Top 15 California destinations
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National Steinbeck Center, Salinas, Monterey County( National Steinbeck Center )
Unlike museums devoted to sports legends or war heroes, a museum that honors a man of arts and letters must reflect his quiet, solitary pursuit. Which is to say that such a repository may be unbearably dull. How delightful, then, is the National Steinbeck Center at the end of Salinas' Main Street, a place whose undercurrents deliver shock after tiny shock--here an arc of unknown history, there a jolt of social commentary. The museum is just a couple of blocks from where townspeople burned Steinbeck's books, enraged at his perceived betrayal of them and agriculture. The modern-looking center may seem incongruous with the unpretentious persona of the author, whose work won Pulitzer and Nobel prizes. But like his books, it shines a light on the issues, using film clips and displays that are muted set pieces, occasionally somber but never dull. To see this place and the fields that surround Salinas is to understand that Steinbeck's so-called Valley of the World is really the Heart of California.
Info: National Salinas Center National Steinbeck Center, 1 Main St., Salinas, CA 93901; (831) 796-3833