Vatican Splendors: A Journey Through Faith and Art at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California

One of the largest Vatican collections ever to tour the United States is now here in Southern California. Vatican Splendors: A Journey Through Faith and Art is open to the public through August 28, 2016. The 10,000 square-foot exhibition includes an extraordinary collection of historical and religious objects, some of them dating back to the first century. Works of art by Michelangelo, Bernini, Guercino, and others are also on display.


Former first lady Nancy Reagan said, “Through his life, my husband had a great affinity for the Catholic Church and as President of the United States, his relationship with the Vatican was very strong. He established a unique and very special friendship with Saint John Paul II. Remarkably, they shared similar personal backgrounds and together, they worked very hard – mostly in secret – to free the people of Poland and other captive nations from Communist rule. My husband would have been honored to know that his presidential library will be sharing this remarkable Vatican exhibition with the American people.”

Visitors become immersed in the grandeur of the Vatican right from the beginning with an opening theater experience to viewing art, history, and culture of the Vatican (some of these objects are not even on view for the general public in Rome) and ending with a cast of Saint John Paul II’s hand (which guest may grasp). This multi-sensory experience will also explore a document signed by Michelangelo and a bas relief sculpture that he created toward the end of his career, venerated remains (bone fragments) of Saints Peter and Paul, recreations of the underground catacombs where the remains of Saint Peter were discovered, and sights and sounds of the grand Basilica.

  • Travel tip: Make plans to visit this exhibit and the library as early in the day as you can. The later it gets, the more crowded it is which may impede on your viewing of these historical objects. If you plan on exploring the rest of the museum in its entirety, plan for at least 4-5 hours.

Your ticket also includes admission into the main Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum and Air Force One Pavilion. If you have never been a presidential library before, this is one that should not be missed.

Beautiful painted murals of former First Lady Nancy Reagan adorn the entrance. This was another reason why I wanted to come to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. I wanted to pay my respects to this lovely lady who passed away earlier this year. I remember when I was in grade school, Ronald Reagan was president and presented a few of us with the Presidential Academic Fitness Award. I still have the embossed certificate and lapel pin to this day.

The museum is set up in chronological order from when Ronald Reagan was born, his acting career, his years as governor, assassination attempt, a recreation of The Oval Office as it was when President Reagan was in office, and at the half way mark is the Air Force One Pavilion.

In the Air Force One Pavilion, the Air Force One 27000 was used by seven presidents: Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, G.H.W. Bush, Clinton, and G.W. Bush. The plane was decommissioned on September 8, 2001. It was disassembled over a nine-week period by The Boeing Company into sections: fuselage, tail and stabilizers, engines, main landing gear, and wings. After construction of the pavilion and reassembling of 27000, Air Force One Pavilion opened to the public on October 24, 2005.

In the pavilion, you can see the plane in its grandeur like it just came off the showroom floor.

The front of the pavilion is floor to ceiling glass (3 stories high) with sweeping views of the Conejo Valley.

On the plane, you will see how President Reagan had it with the creature comforts of home. One thing that President Reagan was known for was his love Jelly Belly Jelly Beans. There were glass canisters of them on almost every table. But what you probably don’t know is that he always had a cake on board to celebrate birthdays and special occasions of his crew and staff.

As you take the elevator down a level, you can view the Air Force One underbelly and get an actual concept of how big this plane really is.

Marine One Tail Number 150611 is also on display in the Air Force One Pavilion. It is a Sikorsky VH-3A and was first used in the Army and Marine Corps. It was then assigned to HMX-1 (Marine Helicopter Squadron One) for presidential/executive transportation duty from 1967-1968 and again from 1974-1976. It went on to serve in the Navy from 1976-2002. It was then retired and has been on loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum since 2004.

The Ronald Reagan Pub is a great place to take a break with a snack, drink, and sit down to rest your feet. At this point, you are only half-way through the museum. A fun fact: the furnishings and details in the pub are actually from a real pub that Ronald Reagan used to frequent. He stopped by one day and found that it had closed up shop. He bought all the interior furnishings and had it recreated in his museum.

As you make your way out of the Air Force One Pavilion, the rest of President Reagan’s life continues from politics in America, summits, and Camp David during his presidency. Post-presidential life continues through his passing on June 5, 2004. The emotions are very strong in the Mourning Ronald Reagan room. There is a picture of Nancy with her son, Ron, and her daughter, Patti, at President Reagan’s funeral that capture the emotional pain and you just can’t help but cry.

The tour ends at the Museum Store where you can select the perfect memento to remember your experience. They even have a variety of Jelly Belly Jelly Beans for purchase as well.

After a 5-hour tour, you might be a hungry. Reagan’s Country Café is a great place to eat, sit, and talk about your favorite parts of the museum. The café has an array of deli sandwiches, salads, soup, chili, pizza, hot dogs, burgers, kid’s meals, and desserts. Air Force One Burgers come with lettuce, tomato, onion, and a pickle wedge. You have a choice of a Classic Angus Beef Burger, Cheeseburger, Bacon Cheeseburger, or Gardenburger. The Bacon Cheeseburger is similar to what you would get a diner – flat-top grilled burger with melted American cheese and topped with bacon. The buns are grilled for a butter-toasted flavor and texture.

Once you finish lunch, you can take a stroll outside to the Ruwe Terrace and see beautiful views of Conejo Valley and Simi Valley.

There is a piece of the Berlin Wall on display.

The Memorial Site is where President Ronald Wilson Reagan and former First Lady Nancy David Reagan lay to rest. They had a magical love story of fairy tales. It was just amazing to see their love throughout the museum. I am so honored to have been here to give them a moment of thanks for all of the great memories and great things that they did for the citizens of the United States of America.

They have a view of a beautiful garden and rolling hills beyond.

Be sure to visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum this summer before Vatican Splendors returns to Rome!

40 Presidential Dr.
Simi Valley, CA 93065
Hours: Daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed on New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day)
Tickets: General admission - $29, Senior admission (62+) - $26, Youth admission (11-17) - $19, Child admission (3-10) - $16, Children under 2 - free, Audio tour rental - $7, Active Military – free (with valid Military ID – Active military do not need to reserve tickets online. All walk-ups will receive Museum entry. Their guests must pre-purchase their tickets.)
Parking: Free private lot parking. When full, visitors will need to park on Presidential Drive and shuttle busses will take you to the Library entrance.

Reagan's Country Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato