The National Steinbeck Center is located at One Main Street in Salinas, California. The Center incorporates Steinbeck’s work into tactile, interactive exhibits. You can watch film excerpts, listen to recollections from Steinbeck’s family and friends, view Doc’s bed, braid The Red Pony’s mane, and feel the characters’ hats from “Of Mice and Men.” There are numerous film excerpts that run throughout the exhibit, as well as interviews with Steinbeck’s family and friends, and a recording from his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. Don’t forget to watch the short film introducing you to the details of the author’s life. It’s quite informative.
Drive into Salinas in the morning and you’ll experience the fog so often mentioned in Steinbeck’s work. Visit in the afternoon and you’ll be able to see the hills Steinbeck roamed in his youth. If you drive into Salinas from the south, keep your eyes peeled for Spreckels, where Steinbeck worked on and off during college.
For those who want to sample the edible delicacies of Monterey County, there’s a caf where you can indulge in fried artichoke hearts or calamari. The Steinbeck House, located down the street from the Center, recommends that you make reservations in advance for lunch (831-424-2735). In the future, the Center will be expanded to include an agricultural museum. Visitors will be able to enjoy interactive exhibits or attend wine and food tastings prepared by regional chefs.
For those with a scholarly interest in Steinbeck, appointments should be made at least a week in advance to view the manuscripts held at the National Steinbeck Center. For those who would rather walk, there’s the Old town tour, which takes about an hour and a half and covers most of the writer’s childhood associations with Salinas. Many of the old buildings are gone, but you can still get a sense of Steinbeck’s boyhood world by walking the streets he used to walk everyday to school or to the market. Tours are offered on special days of the year, so be sure to check with the Center in advance. The Steinbeck House is also open for tours on certain days of the year.
The cottage in Pacific Grove and Doc’s lab in Monterey are not open to the public. You can, however, see the outside of Doc’s lab at 800 Cannery Row, just down the street from the Monterey Aquarium.
August 2001: The Kick-off to the Steinbeck Centennial
For four days every year, the National Steinbeck Center hosts a festival to honor Salinas’ most famous author. The festival is usually held in early August. In the year 2001 was the kick-off for a year-long celebration of the centennial of Steinbeck’s birth. Guest speakers included writers, historians, professors, agents, and editors who had a special expertise in Steinbeck or his connection to California. Events included special theatrical productions of his work, a book collectors fair, film screenings of his works, and bus tours to local places of interest.
By Michelle Potter
If you missed the Steinbeck Festival, you can still participate in one of the events of the centennial celebration. Do you want to visit the The Red Pony ranch, tour Doc’s lab, watch Tortilla Flat on stage, or enjoy happy hour with the gang down in Monterey? Then check with the Center to plan your visit.
If you yearn for scholarly lectures or discussions about Steinbeck’s writing process, you can time your visit to coincide with these special centennial events. Each month will focus on a different aspect of Steinbeck’s work, such as his writing process, his portrayal of multiple cultures and agrarian workers, his travels, his Western roots, and the influence of Morte DArthur on his work
Further information about the festival and the centennial celebrations is available at the National Steinbeck Centers website: www.steinbeck.org or by phone (831) 796-3833.
There is also a special centennial website under construction. At www.steinbeck100.org, you can watch for updates about the events that will take place around other parts of California and in New York next year.