I have been to nearly all of the presidential museums in the U.S. and each of them are absolutely incredible. The amount of rare and even amusing artifacts the general public is able to see on display at these institutions is pretty amazing. With the bar set quite high from the other museums I’d already visited – the Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum was not a let down. In fact, I was actually surprised at how great it was.
Richard Nixon was a complicated man and his legacy is largely one-sided when people hear his name. He’s the guy that had to resign from The White House and be whisked away on a helicopter. If that’s one of the few things you know about Nixon (like me – if I’m being honest) a visit to this museum is definitely in order.
For most people, Watergate is what comes to mind when you think of Richard Nixon. The museum lays out a detailed explanation of the events leading up to the infamous break-in and the fallout that came with it – including the president’s resignation. The storytelling is even more impressive when you realize that the helicopter which carried Nixon away on his final day in office – is literally parked outside of the building. (And yes, you can walk through it!)
The rest of the museum shares Nixon’s mostly forgotten legacy which includes achievements like ending the war in Vietnam. Nixon created the “Philadelphia Plan” in 1969 to increase hiring of minority owned contractors on federal projects and personally saw enforcement of peacefully achieving desegregation of schools in the deep south. His administration also created the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency); signed legislation lowering the voting age to 18; and welcomed astronauts back after the historic Moon landing. Nixon also joined the Navy in 1942 and served in the South Pacific during World War II.
A visit to the museum can take you anywhere from 90 minutes to an entire day – depending on how much you want to read and explore. I think I was there for just over two hours. There’s an interesting welcome video as you arrive; a replica Oval Office; 8,000 square feet of wall murals; 600 photographs; and a wide variety of personal items like one of the Nixon’s yellow legal pads that he was famous for writing notes on.
On the same property you’ll also find the childhood home of the 37th president. The small house was where Nixon lived from birth until 1922. (You’ll see the very bed where he was born in 1913.)
As with most of the presidential libraries, he and the former first lady are laid to rest on the property as well. Their modest tombstones are set near a flower garden behind the building.
Nixon had a lot of memorable quotes during his political career. One of my favorites is mentioned several times in film and on murals around the building: “Only if you have been in the deepest valley, can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.”
The Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum is located in Yorba Linda, California. It’s open from 10:00am to 5:00pm Monday through Saturday and from 11:00am-5:00pm on Sunday. There’s an admission fee to enter and free parking in the lot in front of the building.