There’s more to American car culture than cruising up and down Main Street, USA. Museums, race tracks, historical sites, and automotive artistry litter the American landscape. Here are ten must-see places every car lover should visit before they die.
This place is about more than just a few classic Corvettes on carpet. The museum is a vast complex that includes the NCM Motorsports Park—a sprawling track that hosts several motoring events for amateurs and professionals alike.
The works closely with General Motors’ Bowling Green, Kentucky, factory that builds the Corvette. Owners can get a tour of the GM factory before taking possession of their own Corvette at the museum. But even non-Corvette owners can enjoy the museum’s collection of classic and important Vettes.
Bonneville is a speedway in name only. The site for numerous land speed records is a lonely place way out in the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah. The salty track is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, too. It’s one of the few places in the U.S. to see cars reach insane speeds.
Every August is Speed Week, the largest meet of the year, where hundreds of drivers compete to set speed records in various categories. (You may want to expedite a trip here, though. The salt flats are deteriorating, which has led to event cancellations.)
Located in Amarillo, Texas, Cadillac Ranch is a public art installation of ten classic Cadillac cars half-buried nose first in the Texas ground. The Cadillacs range from the 1949 to 1963 model year—the heyday of massive tail fins and chrome galore. The display, visible from the road but located on private land, is open to the public, who are encouraged to interact with the cars, which includes bringing a can of spray paint to add to the automotive graffiti that now adorns the vehicles. (Honorable mention: Nebraska's , which is exactly what you think.)
Indy is called “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” for a reason. It’s unlike any other racing event in the world, with attendance often reaching nearly 300,000 on Memorial Day. And you don’t have to be a racing fan to enjoy the festivities (diminishing interest in the IndyCar series hasn't sunk the race itself as a cultural event for this very reason).
The race is all about the tradition of the event—race day is meticulously planned with pre- and post-race ceremonies, and the famous bottle of milk ready in victory lane at the conclusion of the 500 miles. Also, who doesn’t like seeing ridiculous race cars reach speeds north of 200 miles per hour?
The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles is a museum filled with rare vehicles from automakers all over the world. The museum has more than 100 vehicles on display at any one time, with the other half of the collection stored in “The Vault,” a basement storage facility that requires a premium admission ticket. The museum offers several galleries and often runs exclusive exhibits such as one for Porsche, which displayed a rare 1939 Porsche 64—one of two in existence.
The Henry Ford Museum, located at the home of the Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan, is one of the largest indoor-outdoor museums in the U.S. It’s also home to iconic and historical vehicles you can’t see anywhere else. It contains John F. Kennedy’s presidential limousine, the bus where Rosa Parks was arrested (pictured), a 1950s-era Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, and the first production-built Ford Mustang.
Pebble Beach is the go-to event for automotive high society. The event, held at the conclusion of Monterey Car Week, hosts gorgeous pre- and post-war cars rarely seen outside of museums or private collections. Owners compete in several categories in hopes of earning the coveted Best of Show award that goes to just one car in attendance. Cars you could see there include the 1938 Phantom Corsair, 1929 Duesenberg J Murphy Convertible Coupe, 1930 Bentley Speed Six, and many more forgotten classics.
You don’t need a trust fund and an offshore bank account in the Cayman Islands to enjoy a Barrett-Jackson classic car auction. Just being there is a joy. You can watch as hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions) roll across the auction block. You can then peruse the various cars that have new homes and owners.
A Barrett-Jackson auction often plays host to automakers auctioning off the first production vehicle of a new model with the proceeds donated to a charity—which could see otherwise affordable cars sell for millions of dollars. You might see a boat or airplane auctioned off, too.
Every August, the suburbs north of Detroit fill with more than a million car enthusiasts who want to zip up and down Woodward Avenue—or at least watch a fleet of gorgeous vehicles do so. The petro-passion here has turned the one-day rolling car show into a weeklong automotive extravaganza.
The event harkens back to the 1950s and 1960s when carloads of kids and young adults would spend nights and weekends cruising up and down the road. Today, the Woodward Dream Cruise is a major automotive event, with automakers, suppliers, and other automotive companies participating. It’s a must-see for any car enthusiast.
Daytona is the NASCAR equivalent of the Indy 500. It’s called “The Great American Race” and is often one of the first racing events of the new year—being held in February since the inaugural race in 1959. The Daytona 500 is a direct successor to the Daytona Beach and road course that was instrumental in the formation of NASCAR. And yes, they raced on the sandy beach. Today, the Daytona 500 is a massive event for race and non-race fans alike. It’s a worthy entry on any automotive bucket list.