The George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Center, located on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, is one of the most popular sites in Texas since it opened in 1997. My family found it to be one of more child friendly presidential libraries of the 13 libraries and museums overseen by the US National Archives. (Check out our tips for visiting the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas and the FRD Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York). The Center has frequent family friendly events, ranging from book signings and guest lecturers to film screenings and, most recently, a visit from the World Series Trophy (the nearby Astros won the World Series in 2017). Check here for for updates.
Traveling with Kids:
Make sure to get your presidential library passport stamped.
The only public bank of restrooms is located to the right after you go through security. There are nursing spaces in the women’s restroom.
There is plenty of free parking in the lots across from the museum.
Bring the stroller for toddlers: the museum space is entirely located on one floor (except for a step of stairs to get a closer to look at the Avenger).
Plan to spend at least two to three hours fully exploring the museum.
When we visited in summer of 2018 the temporary exhibit was Machines in Motion, an exhibit honoring Leonardo da Vinci. The exhibit had over 30 machines that children could explore and is on display until early January 2019.
Top 10 Things Kids Will Enjoy at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library:
1. The dogs! Pick up a “Millie’s Adventures” scavenger hunt from the Visitor’s Desk to complete as you explore the exhibits. If you need clues, check inside the 10 “doggie stations” located throughout the museum. My children loved completing this activity.
2. The cars, plane, and boat: Throughout the museum, be sure to check out “The Beast” (presidential limousine), a 1947 Studebaker, a 1944 TBM Avenger (similar to the one President Bush flew in WWII and gifted to the museum by a fellow member of Bush’s squad) and a 1973 “Fidelity” (a twenty eight foot cigarette boat) on display.
3. Spots to sit and relax throughout the museum. There are lots of areas to sit on benches and watch home videos clips and news segments. You can pretend to converse with a statue of President Bush in front of the United Nations exhibit. Sit down in the Situation Room and make an informed decision about some of the issues President Bush faced.
4. A replica living room where you can grab one of a hundred books and sit on a comfy couch. In the living room you can also crawl inside a miniature White House. Our children stayed here for a long time reading, while the adults explored the nearby exhibits.
5. The wedding dress Barbara Bush wore and a photo album of wedding photos (check out the popular styles of the 1940s).
6. A tally of how many miles President Bush traveled as Vice President and President and where he travelled. Hint: it’s well over one million miles.
7. “Peek” through a window of various rooms of the White House and maneuvering a rotating camera to get 360 degree views. Our favorite room was the Camp David replica office.
8. A piece of the Berlin Wall, which came down in November of 1989.
9. The presidential podium and Oval Office desk. Stand behind both spots and pretend you’re the Commander in Chief.
10. Collections of famous gifts and mementos including gifts of state from other countries and President Bush’s famous crazy sock collection.
Note: At the end of the museum there is an exhibit dedicated to Desert Storm with film footage and a full scale model of an Abrams M1A1 tank used in the Gulf War, The exhibit has several gifts presented to President Bush by the people of Kuwait, including the Gate of Kuwait. There is also a digitized list of all servicemen and servicewomen who gave their lives in Kuwait. Younger children might have a hard time understanding this exhibit and some of the film footage will be difficult to watch.
On the day we visited it was pouring rain and we did not have a chance to check out the grounds, which include other exhibits:
Bush family gravesite
Barbara Bush Rose Garden
Presidential Pond (catch and release)
If you’re a regular reader or follower, you may have picked up on the bucket list goal my family has to see all presidential libraries. The National Archives oversees 13 national presidential libraries, and to date we have explored 5 of them. You can read about our adventures at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York here, the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas here and the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, Texas here. We like collecting the stamps from each library for our passport.