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Walt Disney Family Museum

Visiting the Disney Museum

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  • Hours: Open Wednesday through Monday but closed January 1, Thanksgiving Day and December 25
  • Reservations: Timed entry ticket required but they may be available at the door on less-busy days
  • Cost: Check current prices at their website
  • Location: In the Presidio near the Golden Gate Bridge, directions below
  • How Long: Allow at least half a day, longer if you really love Walt Disney and his creations
  • Best Time to Visit: Any time, but weekdays are less crowded

Mickey Mouse and Disneyland are part of the fabric of the American experience, but these days, few young people know what the Baby Boomer generation understands implicitly: the name Disney is more than a corporate logo. The Disney Family Museum sets out to chronicle the life and achievements of Walt Disney, not to present a history of the corporation or to provide another Disney-style place of entertainment. In fact, the museum is completely separate from the corporation that bears the Disney logo.

The Disney Family Museum is not a "Disney" museum full of cartoons and rides. Instead, it tells the story of a man who was first and foremost a storyteller himself. If you don't want to hear about Walt Disney all day and learn about his life, this place isn't for you. On the other hand, if you'd go positively giddy watching some of Disney's earliest short films, seeing one of the original multiplane cameras used to make Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or reading the animation notes for seven dwarfs: Dopey: “Droopy effect in all clothing,” then this is the place for you.

The museum's 10 permanent galleries are arranged in chronological order. Exhibits bear the distinctive Disney style and include the earliest known drawings of Mickey Mouse and a specially commissioned, 12-foot-diameter model of the Disneyland of Walt’s imagination, with attractions he developed himself. There are moments of "wow" when you realize a few among that wall full of apparently still drawing a few are moving. Or while looking at two pages of camera effects technician Herman Schulties 1939-1939 notebook (which is cool enough), you realize the screen next to it lets you take a virtual browse through every page, digitized and augmented with matching film clips.

It's possible to experience the museum in many different ways and if you live nearby, you may want to do just that, following the life story of an extraordinary man, looking into the history of animated film production, listening to the tales of people who worked on the famous projects or finding your own threads to follow and investigate.

Perhaps the most telling comment about the Walt Disney Family Museum came from a fellow Baby-Boomer who visited with me: "It brought up memories didn't even know I had."

Walt Disney Family Museum Tips

  • If you arrive in the morning, you're likely to still be having a great time when lunchtime rolls around. You'll find a small cafe downstairs serving sandwiches, salads and the like.
  • Service animals are allowed inside, but other pets are not. There's no place to board them nearby, so it's best to leave Fluffy at home.
  • As frustrating as you may find it, no photographs are allowed inside the museum, so leave the camera outside.
  • True fans can take a long time to go through the museum and it's short on places to sit and rest your feet. Wear your most comfortable shoes.

Walt Disney Family Museum With Kids

While it might appeal more to baby boomers who enjoyed watching Walt Disney's television programs, the kids will enjoy the cartoons and some exhibits. However, the museum isn't Disneyland and they might grow restless while the adults spend too much time reading every one of the many informational panel and reminiscing about their favorite Disney moments. You know your kids and please be courteous to other museum-goers by finding someplace else for them to go it they're likely to be disruptive. Also keep in mind that strollers aren't allowed and there are few hands-on exhibits for the tactile-oriented child to enjoy.

Walt Disney Family Museum Review

We rate Walt Disney Family Museum 5 stars out of 5 for Disney-loving adults.

Getting to Walt Disney Family Museum

Walt Disney Family Museum
104 Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA
415-345-6800
Walt Disney Family Museum website
By automobile from other locations in San Francisco, the Presidio is near the Golden Gate Bridge. Set your GPS or other locator to find 104 Montgomery Street or drive into the Presidio and look the distinctive row of red-brick barracks buildings. You'll find a free public parking lot right in front of the museum.

The Presidio public transit center is very near the museum entrance. San Francisco Muni routes 28 and 29 go there. Transit 511 will help you figure out how to get there from wherever you start in the San Francisco area.

In case you're wondering, the official reason the Disney Family Museum is in San Francisco is that Disney's daughter Diane Disney Miler lives in Napa and thought the Presidio would be a perfect place for a museum dedicated to her father, but you won't be alone if you find it curious that a museum dedicated to a man who lived and worked in southern California is located in San Francisco. It's best not to speculate too much and instead just enjoy the place.

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As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary tickets for the purpose of reviewing the Walt Disney Family Museum. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.

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