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Don Garlits museum of drag racing.

don garlits museum of drag racing

For any fan of speed, adrenaline, and automotive history, a visit to the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing is an absolute must. Located in Ocala, Florida, this museum is a comprehensive and immersive showcase of the sport of drag racing, as well as a tribute to the legendary career of “Big Daddy” Don Garlits himself. From vintage dragsters and iconic race cars to personal memorabilia and interactive exhibits, the museum offers a glimpse into the thrilling world of drag racing like no other.

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Stepping into the museum is like stepping back in time, with displays that chronicle the evolution of drag racing from its early beginnings to its modern-day spectacle. Visitors can marvel at the groundbreaking innovations and record-breaking achievements that have shaped the sport, as well as learn about the fearless drivers who have left their mark on drag racing history. Whether you’re a diehard fan or a casual enthusiast, the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing offers a captivating experience that celebrates the passion, dedication, and sheer excitement of this high-octane sport.

History of Don Garlits

Don Garlits is a name that is synonymous with drag racing. Known as the “Father of Drag Racing,” Garlits has had a profound impact on the sport and has left a lasting legacy that continues to be celebrated to this day. Born in Tampa, Florida, in 1932, Garlits began his drag racing career in the early 1950s and quickly rose to prominence as one of the sport’s most successful and innovative drivers.

Garlits’ career in drag racing began in 1950 when he attended his first drag race in Miami. Inspired by what he saw, Garlits knew that he wanted to become a drag racer himself. In 1954, he purchased his first dragster and began competing in local races. Garlits quickly made a name for himself on the drag racing circuit with his fearless driving style and innovative approach to building and tuning his race cars.

In 1955, Garlits made history when he became the first drag racer to exceed 170 mph in the quarter-mile. This was just the beginning of a long list of accomplishments for Garlits. Throughout his career, Garlits won a total of 144 national events, including the prestigious NHRA U.S. Nationals seven times. He also set numerous speed and elapsed time records, solidifying his reputation as one of the greatest drag racers of all time.

But Garlits’ influence on drag racing goes beyond his success on the track. Throughout his career, Garlits was known for his innovative approach to building and tuning race cars. He was constantly experimenting with new technologies and techniques in order to gain an edge over his competition. Garlits is best known for his development of the rear-engine dragster, a design that revolutionized the sport and made drag racing safer for drivers.

In 1971, Garlits suffered a horrific accident at a race in California that nearly ended his career. The accident occurred when the transmission exploded in his car, causing the front end to break off and fly into the stands. Garlits suffered severe burns in the accident, but he was determined to make a comeback. After months of recovery and rehabilitation, Garlits returned to the track and continued to race with the same passion and determination as before.

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In 1987, Garlits made another significant contribution to the sport of drag racing when he opened the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida. The museum is home to an impressive collection of drag racing memorabilia, including Garlits’ race cars and trophies. The museum also features interactive exhibits and displays that celebrate the history and excitement of drag racing.

Today, Don Garlits remains a beloved figure in the world of drag racing. His name is synonymous with speed, innovation, and passion for the sport. His legacy lives on through the museum that bears his name, as well as through the many drivers and fans who continue to be inspired by his remarkable career. Don Garlits is a true legend of drag racing, and his impact on the sport will be felt for generations to come.

Collections at the museum

Located in Ocala, Florida, the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing is home to an impressive collection of artifacts and memorabilia that celebrate the history of this exhilarating sport. The museum, which was founded by legendary drag racer Don Garlits himself, houses a vast array of items that showcase the evolution of drag racing over the years.

One of the highlights of the museum’s collection is its impressive display of race cars. Visitors can admire a wide range of vehicles that have left their mark on the drag racing world, spanning from vintage hot rods to modern-day dragsters. Each car on display tells a unique story, reflecting the technological advancements and innovations that have shaped the sport.

In addition to the race cars, the museum also features an extensive selection of engines, many of which were custom-built for specific racing events. These engines offer a behind-the-scenes look at the mechanics and engineering that go into creating high-performance vehicles capable of reaching incredible speeds on the track.

Alongside the cars and engines, the museum also boasts an impressive collection of racing memorabilia. From vintage racing helmets and uniforms to trophies and photographs, these items provide a glimpse into the history and culture of drag racing. Visitors can learn about the iconic drivers who have made their mark on the sport, as well as the various racing events and competitions that have captivated audiences over the years.

For fans of drag racing history, the museum offers a unique opportunity to explore the sport’s roots and evolution. Exhibits showcase the pioneers of drag racing, as well as the key moments and milestones that have shaped its development. Visitors can immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of drag racing history, gaining a deeper appreciation for the passion and dedication that drives racers to push the limits of performance.

