Where to go to see why getting there is at least half the fun

The automobile--and eventurally trucks and RVs--have epitomized America's love of travel and road trips. That may explain why there are so many museums and other destinations devoted to cars and car travel. From dozens of varied auto collections and car-related exhibits to lots of dedicated car museums throughout the nation, it's easy to explore historic locations that relate to four wheel travel in its many forms. That's why hitting the road for Jack--and Jill--can often lead to an exploration of road travel across the country.

"Americans have had a long love affair with the automobile," says Jackie Frady, president of the National Association of Automobile Museums and executive director of the National Automobile Museum, The Harrah Collection, in Reno, Nevada.

"This, coupled with an ongoing interest in cultural experiences, allows travelers to indulge their passion for both, by visiting automobile museums across the country."

"Museum visitors will typically experience exceptional automobiles and fascinating stories about an industry that has shaped our country's history and the people behind the cars," Frady continues. She says there are more than 100 museums in 36 states in their association.

Located right downtown, Reno's National Automobile Museum is one of many perfect places to explore automobiles in America. Also known as The Harrah Collection, the National Automobile Museum is unique in that they feature more than 200 various vehicles set in authentic street scenes that include typical background sounds.

With a hardware store, a movie theater, cobblestone streets, and more as backdrops, audio tours allow visitors the opportunity to explore the cars and their eras at their own pace. In addition, visitors can honk an antique "ooga" car horn and even put on a period hat and coat at the museum's photo car (a 1926 Ford Model T).

Of course, as can be expected, the state of Michigan is a go-to mecca for varied museums and other destinations devoted to the automobile. Thanks to its connection with Ford Motor Company and more, the Detroit suburb of Dearborn is a natural place to start.

The Henry Ford is most definitely an ode to the automobile, but it also features many other opportunities to explore American history.

"Driving America is more than an exhibition with cars on display," says Patricia Mooradian, president of The Henry Ford. "It is really an interactive, state-of-the-art story for us--us as drivers, consumers, and enthusiasts. It examines the car as an innovation and explores how it has changed almost every aspect of our lives and heavily influenced the decisions we made."

With more than 80,000 square feet of sweeping space, the exhibit includes more than 130 vehicles and 60 cases of artifacts. Sprinkled throughout the experience are 18 interactive 42-inch touchscreens offering thousands of additional details, images, videos, and oral histories.

Driving America uses The Henry Ford's unparalleled collection, including some of the most important and significant vehicles of our time: an 1896 Duryea, the last remaining example of America's first production car; an 1865 Roper, the oldest surviving American car; and a 1931 Bugatti Royale, the third of just six built in the world. Century-old electric cars, current hybrids, muscle cars, and modern-day SUVs fill out the exhibitions 20 focal areas, covering everything from hot rods and road trips to road food and racing.

There's much more at The Henry Ford beyond Driving America and Henry Ford Museum, thanks to a collection that holds 26 million-plus objects (like Henry Ford's quadricycle) and documents and other adjacent attractions.

For instance, Greenfield Village features 300 years of American history through 83 authentic historic structures, four living-history farms, and the oldest annual car show in the country (September's Old Car Festival). There's also The Henry Ford IMAX® Theatre (the largest IMAX® theater in Michigan), the Ford Rouge Factory Tour (featuring the rich history of the Rouge, the birthplace of the Model A, the V-8, the Mustang, the Thunderbird, and today's iconic F-150), and the Benson Ford Research Center (the world's largest collection of automotive and truck product literature).

In addition, Dearborn features the Automotive Hall of Fame, which is also located on Oakwood Boulevard across the parking lot from The Henry Ford. Various possibilities for auto buffs here include the Soichiro Honda Atrium (changing car displays and special exhibits); the William Maybach Hall of Recognition (recent Hall of Fame inductees and more); the Fred Mancheski Theater (media showcasing the history of the industry and Hall of Fame honorees); the Hall of Honor, including a large John Gable "History of the Auto" mural depicting the history of car on world culture; and lots of permanent and changing exhibits ranging from the automobile's early days to today. The Hall of Fame's 1948 Chrysler Convertible is certainly a highlight.

There are more than ten other auto-centric possibilities in Michigan alone. Detroit proper features the Model T Automotive Heritage Complex, which was the birthplace of Henry Ford's "Tin Lizzies" and is currently the only early Detroit auto plant open to visitors. The Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum is another great option near the Motor City.

An hour northwest of Detroit, Flint was the birthplace of General Motors. Sightseeing possibilities here include the Sloan Museum's Buick Gallery and the Durant-Dort Carriage Company Office, a National Historic Landmark at 315 West Water Street that housed the carriage company that would become General Motors. General Motors recently purchased Durant-Dort's original "Factory One" across the street from the Company Office.

Located near Hickory Corners midway between Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, and Grand Rapids, the Gilmore Car Museum and adjacent museums and collections are well worth a visit. The rural 90-acre museum complex features the hallmark Gilmore Car Museum, with eight historic barns, a re-created 1930s service station, and three miles of paved roads where it's not uncommon to catch one of the museum's vintage cars or an authentic London double-decker bus on the move.

