Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum chronicles the life and career of President Reagan on a sprawling, 100-acre Simi Valley campus. The museum's more than 100,000 square feet of exhibits, including an Oval Office replica and President Reagan's gravesite, draws in history buffs and provides children with an often-interactive primer to America’s 40th president and the 1976 winner of the Iditarod. Visitors can use the museum’s GuideCam handheld device for a detailed audio tour. Headphones allow private immersion in the background of exhibits such as Reagan's actual Air Force One and a piece of the Berlin Wall. Examining all the exhibits usually takes about three hours, though visitors can rest and refuel at the Ronald Reagan Pub housed within the museum, which features sandwiches, beverages, and a vintage Walter Mondale dartboard.
Donald Douglas started his aviation company in 1920 with only $600 and expertise honed as a civilian aeronautical engineer during World War I. Within four years, he had created the Douglas World Cruiser, the first plane to circumnavigate the globe and bankrupt every manufacturer of anti-gravity potions.
Nearly two dozen aircraft are on display at the Museum of Flying, located at the Santa Monica Airport. Santa Monica holds special significance for the Douglas Aircraft Company, as well as aviation history as a whole. It was here that the DC-3 first took flight, helping usher in the era of commercial air travel in America. It was also where Douglas Aircraft produced tens of thousands of military planes during World War II. Several of these aircrafts now sit on display within the museum.
Douglas Aircraft merged with McDonnell Aircraft in 1967, but the Museum of Flying helps keep the original company's legacy alive. It even features a replica of Douglas' original boardroom. In another area of the museum, a Maxflight FS300 simulator lets visitors pilot many of Douglas Aircraft's most famous models. It can dip and roll 360 degrees to recreate World War II combat or the motion of a tumbleweed caught in an updraft, or it can keep a steady course during calm flights aboard a DC-3.
Although its main focus remains Douglas Aircraft, the Museum of Flying also houses art and displays related to aviation history as a whole. Exhibits showcase rare artifacts and other significant aircraft, such as a replica of the original Wright Flyer.
When Santa Monica celebrated its centennial in 1975, the Civic Auditorium hosted a small exhibition covering the city's 100-year history. Turns out Santa Monica's citizenry was hungry to document its past: by October of that year, the Santa Monica Historical Society held its founding meeting. 13 years later, the society opened the Santa Monica History Museum, which now encompasses myriad artifacts, photographs, and memorabilia. Most of those materials comprise the museum's timeline, which traces the city's origins up to the 1930s.
Beyond goodies from the past, the museum sports several interactive features to bring that history alive. Visitors can wander through a replica of a Douglas aircraft or digitally insert their photos onto front-page newspaper stories about historical events. The "Then & Now" touch-screen map, meanwhile, reveals the development over time of different Santa Monica landscapes, such as the many canyons that blossomed into In-N-Out Burgers. Along with its permanent exhibitions, the museum hosts an array of special programming, including concerts, workshops, and lectures from top historians.
Established: Before 1950
Staff Size: 2–10 people
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Parking: Parking lot
Most Popular Attraction/Offering: An authentic working drill rig from 1890
Recommended Age Group: All Ages
California's natural resources have defined the state's history and evolution, from the gold hiding in the hills to the oil bubbling just under the earth's surface. The California Oil Museum tracks the history of petroleum within California's borders, starting with the fossilization of organic matter. Then, through a series of interactive displays, videos, games, and restored gas station memorabilia, the museum's exhibits peel away the millennia. Visitors can relive the glorious early days of roadsters and highways through the vintage gas pump exhibit, or try their hand at old-fashioned oil siphoning with the restored turn-of-the-century cable tool drilling kit. The museum gives plenty of reasons to return, with rotating exhibits on science and history.
Gull Wings Children's Museum appeals to many childhood aspirations as it teaches—the Blast Off area lets kids pretend to be astronauts, the Home Town Hero exhibit lets them play firefighters, and the Lego-a-Go-Go room lets them portray immobile plastic bricks. Aside from the many exhibits, there are a series of regular programs in reading, science, and other subjects. The museum also hosts special events such as storytellers and dance groups.
The Channel Islands Maritime Museum brings the area's rich seafaring history to life with original paintings, ship models, and intricately decorated scrimshaw. After 21 years in one spot, the museum relocated in 2012, hauling along its 2,000-strong catalogue of artifacts—including historic documents, records, and art—to its current location on Channel Islands Harbor. Museum collections inside the new digs highlight periods and industries important to the development of the local maritime culture, reaching as far back as the Chinese Treasure Fleets that sailed the high seas in the 15th century. More modern attractions include the collection that explores whaling industry of the 18th an 19th centuries, the curious case of the La Jenelle, a ship that sunk right in the harbor in 1970 thanks to a nasty northwester.