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What to Know Before You Go to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

Tips for visiting the 40th president's library in Simi Valley (and having a totally tubular 80s flashback.)


"Give me two pair, I need two pair..."

CreditTrips + Giggles

Depsite what you might think of his politics, Ronald Reagan's presidential library is actually kind of cool. And if you miss the 80s, this is the perfect place for you to go. 

Visiting the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley was sort of a spur of the moment thing we did one Sunday afternoon in June. Father's Day to be exact. We had a newborn on our hands, two very energetic girls ages 4 and 6, and all the things we wanted to do—beach, brunch, or another outdoor activity—required that we leave the house early in the morning to avoid LA's gnarly Sunday traffic. But with a newborn that was near impossible.

Finally, when we got our act together it was 1:30pm. So we decided to drive out past Calabasas, avoiding the beach traffic, to the library. Why? It was largely the lure of touring Air Force One, a Boeing 707 that Reagan used during his presidency. That, and the Titanic exhibit that was on display since our 4-year-old is weirdly obsessed with the Titanic. (Do you know the name of the ship that rescued the Titanic survivors? I do, only because I'm reminded of that about once a week.) 

But once we got there, the library had several surprises for us, including tons of mementos, artifacts, and personal items that once belonged to the President and First Lady, as well as a recreation of the Oval Office exactly how President Reagan kept it during his two terms in office. Outside, there's even a piece of the Berlin Wall. The whole place sort of felt like a time warp back to my childhood when Reagan was president. (It also had me thinking of the most recent season of "Veep" where Selina Meyer is attempting to get her own library.)

Our kids were a little too young to understand the history (Cold War!)  and politics (War on Drugs!) of Reagan's presidency but older kids will totally get it. And hello! Everyone will love the Air Force One tour. 

In case you're considering a visit, here a few random tips to know:

There's no avoiding "Assasination Hallway." Much of the library's exhibits are set up like typical museum exhibits with one flowing into the other. (Why yes, it does feel like walking through IKEA, only this time there were no panic attacks and no soft-serve ice cream at the end.) There's a fun room where you get to take a photo at the inauguration podium, but once that's over you have to enter what I call, "Assasination Hallway." Basically it's a little hallway that leads to the next exhibit, but it plays a video loop of Reagan's attempted assasination. Ay yi yi. Just grab your younger kids and push right through this. 

Hide your snacks. The museum forbids outside drinks and snacks but if you've got little kids, you are going to want to bring your own just in case someone has a meltdown. So bury them at the bottom of your diaper bag or purse. There are a few places to buy food including below Air Force One, but nothing of the healthy or organic variety. If you want, pack a picnic blanket and spend some time outside of the library, taking in the incredible views of Simi Valley. 

There will be a wait for Air Force One. Expect to see a line when you get into the airplane hangar. But it moves quickly. You will have a chance to do photo ops at the front of the plane, but it's controlled by the museum's photographer and they don't want you using your cameras or phone. One way to get around this is to have someone behind you in line snap a pic.

Expect to eat Jelly Belly jelly beans. Jelly beans are everywhere here, including on a portrait of Reagan made entirely out of the candy. Don't try to resist the cries for jelly beans. Just let your kids have a few of them and move on. 

This outing can be expensive. Tickets for a family of four totaled $92. (You can see the breakdown here.) 


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