Don’t overlook presidential museums when traveling the US

Did you know that a museum has a real Air Force One and that visitors can clamor up its stairs and see its galley, offices and bunks? And did you know that a small presidential library with a walk-in vault exists in a charming, period house?

Gerald R. Ford Museum is in Grand Rapids, MI but the library is in Ann Arbor

Gerald R. Ford Museum is in Grand Rapids, MI but the library is in Ann Arbor

Travelers often include museums on their itineraries but unless a local resident suggests visiting one associated with a US President or doing all the presidential libraries are a  bucket list item, these special museums can be overlooked.

They shouldn’t be because they are fun, interactive and the movies and exhibits at presidential museums offer an inside look at the White House and US history from another perspective.

However, the government’s website lists only 13 with dots on the states where some presidential libraries exist. It also puts museums under the library category. Two states that have museums and libraries but are not listed and  don’t have dots are Ohio and Illinois.

But the presidential library of James A. Garfield who was the 20thPresident is at Lawnfield in Mentor, Ohio. Indeed, his Lawnfield Estate where he campaigned from his front porch has a museum and is national historic site. See the movie to learn about Garfield. It is really well done.

James A. Garfield's swearing in ceremony is in the museum at Lawnfield

James A. Garfield’s swearing in ceremony is in the museum at Lawnfield

The government site also does not list the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Most folks arguably know that Lincoln’s are in Springfield, IL. They are housed in two separate buildings with different addresses on Sixth Street. The exhibits and movies here are outstanding.

So now you are up to 15 sites.

If you add a presidential site to your trip, you should check if it is a library, a museum or both.

Gerald R. Ford’s museum is really a fun place to visit in Grand Rapids, MI. It has a replica of the Oval Office and a holographic tour of the White House. His library, often visited by scholars and writers, is in Ann Arbor, MI. Learn more at Gerald R. Ford.

President Reagan’s museum and library are together in Simi, CA northwest of Los Angeles. By the way, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum recently added an addition to hold an Air Force One and a Maritime One. It also has a replica of the Oval Office. Visitors can board both planes. But they shouldn’t stop there. When they entered the museum they only went through half the exhibit. They should continue on to the second half of the museum exhibit after doing the planes to see footage of historic diplomatic encounters, special moments and more exhibits.

Ronald Reagan's Library and Museum includes an Air Force One plane

Ronald Reagan’s Library and Museum includes an Air Force One plane

If in Southern California, also put the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, east of Anaheim, on the list. Among other excellent exhibits, it includes replicas of the Lincoln Sitting Room and the East Room.

Visit presidential libraries to see if a site is near your next trip.


Photos ©by Jodie Jacobs