On our California coastal road trip, we stopped in at the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum in Simi Valley, CA. Two presidential libraries and museums are within driving distance of each other in Southern California with the Nixon Library and Museum being the second.
The Ronald Reagan Library and Museum is set up on a hill with a beautiful overlook of the mountains. The drive path to the museum is lined with flags listing out the Presidents throughout the history of the U.S. There is a drop off area on the right and a parking lot on the left. Walking down from the parking lot, you will pass the Gold Star garden. Straight ahead is the cafe and gift shop. We brought our snacks, grabbed a table and ate while enjoing the view. On the grounds a piece of the Berlin Wall is on display which we discussed later. Just across from the wall are the doors to the entrance of the museum.
You can purchase tickets or annual passes at the museum or online.
Active duty are always free, as are children under 3.
Tickets include admission to the museum and the special exhibits.
An annual pass is for all NARA libraries and museums, including the Nixon Library and Museum so if you plan to visit both within 12 months, this may be of the best value. Purchase of an annual pass is deductible, per the website “Under Internal Revenue Service guidelines, the estimated value of the benefits received is not substantial; therefore, the full amount of your payment is a deductible contribution.”
The special exhibits are not included with admission with the annual pass so if you want to visit the special exhibits, separate tickets will need to be purchased.
The museum takes on the challenge of providing a timeline of Mr. Reagan’s life. There are voice and video recordings of his time in film, and even a place to watch yourself in a film! The kids (and I) got a hit out of this! Further along in the museum, there is a photo opportunity to stand behind and pretend to give an inaugural speech.
A remake of the Berlin Wall is on display with the ability to crawl through the wall with sounds piped in that would reflect that era. The visual display helped guide disucssion on the history of the Berlin Wall and the impact of its removal.
Reagan’s love of horses is shown in a stable area where kids can climb on a (wooden) horse and take photos riding with Mr. Reagan. Another popular display with the kids were computer games – one was like Life displaying how the economy was under Reagan. We spent an hour here, and we probably could have stayed longer.
Two permanent exhibits are always available: Air Force One and the Oval Office.
The Oval Office is a replica of the Reagan Oval Office in Washington D.C. The docents are knowledgeable and kind. You can step in and up to the railing to take in the entire space. They provided clues for my youngest to look around the room to find eagles, paintings and doors. They took the time to answer every question.
Air Force One is housed in an impressive space. There is a little wait to see it, and you can take a picture in front of the entry and get a ticket to purchase your photo on the floor below the plane.
With older children – be sure to do a scavenger hunt for jelly beans throughout the museum, and add up the total. Reagan made sure jelly beans were always within reach while he was working, and in life. Now, everytime we see jelly beans my oldest says – “Those were Mr. Reagan’s favorite snack!”
On our visit, we saw The Pompeii exhibit. It was impressive. While it left in April, there is always a plan for a new display to take the place.
The World of DaVinci is the current special exhibit on display until September 8, 2019. We will be sure to share pictures from the visit.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
This quote and a love of history and adventure is why we continue to endeavor to explore places discussing and sharing history. In 1984, there was a landslide unlike any other in the presidential election and it is discussed and shared at the museum. Factual history is crucial to know and understand. Discovering these museums, even while our children are young, is important to both learn and spark a love of learning and history.