The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum stands as a mecca everyone should visit. It’s a monument to a president who called Los Angeles home-a president still revered by many. Since the presidential library and museum is in Simi Valley-freeway close as they say, I’ve been there many times, myself. The most recent visit was with guests from out-of-town. As usual, throngs of people young and old made their way with us through the exhibits.
Droves of people meandered all over Reagan museum to learn about the Great Communicator. It was no surprise to me when I learned a couple years ago that the Reagan facility in Simi Valley surpassed all other presidential museums in the country, including the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum, in yearly attendance.
So what’s the attraction? The library houses over sixty million documents and records from Reagan’s tenure as the Governor of California and the President of the United States. Scholars and historians can access the documents. The general public, however, isn’t attracted to the library to do research.
Naturally it was the museum side that attracted the large crowds the day we visited, and the attraction reflected the popularity of the man who was president. His immense esteem, still to this day, stemmed from his personable style and Americans-can-do-anything attitude that resonated through difficult economic and Cold War times from January, 1981 through January, 1989. The Reagan museum conjured memories for all of us who lived through that era. Reagan’s winsome demeanor still came through, even to younger observers, from his smiling image in photographs whether he was in the oval office with suit and tie or at his ranch in jeans and cowboy hat.
The presidential museum exhibits led visitors through his early days growing up, college, career in show business, then as governor, and then as president. There were displays of artifacts from his ranch, and gifts received from around the globe whether from lofty world leaders or ordinary citizens. By the way, the gifts that caught everyone’s attention were the famous western-style belt buckles in the case with the saddles. Also, a section featuring Nancy Reagan portrayed her as the Nation’s First Lady, as well as the president’s wife and constant companion.
The theme of the permanent exhibit portrayed Reagan as the man who stayed steadfast as the staunch adversary of the Soviet Union. On the terrace outside towered a slab of the Berlin Wall, a fragment of an icon of Soviet Republic and East German satellite state, and reminder of fall of the Soviet Regime.
In addition to artifacts and displays about Reagan there were other items to please the crowds. The Cars of Hollywood exhibit had a number of automobiles from the Peterson Automobile Museum. A holiday exhibit titled, A California Christmas, humorously showcased famous communities up and down California through decorated Christmas trees.
Still, the most popular attractions that continually captivated the largest crowds happened to be the full-scale replica of the Oval Office and the actual Boeing 707 that was Air Force One, used by President Reagan as well as other presidents starting with Richard Nixon through George W. Bush.
Air Force One spanned the huge pavilion on the upper level facing a 200-ft. wide, 80-ft. high glass wall. Cantilevered on 13-ft. tall pedestals the nose of the aircraft pointed out toward the nearby Santa Susana Mountains giving the illusion of taking off. On the middle level we found the presidential Limousine and on the first floor was Marine One, the presidential helicopter. Walk-thru tours of Air force One and Marine One were included in the price of admission.
Fortunately for us, we have the Ronald Reagan library close by. The address is 40 Presidential Dr., Simi Valley, CA 93065, phone 1 (805) 577-4000. To get to the library from the south take the Ventura Freeway (US 101) and go north on the Moorpark Freeway (CA 23). Exit on Olsen Road and go east to Presidential Dr. then turn left to the library. If you are coming from the north, take the Ronald Reagan Freeway (CA118) to the Madera Rd off-ramp and head south. Follow Madera Rd. to Presidential Dr. and turn right toward the library.
Before you start be sure to first go to www.reaganfoundation.org. On the drop down menu at Library and Museum you will find visitor information regarding admission fees, museum hours, research room hours and directions. Teachers and education administrators click on Education.
As I said at the start, the museum is a mecca everyone should visit. The kids will get a kick out of the cool cars and Air Force One. They’ll also learn that a man who claimed Los Angeles as his home led the country through thick and thin and helped change the course of history.
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Here are posts of other Uniquely Los Angeles destinations you will enjoy reading about. If you’re looking for pleasants outing be sure to take time and visit each.
LA’s most unique destinations, include these archived posts:
Friends, Romans, and …Angelenos
Bradbury Building-A Lasting Gem in Los Angeles
The Last Book Store
The Magic Castle
Grauman’s Chinese Theater
Page Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits
Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
Rose Bowl Stadium