There’s a little museum on the road between Phoenix, AZ and Palm Springs, CA that I’ve often been curious about. It always catches my attention because of its strange location and the big military tanks that can be seen from outside. Only once have I made the time to visit it while traveling between Arizona and Southern California. But I think the little General Patton Memorial Museum in Chiriaco Summit is a worthy roadside attraction for anyone who is interested in history and/or exploring military vehicles. Read on if you think that little-known spot might be the perfect stop over for your roadtrip, or if you’ve always been curious about what this museum is all about.
Is the General Patton Memorial Museum Worth It?
This depends on you! It is $18 to visit (in 2023), so the ticket price isn’t cheap by any means. But I think you will enjoy stopping here if you (a) really enjoy history museums, (b) have an appreciation for more home-grown museums, and/or (c) you need a break from a long drive to or from the big cities of the southwest.
While General Patton is the focus of the building, there are many different elements of World War II, the US military, and even the dynamic lands surrounding the museum. These are complicated subjects, and while I wouldn’t say that this museum has the capacity to adjust to our current understanding of the people and events in the past, I did find it to be a very interesting place that peeked into a specific corner of history. For example, there were places in the General Patton Memorial Museum that really humanized the regular soldier of WWII. I was particularly appreciative of the collections that focused on the unique art that came out of the battlefields.
For those of you who enjoy a good immersive museum, the tank section of the General Patton Memorial Museum scratched that itch for me. There were a couple of tanks that you could climb into and explore the controls. And the outdoor section of the museum had a great collection of vehicles to explore from multiple angles.
Experience of the Museum
There are two main parts to the General Patton Memorial Museum, an indoor portion and an outdoor portion. The indoor portion of the museum covers the life and military times of General Patton. This includes a large collection of materials from the battlefields of WWII, as well as information about the training center that was once located near the current museum in the deserts of Southern California. Overall, it is a pretty standard set-up, but I think for the location (which is pretty close to being in the middle of nowhere) it is a quality institution. It’s not huge, but a lot of love and care has clearly gone into the collection. It’s professional and packs a lot into a small space. This isn’t your typical roadside attraction level of curation.
The other half of the museum is the outdoor tank collection. There is a hanger with some deconstructed tanks that you can explore and put your hands on. Then there is also a sunny, sandy lot full of various kinds of tanks and vehicles. (And a random chapel area). The machines themselves and presentation are very interesting and unique for the area. I really enjoyed walking through the collection, even in the heat.
That being said, the General Patton Memorial Museum is located near Joshua Tree National Park. So, it can get very hot here. If you plan on spending a considerable time taking in the tanks, you might consider going in the morning, particularly if you are stopping by in the summer.
Need to Know Information
Official Website (https://generalpattonmuseum.com/plan-your-trip/tickets/)
Ticket Prices (2023): $18 Adult; $10 Children (7-10 years old)
Hours: 7 days a week 9:30am – 4:30am
Phone: (760) 507-4143
Address: 62-510 Chiriaco Rd, Chiriaco Summit, CA 92201
How to Get There
The General Patton Memorial Museum is located to the east of Palm Springs on the I-10 at a major exit for Chiriaco Summit.
Along with the museum, there is a restaurant and gas station here. It’s actually a great stopping spot on the way in or out of Palm Springs.
As far as I am aware, there is no way to get here if you don’t have a car.
Other Destinations in Southern California
There are MANY amazing places in Southern California, and I have guides to some really great spots.
One is Joshua Tree National Park (I cover this park in my Southern California Road Trip Intinerary), which is right outside of the museum and Chiriaco Summit. This famous park is home to Joshua Trees, great hiking and climbing, and offers a peek into the exceptional beauty of the Mohave desert. (But it can be very busy).
If you keep driving northwest on the I-10 into Los Angeles, there are many other things to see and do – no surprise there! (I did my own visit of the General Patton Memorial Museum on the way to San Miguel Island).
This includes exploring Los Angeles itself. As well as places like the Channel Islands National Park, which has literal week’s worth of things to explore. If you like hiking, camping, snorkeling, kayaking… seeing beautiful things, the Channel Islands National Park is one of my favorite places in the whole world. Each island is worth visiting and exploring.