Tacoma Dome
- Use the right lane to turn right onto E 26th St
- Turn right at the 2nd cross street onto E D St
There is plentiful parking at the museum
On Site Parking
If you park 10 am – 5 pm
- $5 for a maximum of (3) hours
- $10 for a maximum of (6) hours
If you park after 5 pm
- $5 flat rate
Additional on-street parking is available, on a first come first served basis.
Insider tip: Check the Tacoma Dome event schedule, before going because event parking rates may apply.
LeMay America’s Car Museum is open 7 days a week from 10am-5pm, except when it’s closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas..
It closes early (at 3pm) on the 4th of July, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
Tickets are available online, over the phone, or once you arrive.
- Adults: $18
- Seniors (Age 65+): $16
- Active Duty Military: $16
- Students: $14
- Youth (Ages 6-12): $10
- Child (5 and under): Free
AAA members, State Farm policy holders and employees, Hagerty policy holders and employees receive a 10% discount on adult admission.
If you think you’ll want to visit a few times, consider getting an ACM membership. Family memberships start at $95 and gets you free admission for a year plus discounts and other perks.
Save Money on Top Tacoma Attractions
If you’re planning on doing several fun things in Tacoma, WA, consider getting the Mountain City Sea Attraction Pass.
It’s definitely the best way for visitors to get access to the best attractions in Tacoma and Pierce County including: Crystal Mountain, Fort Nisqually, Foss Waterway Seaport Museum, LeMay Family Collection, Museum of Glass, Tacoma Art Museum, and Washington State History Museum at a huge discount.
What to do with Kids at LeMay America’s Car Museum
Ok, by now you might be wondering if America’s Car Museum is geared more for adults or families. Well, I’m here to say they cater to both audiences.
Since I like to focus on fun things to do with kids, I’m going to highlight their kid-friendly areas.
This is the first area that really caught my 5 year old’s eye. It’s nestled in the corner and there’s room for about 4 people to sit and race the cars on the little track.
In case you’re wondering, a slot car is a powered miniature auto or other vehicle that is guided by a groove or slot in the track on which it runs.
You’ll need to get a ticket to participate. It’s $3 for non members and $2 for members.
We didn’t participate because I wasn’t sure how it worked and didn’t want my son to be frustrated while I messed around with it. We’ll definitely do it next time when my husband is with us.
VIRTUAL RACE CAR DRIVING
Right next to the slot cars is an area with CXC racing simulators. They looked like what you’d see at an arcade, only supped up a bit!
You’ll also need a ticket for this. It’s $8 for non members and $5 for members.
My son and I watched for awhile and it was fun to see the seats shake as the drivers raced! There’s even stands so friends and family can watch!
This definitely looked geared for teens and adults. My husband would get a kick out of it!
STATE FARM THEATRE
As a mom, I love when museums have a spot to sit down and watch films. It’s a great area to nurse a baby or sit with a napping child.
This one is pretty nice and they played several films on a loop.
If you follow me on Instagram, you know I haven’t met a photo op I didn’t like!
This one is really cool and it’s FREE! You can choose a vintage hat and then climb inside a huge 1923 Buick touring car.
Volunteers will take your photo. They will print you a copy and you can also have it sent to you via email (which will sign you up for their email list.)
They encouraged my son to drive the car and he thought that was amazing!
If you are visiting LeMay America’s Car Museum with kids, you’ll want to block off a lot of time to hang out in the Family Zone.
It’s located on the bottom level of the museum and features tons of super cool, hands-on activities for kids.
My son’s favorite area was where he got to build his own pinewood car using weighted pieces. He probably spent a solid 30 minutes racing with other kids and adults!
There’s also an area where kids can create own postcard and draw their version of the perfect car, perfect for budding artists.
And it wouldn’t be an awesome car museum for kids if they didn’t have an area where kids could actually climb inside one!
My favorite areas were all about road trips! They have a big, wooden map of the United States where kids can “drive” cars on their ultimate road trip.
The cars are in grooves, so you don’t have to worry about them accidentally taking them home!
Plus, there’s a Road Trip Challenge exhibit created by Renton Technical College students. It’s all about teaching kids how to cut down on their energy use and it features a Ford Mustang.
Heads up: The cell reception isn’t very good, so don’t plan on scrolling Facebook 🙂
There are a handful of exhibits where kids are encouraged to touch things. We found a few areas with little doors kids can pull to read facts.
There’s also a new Learning Lab where kids can learn about how to power the future.
My son liked exploring the Fueling Stations and designing his own car for the future.
I’ve never really paid attention to NASCAR, but I know it’s a very popular sport across the country.
