autoshow Family Guide to the Los Angeles Auto Show

People look at the Range Rover Evoque during the press day of the LA Auto Show. (credit: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

Los Angeles Convention Center

1201 S. Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 741-1151, ext. 3
More Info

Christmas arrives early for Southern California auto enthusiasts: November 19, which is the opening day of the Los Angeles Auto Show. Nearly one million people are expected to walk through the halls of the L.A. Convention Center by the show’s final day (11/28).

The L.A. show is one of the industry’s premier events, and marks the debut of more than 50 new model vehicles, including state of the art “green” cars (plug-ins, hybrids and PZEVs). Best of all, it’s family friendly:

JUST FOR KIDSThe Auto Show’s producers recognize that this is a prime destination each fall for families, so this year they’ve put together an expanded play area. The Nissan Quest Kids Fun Zone, located in Kentia Hall (below the South Hall), will open each weekend of the show from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (including the Friday after Thanksgiving). It will have bounce houses, a car driving course (from Dodge), video games and iPads loaded with drawing software set up to project your kids’ projects on a big screen. Giveaways will be offered and there will be a variety of other art and craft activities.

KID FRIENDLY EXHIBITSVisitors to the Chevrolet booth can create a motion capture picture of themselves (a la the Matrix) for upload to Facebook… and then receive a free limited edition Hot Wheels model of the 2011 Camaro convertible. I have a collector friend who is coming down to the show just for that, proving that this is an appealing giveaway to kids of all ages.

Chevy’s new electric Volt has been tied to another hot toy: It’s the featured vehicle in the new X-Box 360 racing game, Kinect Joy Ride. You and your kids can play the game at several stations, which of course, are set up around the Volt. (We only saw one Kinect station on the floor, but if you go up the stairs behind the exhibit, you’ll find more.)

Over at Toyota, your kids can star in their very own car commercials. Toyota willl film your kids on the show floor talking about the cars, and will kindly put the finished product on a CD for you (or upload to YouTube). “Kids love doing this, and they’re the most fun,” a Toyota spokesperson told us.

Volkswagen’s displays usually feature some fun interactive elements. This year, they’ve installed monitors with a face recognition program. If you walk over to one with a frown, you’ll be given a message, which changes when you smile. I must have spent about 15 minutes playing with it – your kids will want more. Be warned that the camera is mounted at adult-height, so if your children are small, you’ll have to lift them to make it work.

Go to the Ford booth to race little toy Mustangs on an elaborate slot car track. The Ford exhibit also includes a tribute to first responders, with a Ford police car and ambulance on display.

Your kids can play more racing games outside the South Hall entrance, where has set up a booth. Note that players who are over 18 are entered in a drawing to win an iPad.

More Tips:


Ticket list price for attendance is $12 per adult, but you can get $2 off by purchasing on the show’s web site here: (Discount tickets are also offered by participating auto dealers around town). Children 12 and under are free.

PARKINGParking at the Convention Center is $12 per day. You may be able to find it cheaper at one of the nearby independent lots – but keep in mind how much walking you’ll have to do while you’re there (especially if you have little ones). It may be worth to it to you to pay a little more for the convenience of saving a few more steps.

TRY GOING MID-WEEKIf you have ever attended the Auto Show on a busy Saturday afternoon, you know how packed it can be. But weeknights are surprisingly mellow. Try visiting the show on a weeknight, after work – they are open until 10:00 most evenings. Without the crowds, you can see more of the show in fewer hours. However, remember that the kids’ Fun Zone is only going to be open on weekends.

WHERE TO EATUnfortunately, you’re not allowed to bring food into the Convention Center – so it’s a good thing that the food served there is pretty decent: from freshly made salads and sushi to hot meals and kids’ favorites like pizza. Food outlets are located outside each of the major halls, and they’re pretty efficient at getting you in and out, even during busy lunch hours.

However, we’ve found that while it’s easy to pick up and pay for lunch, finding a place to sit can be challenging – especially if you’re a family of four. My advice is to arrive at the show early and plan to grab lunch before the rush (around 11:00).

There are also several dining options at LA Live. Your admission to the Auto Show includes in and out privileges; just be sure to get your hand stamped when you exit.

Donna Schwartz Mills is the founder and publisher of SoCal Mom (


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