Las Vegas to Hollywood, Then To The Reagan Library - A Fun Day Trip!
Yes, you CAN see all this in one day!
If you are visiting Las Vegas, or even if you are a resident here like we are, there is a FUN one day trip to California that you can take. It doesn't even cost a lot to do it! I highly recommend starting out by leaving Las Vegas EARLY in the morning. We left at 5:30 am and made it back home around 9:30 in the evening.
We started by driving out of Vegas early, mostly to avoid driving in the heat of the day, but also to be sure that we weren't trying to drive home really late at night. If you drive pretty much straight through to Hollywood, it will take you about four hours exactly. If you stop, just add time for stops, and it can easily be done in four and 1/2 hours.
The best thing to do is to head to Hollywood first. Hollywood Blvd. is where we chose to visit, because of the "Stars" on the Hollywood Walk of Fame there, and because of all of the other tourist spots all contained on one street. Most of the time, if there is a particular "star" you would like to see, (for me, it was Alan Jackson's star - located directly in front of the Hard Rock Cafe).. check out websites before you go for the star's location. That can save a lot of time aimlessly walking around looking for one particular one.
Although, there IS something to be said for wandering aimlessly... you can see a lot of stars you might not expect (like we did... I did not know that Mickey Mouse had a STAR on the Walk of Fame)! That was a fun surprise and made for a nice picture to take to send to the grandchildren! We also found Michael Jackson's star and so many others I couldn't possibly begin to list them.
If you'd like to, you could check out Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum there. We just looked at the outside of the building, though, because there is also a "Madame Tussaud's" in Las Vegas! You will also be able to see Grauman's Chinese Theater located nearby. One might think that you have to do a lot of walking to see all of these places, but we were surprised to find that they are all located in the same general area.
Parking is not too difficult to find, but it can be on the expensive side. Although some garages have a limit of $20, most are pay by each 15 minutes. The normal charge is $2.50 for fifteen minutes. If you're lucky, you may be able to find a parking meter, although I'm not sure how much those cost. It looked like you had to use a credit card to pay for those... whatever happened to coin operated meters?
After checking out Hollywood Blvd, we headed about 1 1/2 miles up the road and a couple turns, very easy to find with a "Garmin", and you'll find "Pink's" a famous hot dog stand, visited by a lot of Hollywood celebrities. Be sure to check out all the pictures inside Pink's of all the celebrities who have visited (or do visit regularly). A good choice to order is a chili cheese dog, but there are so many different varieties of dogs (dressed up in all kinds of different ways), that you might have a hard time deciding! The onion rings looked especially good, but since we were eating at 10:30 in the morning, we skipped the rings and just had chili dogs.
They DO have some "specialty" dogs named after various celebrities, but two of them that "stood out" for me were these,
The TODAY Show Dog - 2 hot dogs in one bun
mustard, onions, chili, cheese & guacamole
Martha Stewart Dog
10" Stretch Dog, relish, onions, bacon
chopped tomatoes, sauerkraut & sour cream!
I thought the "Today Show" one sounded kind of good, MINUS the guacamole, but the Martha Stewart one sounded disgusting! But then, I've been told that I can be kind of picky sometimes, when it comes to certain foods!
It was a fun experience eating at Pink's, but there are also restaurants located right on Hollywood Boulevard if you'd rather save yourself the extra driving and eat there.
From there, we headed to the Ronald W. Reagan Library. It is located just about 45 minutes from downtown Hollywood, and along the way, you will probably be able to see the "Hollywood" letters on the side of a hill. I snapped a picture from the car since there was really no place along our route to stop to take a picture, and surprisingly, you CAN see the Hollywood sign in the picture I took!
The Reagan Library is located in Simi Valley, in a very pretty area just a short distance from Los Angeles. Surrounded by beautiful rolling hills and peaceful, quiet surroundings, the library is an outstandingly beautiful building, surrounded by picturesque views.
Once inside the library, be sure to find the beginning of the tour, "the early years". If you can't find it, be sure to ask one of the ushers. We made the mistake of starting out back (outside) and visiting Ronald Reagan's burial site first (not a mistake, but that "should" have been the last thing on the tour, so we were essentially going backwards!)
You need to allow yourself at least three hours to take the complete tour and it is pretty much self explanatory. You can purchase an audio tour, a device you wear that will explain things along the way. Either way, you will be fascinated by the belongings that Mr. Reagan once owned, letters that he wrote to people and the memories that he had from his years as President. I don't know if there will ever BE another "Ronald Reagan"... but a lot of the people there expressed the same sentiment "I WISH we had another one of him." He was a very special, charismatic, charming, funny man... and he was a true leader. He was often referred to as "the great communicator" and for good reason. Many of the lines from his speeches are very memorable.
One particularly fascinating part of the tour is where you can stand on a podium as if you are the President making a speech. They have two teleprompters there. I had never seen a teleprompter and had no idea how they work, they are really interesting! The words essentially are written "backwards" and a mirror is used, you look into a mirrored screen and can read the words from there. I had always wondered how those were used!
This is an especially great place to take children that are over age 5, if they are younger, they probably won't "grasp" the meanings of the pieces in the museum, and will probably be sleeping if they are "stroller age" ! Most of the really little ones were asleep... older kids, however, were fascinated and were asking some really GOOD questions and getting some history lessons along with their summer vacation! I highly recommend it for older kids, I believe they will remember this experience for years to come.
One fascinating part of the tour for us was the Air Force One plane on display there. The building it is displayed in looks like a huge "hangar" and it is up on pedestals. It was fascinating to see the pictures of HOW the plane arrived there, in pieces, and was put back together there. The road leading to the library is a winding, twisted, road... and the day it was moved up there, it was foggy as well. Fascinating to see this plane again. My husband was a Flight Engineer in the Air Force for about 16 years (he was in the Air Force for 20 years, but started out in other positions before he "cross trained" to become a Flight Engineer). He actually flew many hours on this particular plane. He never flew Mr. Reagan, but did fly Bill Clinton, and George H.W. Bush. It was a nostalgic experience for him to be back on the plane as he told me "I spent many hours sitting right here at this table, doing work and had meals here" then he told me (and one of the volunteers that worked on the plane) stories of flying on trips. The volunteer even told us "I learned something NEW today!"
In this same building, you can also see the limousine used by Mr. Reagan, and a presidential "Marine One" helicopter (that was actually used by President Johnson, or so we were told by one of the workers there).
The Reagan Library is definitely an interesting place, full of stories and nostalgic memories. One particularly moving piece there is a piece of the actual "Berlin Wall" from when the wall was taken down. We were told that Mr. Reagan actually got to pick out the piece of the wall that would be on display on the library grounds (it is outside not far from his burial place)... and he got to choose it because of the important role that he played in the wall being taken down. I got goosebumps watching a video clip of the people from East Berlin jubilantly crossing over into the West side of it, passports in hand... it was very moving.
Hopefully I've been able to provide some helpful hints to you for an interesting, fun "day trip" that can easily be made from Las Vegas to Los Angeles (Hollywood) and to the Ronald Reagan Library, then back to Las Vegas again. We left the library around 4:30 p.m. and even with stopping to eat, we were home by about 9:45 p.m. Not a bad drive a at all, although there are times in the desert coming home when you can FEEL how remote it is out there, and the road seems to go on forever in pure darkness. We were glad that we had started home while it was still light out and got to watch a spectacular sunset as we were driving! This is a road trip that I would definitely take again, and I have a feeling we might just be doing that sometime in the future when people are visiting us!