Given that California is the most populated state in the nation (and likely has been for quite some time), it’s rather surprising that only ONE president out of 46 was born and raised in California… and it wasn’t even Ronald Reagan. Nope, that honor goes to Richard Nixon. However, Reagan did hail from California when he ran for president, and he was the state’s Governor, therefore California was chosen as the home of his presidential library (he was born and raised in good ole’ Illinois).
Located in Ventura County, in picturesque and charming Simi Valley, it sits at 40 Presidential Dr, Simi Valley, CA 93065. The “library” is open daily from 10am to 5pm. Before visiting, I was naively under the impression that it’d be an actual library… like with books. I wasn’t sure how that was going to work as an honor to a U.S. President, but hey, I was open to finding out! I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was about much, much more than that.
As mentioned, a presidential library, is in fact, NOT an actual library with books. It’s more of a inclusive catalog of a President’s life, with countless personal artifacts, ranging from clothing, to school-years memorabilia, to Presidential treasures, to videos of Reagan on a loop. There was even a complete replica of the Oval Office during Reagan’s tenure. There was also a complete replica of Air Force One… as in… there is quite literally a fully intact Boeing 747 airplane hanging inside the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, on loan from the United States Air Force.
Entering the plane was the only time we had to wait in a line, as they allow only a small number of guests at a time to filter through to prevent overcrowding. It’s quite the experience. The plane is all but a house in the air, however; I was a bit taken aback by how… hmm, mundane, it was. Given that it’s a presidential plane, I thought it would be more opulent, overdone, and kind of ridiculous (you know, a bit like the White House). I wasn’t expecting it to be so airplane-like. Granted, this was a presidential airplane from the 1980’s, so there’s no telling what Air Force One looks like now.
There is also a full helicopter sitting beneath the plane, a replica of the kind Reagan would have used to jet around D.C. and the greater area. There was a line for the helicopter too, but it was exceptionally shorter in comparison.
Aside from being home to the Life of Ronald Reagan, the library has hosted a variety of exhibits throughout the years, and the one at the time of our visit was on ancient Egypt. Formally called “Egypt’s Lost Cities”, it was an extremely interesting exhibit and a big reason my brother and I wanted to visit the library at this time. It had countless artifacts from ancient Egypt. According to the library’s official government website, the exhibit has “more than 200 of these authentic artifacts, including three colossal 16-foot sculptures of a pharaoh, a queen, and a god will be on view”.
The exhibits are a big draw to the library, and some past exhibits include the World of DaVinci, Pompeii, Genghis Khan, Titanic, Inside the White House, and Magna Carta: Essence of Democracy. I would have loved to have visited literally any of these!
There is also a small cafeteria that serves the typical cafeteria-style food one would typically find in a place like this. Called Reagan’s Country Café Kiosk, it serves sandwiches, hotdogs, hamburgers, fries, salads, and more. There are numerous tables to sit at inside and a few outside. There are other outside benches and ledges to sit at as well, where one could enjoy lunch while taking in the scenic and relaxing views of Simi Valley. The hours of operation are 9:30am to 4:30pm, daily.
If cafeteria-style food isn’t your thing, you can visit The Ronald Reagan Pub, which according to the library’s official website, “is an actual pub from Reagan’s ancestral home, Ballyporeen, Ireland that he visited during a diplomatic trip in the early 80s. It was dismantled and shipped to the USA in 2004 to be featured as a part of the Museum’s collection.” Here you can find Irish nachos, fish and chips, chicken strips, soft pretzel with cheese, and more. The hours of operation are 11am to 4:30pm, daily.
Something else that is super duper cool – a piece of the real Berlin Wall. As history enthusiasts will recall, Reagan gave a famous speech in West Berlin on June 12, 1987, where the famous line, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall“, was birthed. It’s a saying that has been permanently seared into not only German and American, but world history. It’s very cool to see, and I think it’s wonderful that a small, yet incredibly important piece of famous world history is accessible to us geographically challenged Americans.
Lastly, there is a real F-117 Blackhawk sitting outside of the library and it was pretty awe-inspiring to me. Not once before or since, in my 32 years of life, have I seen such an aircraft in person, let alone that close. I can only imagine what these aircrafts will look like in 25 years time. 😅
Prices vary: general admission is $16, seniors (62+) are $13, youth aged 11 – 17 are $9, children 3 -10 are $6, and children under 2 are free. Activity duty military with proper I.D.’s are also free and the discount is for the military member only. You must purchase the tickets at the front desk.
Overall, if you’re a fan of Ronald Reagan – either as a person, actor, or president (or all three) – give this Presidential Library located in a gorgeous area of Simi Valley a visit. Or, perhaps you just like history in general and want to check it out 💁🏻♀️. Either way, this place is great for learning about a piece of America’s history (with a little German and Egyptian sprinkled in) and is located near many other areas of Southern California, making it widely accessible. It certainly makes for a wonderful day outing!