National Steinbeck Center

Immerse yourself in the life, times and works of legendary American novelist John Steinbeck through memorabilia, photos, journals and film. 

John Steinbeck was a celebrated American novelist and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. The National Steinbeck Center celebrates his work through photos, artifacts, interactive exhibits and the author’s personal belongings. It also explores the area’s agricultural history, which was a major influence on Steinbeck’s work. 

Separate rooms at the center are dedicated to each of Steinbeck’s major works. See the author’s journals and early notes for the novels East of Eden, The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. The permanent collection here also includes objects that inspired or were featured in the author’s books. You’ll see Rocinante, the camper van in which Steinbeck drove across the country for three months in 1960, a trip which inspired Travels with Charley: In Search of America. 

There’s a fine collection of World War II memorabilia from Bombs Away and the canisters from the marine biology lab in Monterey that features in Cannery Row. Watch portions of the many Hollywood movies based on Steinbeck’s books. There are also photos of local migrant camps taken during Steinbeck’s visits, as well as artists’ depictions of characters and settings from certain novels. 

Visit the Rabobank Agricultural Museum, part of the center. This interactive museum explores 200 years of California’s agricultural history. Discover the journey a head of lettuce takes, from growing in the fields to ending up on a plate. There are sections dedicated to notable workers and cultural movements, such as labor leader Cesar Chavez and the development of the United Farm Workers Union. The museum also looks at the technology used to keep produce fresh during export and the development of cropping technology, from the horse-drawn plough to worker-operated tractors. 

The National Steinbeck Center is located in downtown Salinas, Steinbeck’s former hometown, a half-hour drive from downtown Monterey. Just a short stroll away is the author’s childhood home, Steinbeck House, which includes a restaurant and gift shop. The center is open daily except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

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