As part of our trip last weekend to bring Jennifer Lynn home after her first year in college, we planned to rendezvous with Valerie, our 22 year-old daughter who is also lives in Southern California. We would all meet in Ventura where Valerie’s boyfriend lives and then continue north, taking the coast route home and enjoy a much more scenic drive than the highway to hell – otherwise known as I-5.
So as tourists, what would be a fun way to spend a day with three millennials in Ventura?
Devin – the boyfriend – suggested visiting the Ronald Reagan Museum, officially known as the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library. That sounded fine; The Reagan Library is an easy half hour drive away in Simi Valley so we could spend a couple of hours there and still have the afternoon free to search for hidden treasures in the numerous thrift shops along Main Street in Ventura.
Until then Devin suggested it, I had never considered seeking out a presidential library as a tourist destination. We learned that there are 13 presidential libraries and because we brought an upgraded family membership…not sure why we did but the woman greeter in the red blazer was charming and the math for the tickets was confusing…we can now visit all 13 of them for free. I can envision going to the Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, maybe even the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Museum in Ohio on a rainy day but the Jimmy Carter Museum in Atlanta? It must be a very small museum.
But back to the Reagan Library…it was well worth the $16 admission. Would someone who didn’t already like Reagan have found the museum interesting? I think so because the museum can be appreciated for several reasons regardless of how you feel about Reagan as a political leader.
It is a very well planned museum that packs a lot of history into easily digested chunks. I’m not a great student of history so I appreciated having my memory refreshed with some short but information-packed videos on some of the highlights of his presidency –the energy crisis, Reaganomics, the Berlin Wall and the talks with Gorbachev. There was also some lightweight information that the girls and I enjoyed such as Nancy’s clothing and White House China patterns and menus. And being a big fan of House of Cards, it was fun to see the recreation of the Oval Office. I think Claire Underwood would have approved of Nancy’s style.
But the coolest exhibit is Air Force One. How amazing is that that they have the actual plan housed inside the building? Visitors get to walk through it and imagine every seat filled with staff, military personnel and Secret Service. Of course, they give you a chance to wave and smile when you get on the plane so that you can recreate the iconic presidential photo opp. (Pictures available for sale on the lower level.)
All in all, it was a really good way to spend a couple of hours. We joked on the way out, that the next time we visit Valerie in Orange County, we can go to the Richard Nixon Library in Yorba Linda. Of course, Steve wants to know if they have the 37 minutes of missing tape.