Two of my favorite books are East of Eden and Travels with Charley. So, when I was in Salinas, California recently, I had to stop at the National Steinbeck Center. For a Steinbeck fan, it is a must see and because the exhibits are unique and interesting, even a casual reader will be intrigued.

The Center is set up by book title so each twist and turn in the space delights with exhibits from that book such as movie clips, manuscripts, posters, and fun activities like a Steinbeck crossword puzzle, the truck from Travels with Charley, replica rooms from certain books etc.. There are small theatres or screens where you can watch the movie or play versions of classics such as Of Mice and Men. The gift shop is chock full of Steinbeck books, and fun items.

A few blocks down the street is the Steinbeck house which now serves lunch. When we were there, the house was closed but as we were taking pictures out front, several very nice volunteers noticed us and asked if we wanted to see the house. Yes!! We were treated to a private tour of the main floor and taken upstairs to see the non public spaces too. They have some excellent Steinbeck family photos and mementos in the house. Wish we could have had lunch there, will need to go back another time. Steinbeck is buried in the nearby cemetery but it too is closed on Sundays.

Salinas is a pleasant town surrounded by large strawberry and lettuce fields. In nearby Monterey, you can continue your Steinbeck pilgrimage to see Cannery Row, Ed Ricketts laboratory, and several statues and plaques about Steinbeck.

The National Steinbeck Center hosts an annual Steinbeck festival as well as a birthday commemoration each year. The archives contain correspondence, family artifacts, interviews, foreign book editions, manuscripts and photos. There are several introductory short films about Steinbeck and the area that you can watch before you tour the exhibits. I love that such an impressive museum solely revolves around an American author and his stories, many of which I have grown to love. The Center and the Steinbeck house also have some of the nicest volunteers and staff and there is a tasty Mexican restaurant just down the street! Are you a Steinbeck fan and if so, what book is your favorite?


One thought on “All Things Steinbeck

  1. I was fortunate to be a part of this wonderful tour. While we visited the Steinbeck house, my husband bought Travels With Charley from the bookstore. He started reading it that day and loved every minute of it. He laughed many times and shared several passages with me. The visit to this museum was worth it to me for this alone. I just finished reading Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward as part of the NPR/New York Times book club. I was not the only one to notice the common threads between Steinbeck and Ward. Both authors so closely parallel each other thematically. I’m not sure which of his books is my favorite. I will have to ponder this question awhile. I did like The Red Pony, but Grapes of Wrath is sure powerful!


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