Located just over the Los Angeles County line in Simi Valley, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library honors the life of our 40th president. Visitors will find fun, educational and interactive activities for the whole family. The hilltop setting offers expansive grounds and magnificent views in all directions. The museum is designed for self-guided touring with several exhibits you won’t want to miss.
The renovated museum opened in February 2011 along with its wide variety of interactive exhibits covering Reagan’s life. In these galleries you can act in a movie with Reagan, set the table for a state dinner, step behind the podium to deliver Reagan’s inaugural address (with the help of a teleprompter), ride a horse alongside Reagan at Rancho del Cielo and take part in many other activities. There is also a full-scale replica of the Oval Office, decorated as it was during President Reagan’s presidency. Can you spot the jar of Jelly Bellies on his desk?
Air Force One Pavilion
At the end of the galleries, you will find a walkway to the two-story pavilion where you can walk on board the same Air Force One that flew President Reagan over 660,000 miles – to 26 foreign countries and 46 U.S. states. Surrounding the plane are some other presidential modes of transportation such as Reagan’s presidential limousines, Secret Service vehicles and Marine One helicopter. Check out the actual Irish pub from Ballyporeen in Ireland that Reagan visited on a diplomatic trip in 1984 and now serves as the Library’s snack bar. Right next to the snack bar is the Air Force One gift shop. On the second level, explore the 120-foot “Flying White House” mural which represents all 22 aircraft that have ever flown a U.S. president.
If you’ve ever dreamt of seeing a part of history, you can visit part of the Berlin Wall where Reagan made his famous “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” speech back in 1987. Two years later, the wall came down. On the west side of the library entrance, a 6,338-pound, nine-and-a-half-foot tall piece of the Berlin Wall stands. This small segment provides a big example of what the wall meant as it divided East and West Berlin. On the east-facing side, colorful graffiti is painted all over. Walking around to the west-facing side, there is a stark, gray façade.
One of the many times the secret service has proved their worth is when an assassination attempt was made on President Reagan in 1981. In a 1983 speech, Reagan said, “were it not for the brave efforts of Secret Service Agents…I might not be speaking to you here today. [Federal Agents] know, without a doubt, that someday, perhaps today, they may face danger and, perhaps, even tragedy.” To honor this branch, this new, permanent exhibit tells the history and numerous responsibilities of The US Secret Service. Here, visitors can get hands on with an exhibit on how to identify counterfeit US currency, and kids can also be entertained as they find out what it takes to be a Secret Service Agent, including basic training. There is a display showing what it is like to travel with the president as a Secret Service Agent and what skills are needed — some may surprise you.
As the main dining location at the library, Reagan’s Country Café is accessible without having to pay the museum entry fee. Select from a wide variety of soups, salads, grilled items and sandwiches in a self-service setting. There is ample indoor and outdoor seating with views of the Santa Rosa Valley and surrounding hills. The Ronald Reagan Pub is located in The Air Force One Pavilion and requires museum admission. This snack bar is about an hour into the tour and features self-service snacks, drinks, lunch and dessert options.
Before You Go
It is suggested that you allow three hours to visit all the galleries and exhibits. The library is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. General admission is $21, $18 for seniors (62+), $15 for youth ages 11 to 17, and $6 for children over 3. Parking is free.
Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation And Library
40 Presidential Drive
Simi Valley, CA 93065
Elizabeth Peterson loves any excuse to jump in her minivan to explore LA. You can find out more about Elizabeth and where she is off to next on her blog, Traded My BMW for a Minivan.