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Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

The Orange County museum offers a fascinating look at a turbulent time

Walk through the Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum to explore a tumultuous time in American history—but also to glimpse a piece of Orange County’s agricultural past. Located on the former citrus farm where Richard M. Nixon was born, the museum near Anaheim first opened in 1990 under private ownership, but it broadened its scope in 2007 when a partnership with the National Archives increased the library’s holdings of documents and politically charged tape recordings. When the Yorba Linda museum got a $15 million makeover in 2016—under the guidance of the Thinkwell Group, which has reshaped such museums as Chicago’s Museum of Science+Industry and Elvis Presley’s Graceland—the Nixon Library became a more interactive and sharper-edged experience.

Things to Do at the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

So what is in store for visitors? Take in 60-plus exhibits, more than 300 artifacts, and a replica of Nixon’s Oval Office, which was decorated by First Lady Pat Nixon in California colors of yellow-gold and deep blue (guests can even sit at the desk for selfies). The museum covers many milestones from Nixon’s early days—like photos from his Navy service during World War II, and from his courtship with Pat, whom he met while acting in a community theater production. Also, don’t miss the replica of the East Room—the only one of its kind in the nation, complete with crystal chandeliers,  marble fireplaces, and golden Italian silk draperies; this is where the museum holds lectures and programs, and it’s often the setting for weddings. 

But overall, the presidential library and museum offers a pretty unvarnished look at the Nixon years, from the social strife of the late 1960s, when he was elected, to the Watergate scandal that ended his presidency. Along the way, the exhibits look at other parts of Nixon’s legacy—such as his creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, his signing of Title IX, and his groundbreaking trip to China in 1972.

The museum takes pains to illuminate the complexities of those years. One interactive station, “Tough Choices,” lets you act as an advisor (one with the benefit of hindsight, however) in helping the president decide whether to, say, end the draft, or provide assistance to Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Another area allows you to examine different arguments for and against the Vietnam War. Outside, you can see the actual bungalow where Nixon was born—built by his citrus farmer father in 1912— as well as the helicopter that he boarded in 1974 after he resigned and left the White House in disgrace.

“The whole point of presenting his legacy is to look at him as he was,” John Barr, of the Nixon Library Foundation, told the press at the museum’s 2016 reopening. “Warts and all.”

Things to Do Near the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

Less than 20 miles away is another immersive Nixon experience: a guided bus-and-walking tour of his hometown of Whittier, which explores more than 30 locations that were the setting for the formative years of the future president. Narrated by Paul Carter, author of the book, Richard Nixon: California's Native Son, this tour offers a vivid look back at the day-to-day life of the young Richard Nixon.

Even closer is the city of Anaheim, where in addition to Disneyland Resort, you can shop and eat at the Packing District, and afterward, take advantage of the city’s celebrated craft beer scene and international dining options. Plan to set aside some time to explore a few of the under-the-radar things to do in the city. For more inspiration for how to make the most of your time here, see 5 Amazing Things to Do in Anaheim.

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