It always helps me when I find some sort of connection to an athlete or player. So, I was stoked to find out that Kasey Kahne is from Enumclaw, WA!
They do a nice job of highlighting some of the most famous racers and if you kids have seen a few races, they will love seeing the race cars close up!
The America Car Museum also does a nice job providing community programs for families.
FAMILY STEAM DAYS
On the third Saturday of each month, families can get a deeper look inside the automotive world through special activities at the Museum.
During the summer, check out their Drive-In movie series on ACM’s Haub Family Field. You can watch from your car or spread out on a blanket to see classic movies like The Goonies and more recent ones like How to Train Your Dragon 3.
And if you are part of the Scouts program, there are plenty of opportunities to earn badges as well as participate in their Pinewood Derby Races.
Top Questions About LeMay America’s Car Museum
IS THERE A CHARGE FOR PARKING?
Yes. You can park in their paid parking lot. It’s $5 for up to 3 hours and $10 for up to 6 hours. After 5pm, it’s just a flat $5 fee.
If you’re looking for free parking, there’s often street parking available.
CAN I TAKE PUBLIC TRANSIT?
Definitely. There’s an Amtrak Station and Link Light Rail station within walking distance of ACM. You can also take the Sounder Train from Seattle, which drops you off just blocks away from the Museum.
For buses, you can easily walk from the Sound Transit Tacoma Dome station, Sound Transit Express Bus, Pierce Transit, and the Greyhound station.
IS THERE A RESTAURANT AT LEMAY AMERICA’S CAR MUSEUM?
Yes, Classics by Pacific Grill is open daily from 10am-5pm. Their menu focuses on classic Americana food like burgers and sandwiches.
They have a solid kids menu and they now serve beer, wine, and liquor for adults.
And if you really like the food, you can order it for delivery through UberEats and GrubHub! Or you can eat at the restaurant without paying admission to see the Museum.
CAN YOU BUY LEMAY AMERICA’S CAR MUSEUM TICKETS ONLINE?
Yes, you can purchase tickets online here.
CAN I BRING MY PETS?
Unless you have an ADA trained service animal, you may not bring any pets inside the Museum or on the ACM Campus.
IS IT STROLLER-FRIENDLY?
Most definitely! The wide exhibit space and long ramps makes pushing a stroller a breeze.
HOW ABOUT WHEELCHAIRS?
For sure! America’s Car Museum is ADA-compliant. There’s handicap parking in the main parking lot and visitors can use the roundabout to drop guests off closer to the main entrance.
There’s also an elevator in case you need to quickly get up or down.
Note: you must bring your own wheelchair.
IS THERE A GIFT SHOP?
Yes and your kids will love it! My son immediately noticed all the Cars-themed stuff.
Plus, there are lots of cool little cars for kids as well as tons of things for adult collectors and car enthusiasts.
You can get a peek at the collection here.
HOW LONG DO YOU NEED AT LEMAY AMERICA’S CAR MUSEUM?
This is a tough question to answer. We spent about 2 hours and we cruised through a lot of the sections.
Most of our time was spent in the Family Zone area (and my son would have spent longer there if we had time.)
If you are planning on also eating there, it would be easy to spend an entire half day.
If You Go to Tacoma, Washington
WHERE TO STAY IN TACOMA:
If you want to make a whole weekend out of it, I suggest staying at Hotel Murano. It’s located just steps away from the Link Light Rail station in the heart of Downtown Tacoma.
It’s a gorgeous hotel that even has a classic car in the lobby on loan from the LeMay Family Collection!
Another option (if you are going without kids) is the new McMenaman’s Elk Lodge. It’s a unique space with great food and lots of concerts.
WHERE TO EAT IN TACOMA:
Tacoma’s food scene is booming right now!
A few of our favorite spots include Rhein Haus (where families can play miniature golf and eat German food,) Harmon Brewing Co. (new chain that has some awesome cajun tots), and Farrelli’s Pizza (where kids can play with pizza dough while they wait for their meal.)
OTHER THINGS TO DO IN TACOMA, WA:
There are so many cool things to do in Tacoma!
I’d suggest doing the Sweets Tour from Pretty Gritty Tours. It meets just a few blocks away from the Museum and you could easily combine the two activities in one day.
If you don’t want to do the tour, stop by Brown & Haley, makers of the iconic Almond Roca candy and Mountain bars. Their factory is nearby and they have lots of free samples, plus discounted items.
Ride the Link Light Rail to Downtown Tacoma. After spending time looking are cool cars, hop on the free Link Light Rail and grab food, check out the Museum of Glass, or shop at one of the boutiques.