Are you a US History fan? Have you discovered presidential libraries? We love them. They are full of information about a specific historical time, and all the ones we’ve visited are interesting. We especially loved visiting the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.
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We loved the national parks and historical sites, like Manzanar, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, and Channel Islands. And we also loved some of the smaller places like Santa Paula and Ojai. California is a huge state and boy have we had fun exploring it.
One of the many stops along this trip was to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Regardless of your political affiliation, presidential libraries capture a moment in time. They are definitely worth a stop if you are in the vicinity.
Ronald Reagan was president of the United States during a critical period in US history. He was, perhaps, the most hated and loved president up until the present. Regardless of how his legacy is viewed, there’s no denying the history and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library has one of the largest collections of artifacts on exhibit from the time, and is one of the many hidden gems in Southern California.
In this article:
- Exhibits in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
- How to Get There and Parking
- Things to Do Nearby
- Where to Stay
Elected president in 1980, and serving his eight years throughout that decade, Ronald Reagan was party to and a witness of some of the most interesting events in history. For us, it was a time when we were living in Germany, and the East Germans and West Germans would tear down the Berlin wall and make steps towards reunification. Reagan was present during some of the critical points of this journey, and I have to admit, these are the parts of his library that spoke to me the most.
Exhibits in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
There are so many things to see, read, and experience in the library that it’s easy to spend at least two to three hours. There’s even a café on-site so you can either buy food there or bring a picnic to eat in the gorgeous gardens.
The library is laid out in a time-line walk through Reagan’s early life, his time as the California governor, and then of course into his presidency including the assassination attempt, the Berlin Wall and the Cold War, his wife, and post-presidency.
Among the fascinating things on display, one of our favorites was the full-scale replica of the Oval Office complete with the famous jar of jelly beans. Another standout was the collection of Nancy Reagan’s dresses. She was quite the fashionista!
From a historical perspective, the section covering the Cold War was by far the most fascinating for us. Reliving our time in Germany during the 1980s through the artifacts and photographs on display really brought back memories. Perhaps the most fun we had in the museum was “escaping” from East Berlin by crawling through a tunnel in the wall!
Of course, the most surprising thing to find in the Library was a little further into the museum. In a massive, glass-faced aircraft hanger, Air Force One and Marine One are parked looking out towards the California hills. I never expected to find aircraft in a library! Walking through the static displays really brought the past to life.
How to Get There and Parking
From I-5: At Mission Hills exit, take Highway 118 west to Viewline Drive in the Simi Valley. Then take exit 22A, following the signs and Madera Drive all the way to the library.
From LA: Take Highway 101 north until it intersects with Viewline Drive, then follow the directions above.
Parking: There is ample free parking near the library, and oftentimes there are tents and activities set up to peruse before you even enter. While we were there, the Ham Radio Operators had some info tents set up that were pretty interesting.
If you are driving an RV, you must park along Presidential Drive.
Things to Do Nearby
California is a huge state. To get from one end to the other, it definitely will take a couple of days, and we’ve tried to cover as much ground as possible.
Some of the nearest places to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library are:
- Los Angeles (about 50 minutes)
- Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve (1.25 hours)
- Gentle Barn (Petting Zoo) (about 40 minutes)
- Port Hueneme and Point Mugu (40 minutes)
- Channel Islands National Park (40 minutes)
And a little further afield are:
- San Diego (2.5 hours)
- Joshua Tree National Park (3 hours)
- Yosemite National Park (4 hours)
Where to Stay
Most visitors are going to be coming to the library on a day trip out of LA or on a stopover on a road trip up or down the coast. For those of you on the road, it might be worthwhile to make Simi Valley an overnight stay as hotel prices there are cheaper than in other parts of southern California. We’ve put together a few recommendations for you.
- Grand Vista Simi – The only full-service, upscale hotel in the valley with clean and spacious rooms, helpful staff, and ample parking.
- Best Western Posada Royale Hotel – Comfortable rooms with a contemporary vibe, a heated swimming pool with a hot tub, and easy access off the highway.
We really enjoyed the history lessons we learned at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. As we lived in Germany during the 1980s, we loved revisiting the Cold War and Berlin Wall exhibits.
Author Bio: Jim Vail, is an avid traveler and explorer. He’s been to all fifty states and traveled around the world. He’s happiest shooting wildlife photography, camping, and hiking in the mountains, or fishing on the side of a river in Alaska.