Every holiday season, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley presents a special exhibit of Christmas trees decorated to fit the year’s theme. In 2022, the theme is An American Christmas Story. The 5,000-square-foot exhibit features more than 60 trees representing each U.S. state and territory. Also on display are rare artifacts, gifts and ornaments from the Reagan family and administration, including Hanukkah Menorahs presented to the President at the White House during the 1980s.
An American Christmas Story is at the Reagan Library from Nov. 11, 2022 to Jan. 8, 2023. Museum admission includes the special exhibit as well as self-guided access to 125,000 square feet of galleries, plus the Air Force One Pavilion. Allow around 2 to 4 hours to see everything at the museum, and be sure to check out “An American Christmas Story” to get in the festive spirit.
Walk Through “An American Christmas Story”
The special holiday exhibit at the Reagan Library is a dedicated space around a looping pathway lined with lavishly decorated Christmas trees. Slowly stroll the path and take in each state or territory’s tree, all adorned with meaningful emblems. You’ll recognize some states’ trees instantly. For example, Georgia’s is prettied-up with peaches and Coca-Cola motifs, the Kansas tree is emblazoned with sunflowers, and colorful hot air balloons float across New Mexico’s Christmas tree.
Overall, the exhibit reminds visitors of the great geographic and cultural diversity of the United States. Some states’ trees naturally fit the typical wintry representation of Christmas, such as Montana’s with its bison and plaid theme. Hawaii’s tropical take with pineapple and palm tree motifs illustrates how island residents enjoy their sunnier Decembers. A lot of the ornaments are simply iconic – Texas has a Stetson hat as a tree-topper; Utah’s is adorned with beehives, and our own California tree features golden poppies, grapevines and the Hollywood sign.
Each tree is marked by a plaque – although it’s fun to try to figure out the state before confirming – which includes interesting local holiday-themed facts. For example, you’ll learn that lutefisk is often served on Christmas Day by Minnesotans of Scandinavian heritage. Another is that the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle fundraising started in 1891 in San Francisco, and funded a Christmas dinner for 1,000 people in need. Wow your friends with the fact that Alabama made Christmas a legal holiday in 1836 (the first state to do so), while it only became a federal holiday in 1870 under President Ulysses S. Grant.
Meet Santa Among the Christmas Trees
“An American Christmas Story” is an ideal, festive setting for meeting Santa this year. You can say hello to St. Nick and pass along your Christmas wishes on the following dates: Nov. 25, 26, 27, Dec. 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24.
There are also professional photographers on hand daily for family photo opportunities inside the exhibit space.
More to See at the Reagan Library
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum opened in 1991 as an archive and museum. It also became the final resting place for Ronald and Nancy Reagan, whose memorial site is within the peaceful mountaintop property.
A major highlight of the museum is the Air Force One Pavilion, where visitors can walk through the Boeing 707 that served Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and H.W. Bush. You can also walk through Marine One. Both aircraft are set up inside to resemble the way they looked during Reagan’s presidency, complete with period computers, the “nuclear football” and jars of jelly beans.
Eighteen exhibits take visitors through Reagan’s early life, to Hollywood and the California governorship, then the most momentous events of his presidency. Start your journey through the museum by watching a speech given by a hologram version of Reagan. Stand behind a presidential podium and see how you handle the teleprompter, and admire some of Nancy Reagan’s fanciest gowns worn to official events as First Lady. The museum features an exact replica of the Oval Office during Reagan’s second term, ranching gear from his Santa Barbara ranch and Camp David, and a respectful overview of the 40th president’s post-office life and death.
The exterior parts of the museum feature a large section of the Berlin Wall. This is backed by a replica of the White House South Lawn and sweeping views across the mountains. There’s also a replica of the White House Rose Garden and a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in the outdoor spaces.
The museum and “An American Christmas Story” exhibit are open Monday to Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm, except for Dec. 3 (closed for a special event), Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum
40 Presidential Drive, Simi Valley, CA 93065
Looking for more things to do in Ventura County? Check out “Museum Monday: Point Mugu Missile Park, Ventura County.“