Incredibly, there's also the Pierce-Arrow Museum, the Classic Car Club of America Museum, The Franklin Collection, the Model A Ford Museum, and the Cadillac-LaSalle Club Museum and Lincoln Motor Car Museum, both being built at press time. It all makes for a car lover's dream destination just 150 miles from Detroit. Also within easy reach, other Michigan possibilities include: The Packard Proving Grounds Historic Site in Shelby Township; Chesterfield's Stahls Automotive Foundation; Marysville's Wills Sainte Claire Auto Museum; and Lansing's R.E. Olds Transportation Museum.

The neighboring state of Ohio also features many auto enthusiast options. Packard fans will naturally gravitate to Dayton's Citizen Motor Car Company (America's Packard Museum), located in a restored Packard dealership, and the National Packard Museum in Warren. Cleveland's Western Reserve Historical Society is well worth a visit, thanks to the Crawford Auto Aviation Collection and its major "Setting the World in Motion" exhibition, which explores auto and aviation technologies in northeast Ohio in the first half of the 20th century. Other Ohio options include the extensive car collection, a recreated 1940s Texaco gas station, car memorabilia, and much more at Snook's Dream Cars in Bowling Green, the Canton Classic Car Museum, and Kettering's British Transportation Museum, which is currently looking for permanent museum space in the Dayton area to showcase a collection of beloved British cars (think Austins, MGs, Minis, and more), as well as varied vintage bicycles.

Pennsylvania is yet another state packed with auto-oriented attractions, as well as some two-wheel possibilities. Major cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia feature the Frick Car & Carriage Museum and Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum respectively, while many smaller Pennsylvania towns like Kutztown (Old Spokes Auto Museum, "Home of the Hudson") and Huntington (William E. Swigart Automobile Museum) offer more options, as do America on Wheels in Allentown, the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles, and the Rolls-Royce Foundation in Mechanicsburg.

Attraction-rich Hershey also offers a diversion from all things chocolate, thanks to the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum. The AACA Museum focuses on cars, buses, motorcycles, and more with original and restored vehicles exhibited in background scenes that bring transportation history to life in "Sea to Shining Sea," from a New York City machine shop to San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.

Additional exhibits include Model T's to muscle cars and even Flo's restored 1941 Valentine Diner, relocated from Wichita, Kansas. More than a dozen vehicles owned by the Museum of Bus Transportation are parked next to Flo's and they make up the largest collection of historic buses under one roof. The museum's excellent gift shop includes fun garage (and RV) décor and much more.

Down in the car-crazed Carolinas, the options abound. Charlotte's NASCAR Hall of Fame is a great place to start, as is nearby Charlotte Motor Speedway and several racing team shops that welcome visitors in Cabarrus County, "Where Racing Lives." Along with several other famed racetracks, North Carolina options also include Mooresville's Memory Lane Museum and Maggie Valley's Wheels Through Time Museum (featuring rare vintage motorcycles). Down in South Carolina, German auto and motorcycle buffs will definitely want to head to BMW central in the Greenville area, thanks to the BMW Zentrum Museum, plant tours (when they're not in production), and the varied options at their highly-regarded BMW Performance Driving School. Loyal fans of Michelin tires will want to head to bustling downtown Greenville to the Michelin On Main shop, which features everything Michelin.

Even further south, the Sunshine State also has a number of possibilities for auto aficionados and even for those interested in historic carriages from another era. The possibilities include: iconic Daytona International Speedway (with varied tour options), the Tallahassee Automobile Museum; the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum in Pinellas Park; and Rick Treworgy's Muscle Car City. There's also Grand Oaks Resort & Museum, which features the world's largest private collections of elegant European and American carriages.

Heading across the country to the land of the actual Golden Gate Bridge, California also has many auto-driven attractions. Car-centric possibilities include: Sacramento's California Auto Museum; the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles (be sure ask about extra ticketing for "The Vault"); the Toyota USA Automobile Museum in Torrance (by appointment only); Oxnard's Murphy Auto Museum; Menifee's Motte Historical Museum; Danville's Blackhawk Museum; and San Diego's J.A. Cooley Museum and San Diego Automotive Museum. Racing fans will definitely want to check out Pomona's Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum and the Justice Private Automotive Collection (Justice Bros., Inc.) in Duarte.

Up in Oregon, there's the Northwest Vintage Car & Motorcycle Museum in Brooks, which is part of Antique Powerland (15 museums celebrating Oregon's agricultural heritage). Further north in Tacoma, Washington, LeMay-America's Car Museum houses up to 350 vehicles from private owners, companies, and the LeMay collection, which amassed a Guinness Book record of 3,500-plus vehicles in the mid-1990s. Of course, many other states in the Lower 48 have auto-focused museums and attractions.

Last, but definitely not least, those taking the Alaska Highway or otherwise heading to Fairbanks and the rest of the Last Frontier won't want to miss the excellent Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum of Fairbanks. With 85-plus immaculate vintage vehicles accompanied by period fashion displays and much more, this automobile museum is definitely "worth the drive."

