If you're an art and literature junkie searching for some summertime fun, look no further than the National Steinbeck Center. Located in Salinas, California -- hometown of great American author John Steinbeck -- the museum is a scenic 30-minute drive from the Monterey Hostel. Visitors from across the globe are invited to experience literature, history, agriculture, and art in one of the most fertile places in the world.
John Steinbeck was born on February 27, 1902, in Salinas. He gained a great appreciation for the land, especially Salinas Valley, from an early age. At 14 years old he knew he was destined to become a writer, and in 1939 he published The Grapes of Wrath, winning the 1940 Pulitzer Prize for novels and eventually the Nobel Prize for literature in 1962. The novel, detailing the struggles of a family's migration from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl to California during the Great Depression, was praised for its honesty in capturing the anguish of a poverty-stricken nation. Steinbeck had a spectacular literary career and, with profound appreciation for the earth and the people of Salinas Valley, he became famous for lending a voice to the disenfranchised, while celebrating the power of the human spirit.
Explore the writer's life in the John Steinbeck Exhibition Hall through themed galleries with artifacts, film clips, photographs, and interactive exhibits. Gain insight into major works like The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, and The Red Pony, and learn how Steinbeck's experiences gave rise to these masterpieces. The museum also serves as an archival resource center with newspaper collections and photographs open to the public from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., by appointment. Continue on to the interactive exhibits of the Rabobank Agricultural Museum to uncover 200 years of agricultural history in Salinas Valley.
The museum also hosts the Annual Steinbeck Festival, which runs May 3-5 this year and features prominent speakers, tours, food, films, and visual and performing arts. Find tickets here for tours of Oldtown, Cannery Row, and the Pastures of Heaven, and talks about Steinbeck's life and loves. Experience the places that inspired many of Steinbeck's short stories and novels, and gain a deeper understanding of the area's rich agricultural roots. Most tours range from $10-$25; some events, such as the Opening Night Reception and the all-day Agricultural Tour, are more expensive.
If you get hungry, stop by the Steinbeck House for a bite on the way out. Located two blocks west of the National Steinbeck Center, the restored Victorian home that Steinbeck grew up in now serves as a quaint restaurant. Daily lunches offerings feature fresh produce from Salinas Valley farms, and Saturday teas include fresh-baked scones, fruit, and tea sandwiches. A few tours are also offered this summer, on June 8, July 13, August 10, and September 14, from 12 p.m. - 3 p.m.
The National Steinbeck Center is open 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. every day. General admission is $14.95. Show your bike helmet on Thursdays and get an additional 10% off.
Stay overnight at the Monterey Hostel and spend a day in Salinas exploring Steinbeck's hometown.