Visiting Snoopy at the Charles M. Schulz Museum Santa Rosa
There's something peculiar about the town of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, Northern California. As soon as you arrive in the city, you spot statues of Peanuts characters everywhere. You start to wonder whether some weird spell fell upon the inhabitants of this city that they all became Peanuts fans.
Well, the fact is that Mr. Charles M. Schulz of Peanuts fame was a long-time resident of Santa Rosa, and there are extensive footprints of his all over town, especially centered around the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center.
Since we were in the area for the Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic, we had to stop by to visit Snoopy and learn about the fascinating Mr. Schulz. After all, we're all Peanuts fans. (Who isn't?)
If you're like me, you've spent a good chunk of your childhood hours reading Peanuts books. And when you get a hold of the newspapers, you flipped quickly towards the last pages to locate those grids with Snoopy in them. You've learned quite a lot about the world through the conversations between Charlie Brown and his friends.
So when you walk into the museum, you feel like you're visiting old friends.
My little boy might be a bit young to really grasp how important Peanuts is to our collective conscience, but I suspect that soon he'll start to understand.
At the museum, you witness Peanuts' evolution from the early years, circa 1950s, to the most recent 3D animated Peanuts movie in 2015.
At the main hall, you see an entire wall covered with over 3,000 ceramic tiles with Peanuts comic strips printed on them. The mural features Lucy holding a football provoking Charlie Brown. I was surprised to hear a voice inside me that was rooting for him, even though we all knew how this would most likely end. I guess deep down we all have a bit of Charlie Brown in us, we may fail, but we always go on and try again.
If your young companions get a little restless, there is a little nook where you can cozy up to a giant Snoopy and watch a short video to learn about Mr. Schulz.
Walk around the museum, you'll also find this exhibit with Peanuts comic book covers in many languages. It's amazing how a simple comic strip series developed such an international impact.
Snoopy for President
The current temporary exhibition is "Mr. Schulz Goes to Washington", a look at the political side of Peanuts and Mr. Schulz's own experience with politics.
Everyone is invited to vote for his favorite Peanuts character in the Peanuts Election. Candidates include Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Franklin, Pig Pen, and of course, Snoopy. Just like an actual election, there are booths with curtains and a ballot box to cast your vote.
The difference here is that there isn't an age restriction to vote.
Afterwards, you get a "I Voted" temporary tattoo with Snoopy on it. Key take-aways: 1. Civic education can start young, very young; 2. Only in this kind of election should one of the candidates be featured on the "I Voted" tattoo.
The Life of Mr. Schulz
Once we got re-familiarized with Peanuts of different decades, we headed upstairs to get an intimate look at Mr. Schulz's life.
We walked into the recreation of "Sparky's (Charles Schulz's nickname) Studio" where the magic of Peanuts comic strips happened day after day during his lifetime. Mr. Schulz believed in having a set place and a fixed routine in order to stay creative.
For parents with young children, itf is particularly delightful to see the nursery wall that Mr. Schulz painted for his daughter back when he was a young father and artist. What you see here is the original wall from the nursery room in the Schulz's house back in Colorado, it was shipped to the museum several decades later, donated by the new owner of the house.
Two items in the permanent exhibition that caught my eyes were Mr. Schulz's art assignment in high school and a letter he wrote during military service in WWI. Both items feature his drawings before the world-wide fame of Peanuts, yet both showed the same honest aesthetics and that warm, humanist spirit of his.
What made the experience at the museum even better for the kids was the room dedicated to art projects. Kids are encouraged to draw, paint, and make their own comic strips.
Another tidbit that kids would love: if they go potty, they will see those Peanuts comic strip tiles in the bathroom!
Outside the Museum - The Arena and The Warm Puppy
Mr. Schulz was from Minnesota, so it's not a coincidence that you see a lot of ice hockey and skating in Peanuts. He was the owner of the Redwood Empire Ice Arena adjacent to the museum, and had his lunch daily at "The Warm Puppy" snack bar inside the arena. Both places are still up and running, you can imagine Mr. Schulz sitting at his reserved spot at lunch, eating a sandwich, and watching the ice skaters or hockey players in the ice rink.
Thank you, Mr. Schulz, for all those faithful years of philosophy, comfort, and delight. I believe that Snoopy will also become a companion for this little boy.
Snoopy Museum Tokyo
Since April 23rd, 2016, there is a temporary Snoopy Museum in Roppongi, Tokyo. This offshoot of the Santa Rosa main museum features rotating exhibitions, a store, and a Peanuts-themed café. I would definitely add this place to my Tokyo family-trip itinerary!
Have you visited these Snoopy museums? What was your experience?