Check out these Automobile Museums
Conveniently located in states by our preserves

Be sure to call ahead before planning a visit to confirm address, opening hours, entrance fees, and more.

Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum
6030 Barber Motorsports Pkwy.
Birmingham, AL 35094
(205) 699-7275

Scottsdale International Auto Museum
9617 N. Metro Pkwy. West, Ste. 1066
Phoenix, AZ 85051
(602) 944-1238

The Franklin Auto Museum
1405 E. Kleindale Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85719
(520) 326-8038

Blackhawk Museum
3700 Blackhawk Plaza Cir.
Danville, CA 94506
(925) 736-2280

Petersen Automotive Museum
6060 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 930-2277

Motte Historical Museum
28380 State Hwy. 74
Menifee, CA 92585
(951) 928-3210

California Auto Museum
2200 Front St.
Sacramento, CA 95818
(916) 442-6802

San Diego Automotive Museum
2080 Pan American Plz. (Balboa Park)
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 231-2886

J.A. Cooley Museum
4233 Park Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 296-3112

Tampa Bay Automobile Museum
3301 Gateway Center Blvd.
Pinellas Park, FL 33782
(727) 579-8226

Rick Treworgy's Muscle Car City
3811Tamiami Tr.
Punta Gorda, FL 33950
(941) 639-6767

Wheels O' Time Museum
1710 W. Woodside Dr.
Dunlap, IL 61525
(309) 243-9020

Volo Auto Museum
27582 Volo Village Rd.
Volo, IL 60073
(815) 385-3644

Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum
1600 S. Wayne St.
Auburn, IN 46706
(260) 925-1444

Kokomo Automotive Museum
1500 N. Reed Rd.
Kokomo, IN 46901
(765) 454-9999

Studebaker National Museum
201 S. Chapin St.
South Bend, IN 46601
(574) 235-9714

National Corvette Museum
350 Corvette Dr.
Bowling Green, KY 42101
(270) 781-7973

Swope's Cars of Yesteryear Museum
1100 N. Dixie Ave.
Elizabethtown, KY 42701
(270) 765-2181

Cole Land Transportation Museum
405 Perry Rd.
Bangor, ME 04401
(207) 990-3600

Seal Cove Auto Museum
1414 Tremont Rd., Seal Cove
Mount Desert Island, ME 04674
(207) 244-9242

Larz Anderson Auto Museum
15 Newton St.
Brookline, MA 02445
(617) 522-6547

Automotive Hall of Fame
21400 Oakwood Blvd.
Dearborn, MI 48124
(313) 240-4000

The Henry Ford
20900 Oakwood Blvd.
Dearborn, MI 48121
(313) 982-6100

R.E. Olds Transportation Museum
240 Museum Dr.
Lansing, MI 48933
(517) 372-0529

Wills Sainte Claire Auto Museum
2408 Wills St.
Marysville, MI 48040
(810) 388-5050

Ypsilanti Auto Heritage Museum
100 E. Cross St.
Ypsilanti, MI 48198
(734) 482-5200

New Jersey
Vintage Auto Museum of New Jersey
1800 Bay Ave.
Point Pleasant, NJ 08742
(732) 899-0012

New York
Champlain Valley Transportation Museum
12 Museum Way
Plattsburg, NY 12903
(518) 566-7575

Saratoga Automobile Museum
110 Avenue of the Pines
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
(518) 587-1935

North Carolina
Wheels Through Time Museum
62 Vintage Ln.
Maggie Valley, NC 28751
(828) 926-6266

Memory Lane Museum
769 River Hwy.
Mooresville, NC 28117
(704) 662-3673

Snook's Dream Cars
13920 Country Home Rd.
Bowling Green, OH 43402
(419) 353-8338

Western Reserve Historical Society (Crawford Auto Aviation Collection)
10825 East. Blvd.
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 721-5722

National Packard Museum
1899 Mahoning Ave. N.W.
Warren, OH 44483
(330) 394-1899

Northwest Vintage Car & Motorcycle Museum
3995 Brooklake Rd. NE
Brooks, OR 97303
(503) 399-0647

Antique Automobile Club of America Museum
161 Museum Dr.
Hershey, PA 17033
(717) 566-7100

Rolls-Royce Foundation
189 Hempt Rd.
Mechanicsburg, PA
17050 (717) 795-9400

South Carolina
Michelin On Main
550 S. Main St., #102
Greenville, SC 29601
(864) 241-4450

BMW Zentrum Museum & BMW Performance Driving School
1155 Highway 101 S.
Greer, SC 29651
(888) 345-4269

Lane Motor Museum
702 Murfreesboro Pike
Nashville, TN 37210
(615) 742-7445

Dick's Classic Garage Car Museum
120 Stagecoach Trail
San Marcos, TX 78666
(512) 878-2406

LeMay-America's Car Museum
2702 East D St.
Tacoma, WA 98421
(253) 779-8490

Wisconsin Automotive Museum
147 N. Rural St.
Hartford, WI 53027
(262) 673-7999