A cross-country road trip to U.S. presidential libraries

Presidential libraries highlight the highs and lows of U.S. political history through exhibits, documents, and at least one actual Air Force One airplane

  • 13
  • 89:38
  • 5,590 mi
  • $1026
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Created by Anthony Buckli - July 18th 2021

Whether you love them or hate them, each U.S. president has undeniably left a unique legacy behind—including thousands of documents and artifacts. There are currently 14 U.S. presidential libraries overseen by the Office of Presidential Libraries in the National Archives and Records Administration. Each houses and exhibits the papers, outfits, and other ephemera left behind by former presidents (the newest library, dedicated to Barack Obama, is not yet open to the public).

At the dedication of his library in 1971, 36th President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “It is all here: The story of our time with the bark off ... This library will show the facts, not just the joy and triumphs, but the sorrow and failures, too.”

Photo of The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation
4.9

40 Presidential Dr, Simi Valley, CA, US

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation

With its mountaintop location and sweeping ocean and valley views, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley is dedicated to the legacy of the 40th president, sworn into office in 1981. Don’t miss the Air Force One Pavilion, which features multiple presidential transportation exhibits—including Reagan’s actual Air Force One airplane.

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87mi 01h 51m
Photo of Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum
4.4

18001 Yorba Linda Blvd, Yorba Linda, CA, US

Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

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The 37th president has a complicated legacy—and his library houses the documentation to prove it. The Nixon Presidential Materials Collection, located in Nixon's Southern California hometown, comprises documents (approximately 46 million pages), photographs, and thousands of hours of video and recorded conversations known as the “White House Tapes.”

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1460mi 21h 49m
Photo of Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum
4.5
2

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library is located on the grounds of the boyhood home of the 34th president in Abilene, Kansas. On the library’s 22-acre campus, you’ll find a 25,000-square-foot museum, a Place of Meditation, and the six-room house where Ike and his siblings grew up.

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164mi 02h 33m
Photo of Truman Presidential Museum and Library
5.0

500 W US Highway 24, Independence, MO, US

Truman Presidential Museum and Library

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Located in Truman’s hometown of Independence, Missouri, The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Kansas City region. It’s set to reopen sometime in 2021 following massive renovations. Among its collections, the museum features many of Truman’s personal letters and documents from the 7 million pages he donated to the U.S. government.

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312mi 04h 57m
Photo of Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum
4.5

210 Parkside Dr, West Branch, IA, US

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum

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Herbert Hoover was inaugurated as the 31st president of the United States in 1929, just a few months before the stock market crash that marked the beginning of the Great Depression. His presidential library is located on the grounds of the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch, Iowa, and features exhibits that tell the story of the life and work of the first president born west of the Mississippi River

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215mi 03h 22m
Photo of Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
5.0

212 N 6th St, Springfield, IL, US

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

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In 2004, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum absorbed the Illinois State Historical Library, which features exhibits about Illinois history and preserves important state documents in the 8 miles of below-ground stacks. Highlights include an original copy of the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln family letters, and Barry and Louise Taper’s prized collection of Lincolniana and assassination materials. The associated museum and Lincoln’s restored home are also located nearby in Springfield.

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416mi 06h 51m
Photo of Gerald R. Ford Library
4.0

1000 Beal Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI, US

Gerald R. Ford Library

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You’ll find the Gerald R. Ford Library at his alma mater’s campus, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where the former president was also a visiting professor. The library hosts speakers and events as well as temporary exhibitions throughout the year. The permanent collection features more than 100 rarely-seen artifacts that tell the story of Ford’s life with a focus on his presidency during the Cold War era. Another related stop is the Ford Museum in Grand Rapids about 130 miles west of Ann Arbor.

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642mi 10h 29m
Photo of Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
5.0

4079 Albany Post Rd, Hyde Park, NY, US

Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

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FDR believed in the concept of “open government” and thought that the public should have access to both his personal and professional papers. Dedicated in 1941 and located on the Roosevelt family property in Hyde Park, The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum was the first presidential library in the U.S. and the only one to be used by a sitting president.

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204mi 03h 42m

Columbia Point, MA, US

JFK Presidential Library and Museum

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A short drive from downtown Boston, the JFK Library honors the legacy of the 35th president with interactive exhibits and an artifact collection. Designed by renowned architect I. M. Pei—whose other work includes the Louvre Pyramid and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—the building compliments the waterfront location and guides visitors through Kennedy’s political life in chronological order, ending in a light-filled atrium.

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1457mi 23h 45m
Photo of William J Clinton Presidential Library
4.5

1200 President Clinton Ave, Little Rock, AR, US

William J Clinton Presidential Library

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This library and museum sits 130 miles northeast of Clinton's birthplace and houses artifacts and timelines detailing what life was like for the 42nd president. Permanent displays include replicas of both the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room, and the presidential limousine which was custom built by Cadillac in the early '90s.

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322mi 05h 12m
Photo of George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum
4.5

2943 SMU Boulevard, Dallas, TX, US

George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

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Housed inside of the Bush Center on the campus of Southern Methodist University, the library and museum houses more than 43,000 artifacts from the 43rd president's two terms. The immense physical and digital archives includes thousands of letters received following 9/11, and students can get the full experience in the original White House Situation Room.

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199mi 03h 22m
Photo of LBJ Presidential Library
4.5

2313 Red River Street, Austin, TX, US

LBJ Presidential Library

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The library, located on the University of Texas campus in Austin, houses 45 million pages of historical documents and 5,000 hours of recordings from Lyndon B. Johnson's political career. The 10-story building, designed by architect Gordon Bunshaft, also contains more than 54,000 artifacts donated by the Johnsons including furniture from the Oval Office, personal clothing, artwork, and antiques.

104mi 01h 45m
Photo of George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
4.5

1000 George Bush Dr W, College Station, TX, US

George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Located on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum tells the story of the 41st President of the United States, who was sworn into office on January 20, 1989. The museum houses educational exhibits, more than 100,000 artifacts, and an archive containing 44 million pages of records. President Bush is buried behind his presidential library, alongside his wife Barbara and daughter Robin.