I often played a video game called SimCity when I was a kid. The goal was to adjust tax rates, construct roads, and build residential and commercial buildings until the “simulated city” was happy. One of the things I learned about real life from the game was that every major city is “required” to have a zoo. The implication for you, the adventurous tourist, is that there is little point in leaving your city (which likely has a zoo) to tour the zoo of another city. You want to focus on attractions that are unique. That (finally) brings me to my point. The Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace is a unique destination in the Orange County area, since it is one of only 13 presidential libraries dispersed throughout the United States.
As you probably know, Richard Nixon’s legacy is tainted by Watergate. The Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace had previously been pretty quiet about this thorn in his Presidency, but they recently introduced a Watergate exhibit to at least address the scandal. The Museum still doesn’t contain any “Tricky Dick” references though.
The museum contains a number of interesting artifacts relating to Nixon’s political career. You can find a range of interesting gifts from world leaders, a collection of campaign memorabilia, and a piece of the Berlin wall. The museum also features replicas of the Apollo 11 and 16 space suits and a replica of the east room of the white house. A small section of the museum displays dresses worn by the first lady, and a replica of the Lincoln sitting room (one of Nixon’s favorite rooms in the white house) sits nearby.
One room in the museum is the dedicated “garage” to the armored presidential limousine used by President Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter. The limousine contains a number of upgrades. Each of the tires contain a solid rubber core that allows the vehicle to drive at 50 miles per hour with all four wheels flat. The car also contains two tons of iron plating (for security) and was listed as the most expensive car ever built in the 1977 Guinness Book of World Records. The “garage” also contains the most informative information about his presidency. For example, the Nixon administration is responsible for taking the U.S. dollar off of the gold standard, and amending the U.S. constitution to force the voting age to 18. Most individuals would be surprised to learn that Nixon was in favor of a form of national health care (with partisan debates focused only on the details).
There is an interesting exhibit on the Kennedy / Nixon debates in the 1960’s. The debates were the first debates to be televised ushering in a new brand of politics with a larger emphasis on visual appearance. Individuals who watched the debate on television thought that Kennedy, who was composed and sharply dressed, performed better, while individuals who heard the debate over the radio thought that Nixon performed better.
The museum grounds contain a reflecting pool, rose gardens, Richard Nixon’s grave, and the Air Force One helicopter that Nixon “rode away” on. You can also go on a short guided tour of the house that Nixon was born in. (They don’t call it the Nixon birthplace for nothing).
Now doesn’t all of this sound more interesting than visiting another zoo?