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The museum’s collection is constantly growing and evolving, with new items and exhibits added regularly to showcase the latest developments in drag racing. Whether you’re a seasoned drag racing enthusiast or a newcomer looking to learn more about this thrilling sport, the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing has something to offer for everyone.

Interactive exhibits for visitors

The Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing is not just a place to admire vintage cars and memorabilia but also a space where visitors can engage in interactive exhibits that offer a hands-on experience with the world of drag racing. 

One of the most popular interactive exhibits at the museum is the drag racing simulator. Visitors have the opportunity to sit in a replica drag racing car, complete with a steering wheel, pedals, and a screen that simulates the experience of racing down the track. This exhibit allows visitors to feel the adrenaline rush of drag racing without actually being on the track.

Another highlight of the interactive exhibits is the engine teardown demo. Professional mechanics demonstrate how a drag racing engine is taken apart and put back together, giving visitors an up-close look at the intricate workings of these high-performance machines. Visitors can ask questions and learn about the mechanics behind drag racing engines.

For those who want to test their racing skills, the museum offers a reaction time game where visitors can practice their reflexes and see how quick their reaction times are compared to professional drag racers. This hands-on exhibit is a fun way for visitors to challenge themselves and learn about the importance of quick reflexes in drag racing.

In addition to the simulator, engine teardown demo, and reaction time game, the museum also offers interactive exhibits that educate visitors about the history of drag racing. One exhibit showcases the evolution of drag racing cars over the years, from the early days of hot rods to the modern, high-tech drag racers of today. Another exhibit allows visitors to explore the different types of drag racing events, such as bracket racing, Top Fuel, and Funny Car.

Visitors can also learn about the legends of drag racing through interactive exhibits that highlight the achievements of famous racers like Don Garlits, Shirley Muldowney, and John Force. These exhibits include videos, photos, and memorabilia that showcase the impact these racers have had on the sport of drag racing.

Overall, the interactive exhibits at the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing provide a unique and engaging experience for visitors of all ages. Whether you’re a diehard drag racing fan or just curious about the world of high-speed racing, these hands-on exhibits offer a fun and educational way to learn more about the history, mechanics, and excitement of drag racing. So, come on down to the museum and see for yourself what makes drag racing one of the most thrilling and adrenaline-pumping sports in the world.

Events and programs at the museum

The Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing is not only a place to learn about the history of drag racing, but it also offers a variety of events and programs for visitors to enjoy. Whether you’re a diehard drag racing fan or just looking for a fun day out, there’s something for everyone at this iconic museum.

One of the highlights of the museum’s events calendar is the annual Blacksmith Cruise-In. This event brings together car enthusiasts from all over the country to showcase their hot rods, muscle cars, and custom vehicles. Visitors can wander through rows of impressive vehicles, chat with fellow enthusiasts, and even participate in a car show and cruise around the museum grounds. It’s an excellent opportunity to see some incredible cars up close and meet like-minded individuals who share a passion for all things automotive.

For those who are looking to learn more about drag racing, the museum offers a variety of programs and educational opportunities. One popular program is the Drag Racing School, where visitors can learn the basics of drag racing from professional instructors. Participants get the chance to spend time on the track, practice their driving skills, and even take a hot lap in a race car. It’s a unique experience that gives visitors a taste of what it’s like to be behind the wheel of a dragster.

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The museum also hosts special events throughout the year, such as car shows, swap meets, and races. These events draw in enthusiasts from all over the country and offer a chance to see some incredible vehicles in action. Whether you’re into classic cars, muscle cars, or dragsters, there’s something for everyone at these events. They’re a great way to connect with other car enthusiasts and immerse yourself in the excitement of drag racing.

If you’re looking for something more hands-on, the museum offers workshops and seminars on a variety of topics related to drag racing. From engine building and tuning to paint and bodywork, there’s a workshop for every skill level and interest. These programs give visitors the opportunity to learn from industry professionals and get hands-on experience working on cars. It’s a great way to expand your knowledge and skills while having fun in a supportive and educational environment.

No matter what your interest or experience level, the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing has something for everyone. Whether you’re a seasoned drag racing fan or just looking for a fun day out, the museum’s events and programs offer a unique and exciting experience. From car shows and races to workshops and educational programs, there’s always something new and exciting happening at this iconic museum. So come on out and experience the thrill of drag racing for yourself!

How to plan a visit

Planning a visit to the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing can be an exciting and fun experience for any racing fan or history enthusiast. As you begin to plan your trip, there are a few key things to keep in mind to ensure you make the most of your visit.

