The Nixon Library offers a fascinating walk though America’s modern history and that of this controversial native son of Orange County (1913–94), who served as president 1969–74. Noteworthy exhibits include a full-size replica of the White House East Room, recordings of conversations with Apollo 11 astronauts on the moon, access to the ex-presidential helicopter – complete with wet bar and ashtrays – and excerpts from landmark TV appearances including the Kennedy-Nixon debates and Nixon's famous self-parody on the Laugh-In comedy show.
You'll learn about Nixon's childhood in nearby Whittier, his early life and political career as senator and vice president under Dwight Eisenhower, and moments that defined his presidency: the moon landing, Vietnam War and Cold War, the Clean Air Act and the opening of the US to China.
That said, exhibits about Watergate, the infamous scandal that ultimately brought down Nixon's administration, also figure prominently. The museum's original Watergate exhibit called it a ‘coup’ instigated by Nixon’s rivals and provided favorably edited White House tapes. That changed when the library was transferred to federal control in 2007, with oversight by the National Archives. The old exhibit was completely torn out, and now the story unfolds from many perspectives, like a spy thriller. It was a bold move, considering that ‘Tricky Dick’ and First Lady Pat Nixon lie buried just outside, near Nixon's birth house.
The library is in the rolling-hilled residential community of Yorba Linda in northeastern Orange County, about 10 miles northeast of Anaheim. To get here, take Hwy 57 north and exit east on Yorba Linda Blvd, then continue straight and follow the signs.