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Photo Credit: Julie Cohn

Bring literature to life for your family with a visit to the National Steinbeck Center, in Salinas, California. Located in central valley, near the Monterey peninsula, the Steinbeck Center is home to the legacy of one of America’s greatest writers, Nobel-prize winning author John Steinbeck. Steinbeck is my favorite writer, so when we walked through the front door of the National Steinbeck Center, I was practically giddy (and a little tearful) to be in a place that celebrated this great writer and his works of art.

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Photo Credit: Julie Cohn

Interactive Exhibits Illustrate Steinbeck’s Writing and Life

Our first stop was a small movie room, where we learned about Steinbeck’s life in Salinas and nearby Pacific Grove, and the influence of local field workers on his writing. The second movie was a more detailed look at the farmers and workers of the Central Valley, and how Steinbeck exposed the hardships of life for these workers though his stories, such as East of Eden, Of Mice and Men, and In Dubious Battle.

Next, we visited exhibit rooms showcasing his life, as well as each of his major writing pieces. Each book was brought to life by life-size interactive displays. One moment, visitors were at a “ranch,” learning how Steinbeck came to write The Red Pony; at another turn, visitors found themselves in the cannery factories described in his story, Cannery Row. The exhibits chronicled how he was influenced by the people and times he lived in, particularly the harsh poverty conditions of the migrant workers and laborers of the 1930s, which he wrote about in The Grapes of Wrath. One of the interesting highlights of the exhibit was the original camper truck, Rocinante, which Steinbeck used in his travels across the United States with his poodle, Charlie, and immortalized in his travelogue, Travels with Charley

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Photo Credit: Julie Cohn

The National Steinbeck Center did a great job of helping visitors gain a better understanding of how and why Steinbeck wrote his prolific stories, by sharing his most personal life experiences. We left The Steinbeck Center with the belief that Steinbeck captured the American spirit of the labor worker better than any other modern writer, and that his writings are an important part of American History.

Steinbeck Center Better for Older Kids

The entire self-guided tour through the museum took about two hours. Older children, particularly those who have read at least one of his works, will find the exhibits interesting, but younger children may bore easily, even though there are several hands-on exhibits. My kids found the museum fascinating, and left wanting to learn more about Steinbeck and his writings.

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Photo Credit: Julie Cohn

Ticket Information

Tickets for adults are $14.95 per person. Seniors, military officers, and teachers receive a discount, and tickets are $8.95. Youth (13-17) are $7.95 and children (6-12) are $5.95.  Children under five are free. For more information about the National Steinbeck Center, visit their website.