First and foremost, you’ll want to decide when you would like to visit the museum. Consider factors such as the time of year, any special events or exhibits that may be happening, and the museum’s hours of operation. The museum is typically open from Tuesday to Sunday, so be sure to check the current schedule on their website before making any plans.

Next, you’ll want to determine how you will be getting to the museum. Located in Ocala, Florida, the museum is conveniently situated near major highways and is easily accessible by car. Suppose you are flying in from out of town. In that case, the closest airport is the Ocala International Airport, with larger airports such as Orlando International Airport and Tampa International Airport also within driving distance.

Once you have your transportation sorted out, it’s time to consider accommodations. There are plenty of hotels and motels in the Ocala area to choose from, ranging from budget-friendly options to more luxurious accommodations. It’s a good idea to book your accommodations in advance to ensure you have a place to stay during your visit.

As you plan your visit, be sure to check the museum’s website for any special events or exhibitions that may be happening during your visit. The museum frequently hosts events such as car shows, races, and guest appearances by drag racing legends. These events can add an extra layer of excitement to your visit and provide a unique opportunity to learn more about the history of drag racing.

When you arrive at the museum, take your time exploring the exhibits and displays. The museum is home to an impressive collection of drag racing memorabilia, including vintage cars, trophies, and photographs. Be sure to read the informational plaques and signs throughout the museum to learn more about the history of drag racing and the contributions of legendary racers such as Don Garlits.

While you’re at the museum, remember to visit the gift shop. Here, you’ll find a wide selection of souvenirs, gifts, and memorabilia to commemorate your visit. Whether you’re looking for a t-shirt, hat, or model car, the gift shop has something for every racing fan.

After you’ve finished exploring the museum, consider taking some time to research the surrounding area. Ocala is home to a variety of attractions, including state parks, nature reserves, and historic sites. Whether you’re interested in outdoor activities, shopping, or dining, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Ocala.

Overall, planning a visit to the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing is a fun and exciting experience that is sure to be enjoyable for racing fans of all ages. By considering factors such as timing, transportation, accommodations, and special events, you can ensure that your visit is one to remember. So pack your bags, hit the road, and get ready to immerse yourself in the thrilling world of drag racing at the Don Garlits Museum.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing?

The Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing is a museum dedicated to preserving the history and significance of drag racing. It houses an extensive collection of drag racing memorabilia, including race cars, trophies, and other artifacts.

2. Where is the museum located?

The museum is located in Ocala, Florida, about an hour and a half drive from Orlando. It is easily accessible from major highways and is a popular destination for drag racing enthusiasts from all over the country.

3. How did the museum get started?

The museum was founded by drag racing legend Don Garlits, who wanted to create a place where fans could come and learn about the history of the sport. He began collecting memorabilia and race cars in the 1960s, and in 1984, he opened the museum to the public.

4. What can visitors expect to see at the museum?

Visitors to the museum can expect to see a wide variety of race cars, from vintage hot rods to modern dragsters. There are also displays dedicated to famous drag racers, as well as interactive exhibits that allow visitors to learn more about the sport.

5. Is the museum suitable for children?

Yes, the museum is suitable for children of all ages. There are plenty of hands-on activities and interactive exhibits that will keep kids entertained, and they will also have the chance to see some of the fastest cars in the world up close.

6. Are there guided tours available?

Yes, guided tours are available for those who want to learn more about the museum and its collection. Tours are led by knowledgeable staff members who can provide insight into the history of drag racing and answer any questions visitors may have.

7. How long does it take to explore the museum?

The amount of time it takes to explore the museum can vary depending on how much time you want to spend at each exhibit. On average, visitors can expect to spend around 2-3 hours exploring the museum.

8. Can visitors take photos inside the museum?

Yes, visitors are welcome to take photos inside the museum. In fact, the museum encourages guests to share their pictures on social media and tag the museum in their posts.

9. Is the museum wheelchair accessible?

Yes, the museum is wheelchair accessible. There are ramps and elevators throughout the building, as well as accessible restrooms for those who may need them.

10. Are there any special events held at the museum?

Yes, the museum hosts special events throughout the year, including car shows, exhibits, and guest appearances by famous drag racers. Be sure to check the museum’s website or social media pages for upcoming events and dates.


The Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing is a must-visit destination for any racing enthusiast. With its impressive collection of historic cars, interactive exhibits, and engaging displays, visitors can truly experience the excitement and adrenaline of drag racing firsthand. Whether you are a diehard fan or just looking for a fun and educational experience, this museum has something for everyone. So, come on down and rev up your engines at the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing!

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