Salinas is hardly a town on the list of must-see attractions in the great state of California. We over-nighted there on our way from Santa Barbara to San Jose simply because it was a convenient stopping point. CAM had read Of Mice And Men at school last year so even though we had arrived in Salinas late and weren’t planning to spend much time in the town, we decided (OK, I mandated) that we should take the time to check out the National Steinbeck Center.
I really didn’t know what to expect and the boys, with promises of spending a day on the boardwalk at Santa Cruz, were not at all cooperative. It was a perfect recipe for a disasterous museum visit with children – but we had exactly the opposite experience.
The Steinbeck Center is fairly small, but the short movie about his life and the detailed exhibits made the author and his works come alive for all of us. Although my boys were the only children at the museum during our visit, when I spoke to one of the docents he explained that they regularly hosted school groups and it showed in the detailed Treasure Search they provided for the boys to follow as they explored the exhibits. This two-page mostly multi-choice set of questions required the boys to look carefully at many of the exhibits, read excerpts of the books displayed, watch snippets of the many movies based on Steinbeck books and generally learn all about the Depression and the Salinas area as well as John Steinbeck and his work.
In the gift shop on the way out, the boys chose a book each: The Grapes of Wrath for CAM and The Acts Of King Arthur And His Noble Knights for BigB. I think you’d agree that’s a parenting high point by anyone’s definition, no? We had a very successful visit to this unassuming small-town museum. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend checking it out – with or without children. And in case a visit to the Salinas Valley isn’t in your future soon, but you think you might pull out your battered copy of Grapes Of Wrath or East Of Eden again the photos below may help you picture Steinbeck’s scenes a little clearer in your mind’s eye.
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Photo Credit: base10, dagberg.
I really love that place, including the old camper he used for his Travels with Charlie. I re-read the Grapes of Wrath after visiting it, and it was worthwhile, to say the least.
John Steinbeck is one of my favourite authors and these pictures make me feel like reading the Grapes of Wrath again!
Go mom! Books for souvenirs! Yay! I love Steinbeck books and they are some of my favorites to teach. Too bad I don’t live here…it would definitely make for a perfect field trip!
Thanks for sharing this. Did you know that my blog’s name, Travels with Children, is a spinoff of Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley? (It only seemed fitting for this English teacher/librarian to have a literary twist to the blog name. )
It’s funny that you say Salinas is off the tourist agenda because it’s high on my list since moving to San Francisco! I want to have a weekend combining Monterey Bay and Steinbeck country. The main Amtrak station in the region is in Salinas so we were probably going to pass through regardless.
TOO cool. we’ve interviewed the author of journey into steinbeck’s california (http://www.wanderingeducators.com/travel-guides/roaring-forties-press/book-review-journey-steinbecks-california.html) and that SOO made me want to go there. now, i want to go even more! i am sure that lillie would like it, now (wasn’t sure before). thank you!
I took my kids there for an “extra curricular activity.” Turns out it was quite a fun little field trip. Don’t know if the Steinbeck house is still open for lunch,but that was fun, too.
Oh!! Your pictures make me homesick for Santa Cruz. I have been meaninto visit here. Salinas worked hard on this museum and it deserves some visitors. Perhaps during our annual trip next summer.
I like the way you rounded out this post with some photos to spark the imagination. The last one of the field and mountains in the background is beautiful. I drive through this on my way to & from family between Northern & Southern Cal on 101. I should think twice next time and appreciate the history & literature of the scenery.
I’m pretty sure we had lunch there on a 2 week trip from Seattle to Sandiego
Sometimes I think the smaller museums are the best museums. When they focus on a narrower subject, they often seem to do a nicer job with it…rather than trying to do a lot of things in a really superficial way. I think some of our best museum experiences have been in smaller museums like this. Sounds like a great time!
I agree with Dominique that sometimes small town museum seems to be better than big museum. Kids can truly focus on certain subject and enjoy themselves more.
I grew up in Salinas but the Steinbeck center was built after I left town. I am embarrassed to say I have never been there.