Check your politics at the door and give the kids a fun, interactive history lesson by visiting the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, just outside of Los Angeles. To be completely honest, how I vote never factored into the decision to take my daughter there. Here is what did (in no particular order):
- It’s an easy road trip from my house.
- Based on my research, it’s one of the best presidential libraries for kids.
- We wanted to walk through Air Force One.
- She is interested in current and former presidential trivia.
- He was President of the United States when I was roughly her age.
- He suffered from Alzheimer’s and my dad has dementia, too. Great people get this horrible disease.
Let me tell you why it’s worth the effort, regardless of whether or not you think Ronald Reagan was a great president.
It Is About President Reagan, And It’s Not
My daughter’s excitement peaked as we drove up to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum. Beginning with George Washington, each president is displayed on a light pole with a photo, years served, and number. She loved counting as I read the names of each president.
Once inside, she insisted that we watch the intro movie, which surprised me a little. This sparked a number of intelligent questions (for a kindergartener) about the Berlin Wall, his assassination attempt, elections and more. She wanted to see his acting photos, the replica oval office and a ton of exhibits that I was honestly planning on skipping because I thought they wouldn’t hold her interest.
These dresses were every bit as beautiful as I remembered them to be.
There’s a giant piece of the Berlin Wall set amidst a gorgeous garden and panoramic backdrop. This is history you can touch.
“Let our children and grandchildren come here and see this wall and reflect on what it meant to history. Let them understand that only vigilance and strength will deter tyranny.”
– President Ronald Reagan
Walking through Air Force One was the highlight for me. No photos are allowed once inside the plane, unfortunately. Seven U.S. Presidents including Presidents Nixon, Carter, Ford, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush used that plane from 1973-2001.
You see the offices of the President and First Lady, where people sat, and the overall configuration of the plane. Volunteers share interesting tidbits about who sat where. My kid spent the first part of her life constantly on airplanes so both she and I thought this was particularly awesome.
The giant glass wall allows sunlight to soak the Air Force One Pavilion and visitors to take in the panoramic hillside views. President Reagan’s motorcade rests below his White House in the sky. Even my daughter thought the cars looked dated. Not pictured is the 1980s Suburban that looked similar to the one my family drove back then.
Basically, I was expecting my daughter continuously ask where the Disney D23 exhibit (now over) was–she never did.
Interactive History Exhibits For Kids
Throughout the library, kids enthusiastically manipulated touch screen exhibits. Mine was content to just wander around and look. However, other hands-on opportunities exist throughout. Crawl through a mock Berlin wall.
Or, ride a horse with President Reagan on his ranch. There are many more.
Dining Options At The Reagan Library
We grabbed a bite to eat at the Ronald Reagan pub under Air Force One. I didn’t know this at the time, but it’s a relocated Irish pub from Ballyporeen, Ireland that he visited on a diplomatic trip in 1984. Yes, there’s a full bar along with snacks, pre-packaged sandwiches and a decent cheese plate. It’s good for kids because you grab, pay and go. A cafe is located in another part of the library but we never saw it.
D23 Presents Treasures From The Walt Disney Archives
The Ronald Regan Presidential Library hosts special exhibits and during the time we were there, the largest Disney archives exhibit in the world was on display. What’s the connection? In 1955, Ronald Reagan, the actor, emceed the grand opening of a little amusement park called Disneyland.
The exhibit features over 500 artifacts and is extremely well-done. See Mary Poppins’ outfit, the head of Maleficent, sets from the recent Tron movie and so much more. I almost hate to tell you about it–you’ll have to go see for yourself.
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum is located in Simi Valley, about 10 minutes away from the Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village, where we stayed. Our visit including a quick lunch lasted about 3 hours. I would budget 2-3 hours with young kids in tow. Parking is free but get there early as guests were circling for spots when we left around 1:00 p.m.
ADULT (Ages 18-61): $21.00
SENIOR (Ages 62+): $18.00
YOUTH (Ages 11-17): $15.00
CHILD (Ages 3-10): $6.00
Children 2 and under are free
Have you been?
*Thank you to the Reagan Foundation for providing us with media passes. They were for an article outside of La Jolla Mom, but we had such a good time, I wanted to tell you about it here, too.