This article was originally featured on the website Hilton Mom Voyage By Lisa Grabelle

On several of our family vacations we discovered a great learning experience that actually proved to be equally fun: visiting presidential libraries. We call it edu-tainment! As a history buff, I knew I would love these libraries, but I discovered my girls also found them fascinating.

Our first visit to a presidential library was when my girls were only 7- and 10-years old. As I was planning our trip to Los Angeles, a well-traveled friend told me that the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in nearby Simi Valley was a “must see” and super kid-friendly. She was spot-on, and this first library left my girls hooked and asking for more.


Presidential libraries make history come alive. What could be dry or boring information suddenly becomes three dimensional, tangible fun. Leave your politics at home, every president has a great story to tell.

One of the highlights for my kids was seeing the replicas of the Oval Office from each president’s time in office. As you visit more of these libraries, your children can contrast what the Oval Office looked like at various points in history, including changes in furniture, technology and artwork. The libraries also feature kid-friendly exhibits such as First Ladies’ formal attire and one-of-a-kind gifts that the presidents received from foreign dignitaries.

Here are the presidential libraries we have visited:


The Reagan Library has definitely been our favorite presidential library so far, with something to please everyone. (Even staunch Democrats!) The view overlooking Simi Valley is simply breathtaking. And inside one of our favorite places was a really cool glass hangar housing the Presidential Limousine, Secret Service Suburbans, a Marine One Helicopter, and most impressively, a Boeing 707 that served as Air Force One for seven presidents (Nixon, Carter, Ford, Reagan, Clinton and both Bushes). The outdated plane made the children laugh out loud!

Presidential Libraries
Step aboard Air Force One at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. This high-tech museum has kid-friendly displays narrating Reagan’s life and presidency.

Other must-see highlights include a large chunk of the Berlin Wall (you are allowed to touch!), a dramatic depiction of the assassination attempt on Reagan’s life, and a captivating exhibit on America’s battle with Communism. This museum is super high-tech and interactive for kids. There are video games that let them design their own presidential china and select flower arrangements for state dinners. And the girls were thrilled to see a portrait of Reagan…made out of jellybeans! On the more serious side, seeing the infamous “black briefcase” that held the world-threatening nuclear launch codes (also known as “the football”) was sobering.

Tip: This library makes a great stop when driving between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.

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Teach your children about America’s Kennedy years of “Camelot.” The architecture of the I.M. Pei designed Kennedy Library is magnificent. The waterfront building has a peaceful and inspiring view. Inside, the highlights for us included exhibits on the Kennedy campaign trail (my favorite), the “race for space,” Jacqueline Kennedy and her childhood and interests (my girls’ favorite), and another piece of the Berlin Wall.

Presidential Libraries
Explore the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston with its Oval Office replica and artifacts from Jacqueline Kennedy.

Tip: If you are traveling to Boston by car, I recommend stopping here on your way into or out of town since the library is located in the neighborhood of Dorchester on the outskirts of Boston.

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While somewhat smaller than the others, the LBJ Library offers some entertaining exhibits that my kids enjoyed. And we loved that it’s located right in the heart of the spirited University of Texas campus in Austin! Highlights included exhibits about the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, and political cartoons. Check their website for special events around President’s Day and during other times of the year.

Presidential Libraries
Your family will enjoy the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Musuem located right in the heart of the University of Texas!

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Set in a beautiful corner of Atlanta with fountains and lush gardens, the Carter Library is a great way to spend a few hours. Highlights include: the story of Carter’s childhood and romance with Rosalynn, a real Nobel Prize Medal, memorabilia from the Camp David Accords, and an exhibit about Carter’s post-presidency humanitarian activities.

Presidential Libraries
Explore the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum. Your kids will get to see a Nobel Prize Medal, learn about Carter’s romance with Rosalynn and discover Carter’s impressive volunteer work.

Tip: I highly recommend pairing this visit with a trip to the nearby Martin Luther King Jr. National Park Site and a stop for some delicious comfort food at Mary Mac’s Tea Room. Our family loved the authentic southern home cooking!

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Whichever library you visit, always watch the brief introductory movie (most are less than 20 minutes). These well-produced films provide excellent backgrounds for children who may know next to nothing about the president and are great refreshers for parents as well. Most libraries offer free admission for children and have cafeterias and really interesting gift shops.

With the 2016 presidential election on the horizon, now is a great time to add a presidential library to your next family vacation. Bring history to life!


You may also enjoy:

Cool Things to Do Near Atlanta
Fun Museums in Los Angeles for Kids
Fun Things to do in College Station, TX
6 Activities for a Fun and Educational Trip to Boston with Kids

Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more about the Hilton Mom Voyage writers go to the About Us page.

Lisa Grabelle

Lisa G. Writer for Hilton Mom Voyage. Lisa has been traveling all her life…and loving it! Leaving the sunny skies of Miami, Lisa traveled to Philadelphia where she attended college and law school. When two daughters soon followed, Lisa and her new family settled in New Jersey. Lisa willingly traded in billing hours as a lawyer for being a full-time mom. These days, she volunteers for her alma mater, serving as class president. But travel is her passion. She lives for the next journey. As soon as one vacation ends, Lisa busily plans her next adventure. So far Lisa and her husband have taken their children to Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Italy, France, England, Canada, Puerto Rico…and about half the United States. As a family of “foodies,” they literally eat their way around the world, chowing down on both gourmet and street food. Lisa’s travel style is non-stop...hopping between national parks, museums, famous landmarks and, most importantly, absorbing the culture along the way! Every trip is an adventure that Lisa enhances with her own creative activities like scavenger hunts and her own version of The Amazing Race. The girls can always expect some surprises!Lisa’s motto is “don’t just visit the destination…live it!”

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