Ava Gardner Museum

Was anyone else a big fan of Rachael Ray’s tv show “$40 a Day?” If you’re not familiar with it, it was a show on the Food Network where for each episode Rachael would spend 24 hours in a certain city with only $40 per day to spend on meals and snacks. The cameras would follow her around each city, and she would give tips on what local attractions to see, how to find bargains, and how to eat on a budget. That brief description doesn’t really do the show justice, but I’ll just say that I absolutely loved watching it, and it inspired me to want to travel more and take short trips to various cities throughout the United States.

My Classic Movie Trip Wish List

I’ve only taken one such trip so far – a three day visit to Boston a few years ago, but I plan on going on many more in the years to come. One thing I dream about doing on those trips is visiting as many classic movie related attractions and events as possible. It may be a while before I can fully realize that dream, but in the meantime I’m assembling a wish list that seems to be growing bigger every week. Some examples of the places I would like to visit and the events I would like to attend include the Jimmy Stewart Museum in Pennsylvania, the Warner Brothers Museum in California, the Clark Gable Museum and Bed & Breakfast in Cadiz, Ohio, and the annual Noir City Film Festival in San Francisco.

The newest place that has come to my attention recently that I intend to visit someday is the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield, North Carolina. Now, I have to admit that I don’t really know much about Ava other than what I just read about her on the museum’s website. As big of a star as Ava Gardner was, I have never even seen one of her movies. I don’t even really know how to explain that one! So it may seem strange that I want to visit a museum that is exclusively devoted to her, but I’m always looking to learn more about classic movie stars and the museum looks like a wonderful place to visit.

A Visit to the Ava Gardner Museum

When you visit the Ava Gardner Museum, you have the option of going on a self-guided tour of the 5,000 square foot exhibit space where you can view over 20,000 pieces of Ava Gardner memorabilia. Pieces include costumes, movie posters, and awards as well as personal items such as china, jewelry, and clothing. According to the museum’s website, each object in the museum was either owned by Ava Gardner or her family, used in her films, or had a special meaning or relationship to Ava.

The museum also offers group packages which include a tour of important places throughout Ava’s hometown such as her birthplace, the Teacherage where she grew up, and the Howell Theater where Ava’s mother took her to see her first movie. One thing I found very interesting is that the first movie she saw was Red Dust (1932) starring Clark Gable and Jean Harlow. Ironically, Ava would later star in a remake of that movie, 1953’s Mogambo with Clark Gable reprising his original role. The tour ends with a visit to her gravesite which is located a short drive from the museum. Ava requested that she be laid to rest next to her parents and siblings, which I find very touching.

The Ava Gardner Festival

If you happen to be in the area on October 7-9, you can also attend the museum’s annual Ava Gardner Festival, which is being held that weekend. This year, the festival will pay tribute to Frank Sinatra, the man Ava once declared as the love of her life. Festivities will include a cake and champagne reception, new Frank & Ava exhibits, and screenings of classic Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner films such as “From Here to Eternity”, “Ocean’s Eleven”, and “Pal Joey.”

To learn more about the Ava Gardner Museum, you can visit their website where you will find information about exhibits, tour packages, and a gift shop where you can buy Ava Gardner merchandise.

Which classic movie related attractions have you visited in the past or would you like to visit in the future?

Ava Gardner Museum
325 E Market St, Smithfield, NC 27577
(919) 934-5830

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