Mar 31 2010
Have you ever driven past something a bazillion times, but never stopped in?
When I was a kid, our visits to the Twin Cities from North Dakota were always to visit family. Once in a while we went to a park or special event once we’d arrived, but there were usually no museum visits built into the trips. And getting there wasn’t half the fun–it was the means to an end. The only stops we made along the 6-hour trip were for food at the truck stop in Rothsay (where we once needed emergency car repairs on a cold December day and they treated us well, ensuring our family’s cafe business forever after), and a rest area along I-94 if absolutely necessary.
We saw signs for things to do along the way; we just never got to stop and see them. The Sinclair Lewis Interpretive Center in Sauk Centre was a mystery to us. The cherry-on-a-spoon at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden was a mere blur before entering the tunnel. And, in the days before Rogers had Cabela’s and Kohl’s and SuperTarget and Best Buy, the Ellingson Car Museum’s sign with a real car perched atop was something to see, but that was as close as we got.
Last year, on our annual sandal run to the outlet mall at Albertville (also nonexistent during my childhood), I had promised the kids we’d go to the car museum. If. they. were. good. at. the. store.
We drove home directly after buying the shoes.
This year they held up their end of the bargain and we stopped at the car museum.
The Ellingson Car Museum is both a museum and a showroom; many of the cars inside are for sale. The front of the building is like a dealership showroom, and anyone can stop in and see those cars through the windows, including a DeLorean, the significance of which was lost on my young children who have never seen Back to the Future.
To see the rest of the museum, there’s a $5 admission fee for ages 6 and up.
When you go through the doors, it’s impressive to see the large area with old cars in it. Think of a large service area at a dealership, with classic and rare vehicles lined up on roped-off paths.
It’s not just cars, though; a doll exhibit including Barbies was the first thing my daughters noticed, and throughout the museum there are displays of classic items that go along with or supplement the time periods of the vehicles themselves.
As far as the cars go, there’s a wide range. There’s a Packard and an Edsel, a Studebaker and a Hudson Hornet. There’s even a General Lee. (Again, the significance of this orange car missed my kids.)
Throughout the museum, there are videos playing that tell more about some of the cars and run in continuous 10-15-minute loops.
At the end of the road, there’s an ice cream parlor and gift shop.
It didn’t take us too long to walk through the museum since we didn’t have any real car buffs in our midst, but the kids did think it was interesting to see all the old cars. Their favorite part, however, had nothing to do with vehicles.
They loved the arcade games.
We’re not much of an arcade family; I don’t even know what it costs to play a video game in a restaurant any more, although I’m guessing it’s more than the $.25 that I remember. The Ellingson Car Museum has a collection of 50′s and 60′s-era video games, including an early driving game, some rifle-shot games, and an old pinball machine. The best part–the games still work!
I don’t usually spring for a lot of extras, but I loved the chance to show the kids what games looked like in the days before Wii, before Nintendo, even before Atari. So I used the change machine and granted each of them a quarter to play the game of their choice. Pinball was the favorite, with three of us trying our hand at it. What a fun thing to do! The kids had never seen a real pinball machine before, and I asked them what they thought. “Too much noise,” my son said. “All of those bells are really loud.” I suppose that’s true to an ear who’s never heard those bells before and is accustomed to being able to adjust the volume of the various noises around it.
The Ellingson Car Museum is located on the service road just southeast of the I-94/Hwy 101 exit in Rogers, Minnesota, and is open daily. Car enthusiasts may spend hours there, but we were there for about 45 minutes. Kids may not be so interested in the specifics of the cars, but they’ll like spotting the other characters that are displayed with the vehicles. And of course a chance to play in the arcade.
More about Rogers, MN, at Uptake.