We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

“Excellent experience”

National Steinbeck Center
Ranked #1 of 31 things to do in Salinas
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Owner description: A celebration and exploration of the well-known author's work through multi-sensory exhibits, priceless artifacts and live theater performances.
Tri Cities, TN
Level 5 Contributor
65 reviews
13 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 30 helpful votes
“Excellent experience”
Reviewed July 8, 2014

Way back in 1997 I visited the temporary space for the growing number of Steinbeck items that were being collected for the future center. To show up 17 years later to see the National Steinbeck Center was truly an amazing experience. These people have done an excellent job. Reading reviews prior to visiting I was somewhat concerned that The Grapes of Wrath would be left out. However, I found that ample space was given to the novel and that the holistic approach of the museum carries the themes from all of John's works throughout the displays. I am including photos which show some of the dedicated space for Grapes. Overall, I was very impressed. Visiting the museum was the most rewarding experience I had in my vacation to the Monterey/ Carmel area. It's a real gem.

Visited July 2014
1 Thank Terre B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Write a Review

305 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • Danish first
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Japanese first
  • Spanish first
  • Swedish first
  • Any
English first
Alexandria, Virginia
Level 5 Contributor
59 reviews
9 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 26 helpful votes
“Enriching and Absorbing”
Reviewed June 28, 2014

If you're a Steinbeck fan, this is a must for your Northern/Central California trip! As you know, John Steinbeck based his books on times and places he knew well, and the museum that is part of this center fleshes out his work beautifully. It sets all his books in historical context and fills in a lot of facts from his personal life, bringing increased depth to their meaning...which of course sets you up for the huge gift shop at the end!

Even if you haven't read much Steinbeck or don't care for classic literature, it's a very interesting museum of American history of the time period of his life, and it's very professionally done. I think it would be pretty dry for pre-high school kids, but there are at least a lot of interactive features for the hands-on set.

It's a very nice conference center, but I'm not sure you can get anything to eat if you get hungry...which is a minor issue since there are plenty of restaurants nearby.

The Center is a good first stop on an itinerary which should also include Steinbeck's birthplace home (which has limited hours since it is run by volunteers but is still worth walking around, even if you can't get in) and his final resting place in the Garden of Memories cemetery, also in Salinas. We also drove to nearby Pacific Grove and saw his beautiful red house (no signs/plaques, no admission), ending with dinner, the surf rolling in just steps away.

There is no TripAdvisor option for choosing "Family (adults)" as a type of visit, which is what my visit was, so I selected "Family (teens)," but this is an enjoyable full daytrip probably more for college-age and adults.

Visited May 2014
Thank martimbe
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level 4 Contributor
34 reviews
25 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 29 helpful votes
“Calling all Steinbeck fans”
Reviewed June 22, 2014

The National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, CA is, in a word, wonderful. The museum contains various exhibits (one is about agriculture in the Salinas Valley, for instance, and another is about the Dust Bowl refugees), but the main gallery, naturally, is about John Steinbeck, one of America's finest writers. I recommend that you begin our visit with the short film about his life, and then go to see the exhibits. You'll find that there is more emphasis on Steinbeck's work than on his life, and you will also find that there is a surprising amount of attention paid to the films that were adapted from his novels. (That led this reviewer to believe that the gift shop would have DVDs of those films, but it did not. That was a disappointment, considering that there have been so many really good film adaptations of Steinbeck's writing. The gift shop was the weakest aspect of the center, though you'll find multiple editions of Steinbeck's titles in abundance.) The displays are executed with excellent style, but the best of them was certainly "Rocinante," Steinbeck's original truck/camper that carried him through the journey described so well in "Travels With Charley." The staff is friendly and helpful. After your visit, be sure to make the easy, two-block walk to Steinbeck's birthplace, and you also might want to drive out to the Garden of Memories Cemetery where Steinbeck is buried. He's in the Hamilton family plot, near the front of the cemetery. Many of the streets in Salinas are uncomfortably narrow for the volume of traffic. Luckily, there is a parking garage behind the Steinbeck Center and a short walk up the main street in front of the center will lead you a variety of restaurants. I would recommend a visit to the National Steinbeck Center to anyone who is generally interested in 20th Century American literature, and would insist that it is a must-see for anyone who has even a slight familiarity with John Steinbeck.

Visited June 2014
1 Thank Daniel L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Santa Rosa, California
Level 6 Contributor
104 reviews
22 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 25 helpful votes
“Very interesting exhibits”
Reviewed June 16, 2014

I found the cutouts in the lobby of different workers very interesting, and I was also impressed by the exhibits regarding the Dust bowl and valley agriculture. There was a lot of good information about how hard it had been for minorities to succeed and survive.

Visited June 2014
Thank Karen D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
santa fe
Level 5 Contributor
66 reviews
23 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 80 helpful votes
“Where is "The Grapes of Wrath"?”
Reviewed June 5, 2014

They call this the "National" Steinbeck Center, but I'm pretty sure this is a locally funded facility, as they offer a discount to local residents (determined by zipcode). I'd say its a very professionally done interactive type museum, although it seems just a bit over-the-hill.

The most interesting thing to me is what is not in the museum, namely, significant references to "The Grapes of Wrath". You would think its just some pot-boiler that he wrote in between "The Red Pony" and "Cannery Row" Steinbeck is a controversial person with the literary crowd, I think because of his vocal support of the Vietnam war. His reputation has suffered unfairly for it.

The rather bizarre diminishment of "The Grapes of Wrath" in the museum is more of a puzzlement. One spot in the museum has as a display a row of faux books by Steinbeck with "The Grapes of Wrath" missing. I can't tell if the local growers are still mad at him (Salinas had two book-burnings in Steinbeck's honor, according to the Center) or if the place has been Tea-Partied.

That Steinbeck remains a controversial figure 75 years later is a testament to his continued saliency to our culture.

Visited June 2014
3 Thank jim b
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Travelers who viewed National Steinbeck Center also viewed


Been to National Steinbeck Center? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Owners: What's your side of the story?

Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.

Claim Your Listing