February 18, 2012

Disney Excursion Tour - The Walt Disney Family Museum

In October we took a special road trip up Pacific Coast Highway to visit The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. It was one of the most amazing experiences we have had. The California coast is breathtaking and San Francisco is truly a city that will capture your heart. The Walt Disney Family Museum is located in the Presidio of San Francisco, not far from the iconic Palace of Fine Arts (seen in the background of the last picture) or from the Golden Gate Bridge.

We really weren't quite sure what to expect on our visit to the museum. We knew it would be informative and special but we had the odd idea that a few hours would be sufficient. Boy were we wrong. When we got out of the car and saw the building from across the lush green lawns, we were elated. We couldn't wait to get inside. We hurried through the door into the lobby and were greeted warmly by a pair of women working behind a desk. We purchased our tickets and proceeded to look around the lobby area. Our attention on the gorgeous hardwood floor quickly shifted as we found a display dedicated to Walt's Apartment over the firehouse in Disneyland. We were immediately taken by that feeling we get when visiting Disneyland, you know, the peaceful feeling of home. We found countless other treasures in the lobby, including art done by Norman Rockwell of Walt's daughters, Diane and Sharon. There were myriad awards, including his Oscars from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. We spent almost an hour taking it in and still didn't see everything and that was just the lobby, which doesn't even require paid admission.

After parting with what turned out to be the amuse bouche, we stepped into the first of ten galleries. That's right, ten. It may not sound like much but each and every gallery presented rich, sophisticated, interactive media contrasting with simple and meaningful artifacts from Disney's life. You could easily spend a day in each gallery absorbing the vast content. The galleries span two floors and are chronological in their order. We were honestly stunned by the quality of every detail. Maybe it was foolish to think it could possibly be anything other than wonderful. From an amazing replica Red Cross ambulance (like Walt drove in WWI), to the marvel that is the multiplane camera and from Laugh-O-grams to the earliest known drawings of Mickey Mouse, the Walt Disney Family Museum was so much more than just a museum, it was an authentic Disney experience. One of our favorite galleries was the 1950s and 1960s gallery which featured an incredible model of Disneyland and a cast of Sleeping Beauty Castle as it might have been. The final gallery, dedicated to Walt's final days and passing, was absolutely heart wrenching. Words cannot begin to describe the emotion felt there.

With all of the quality and information and love presented, the picture of the Walt Disney Family Museum was clear - Walt Disney was a man of passion. Passion for his family, his dreams and a better, brighter tomorrow. Of course we thought we knew these things before our visit, but boy were we wrong... again. It was an amazing experience, well worth the eight hour drive. We can't wait to return and next time we'll be spending the entire day. As if the museum itself weren't enough already, the staff are wonderfully kind and the gift shop has amazing things you can't find anywhere else. Do yourself a favor and make a point to visit.

Pictures are not allowed inside the galleries of the Walt Disney Family Museum, but here are a few from the outside to give a sense of the area -

The Walt Disney Family Museum - San Francisco

The Walt Disney Family Museum

The Walt Disney Family Museum Porch

The Walt Disney Family Museum Banner

The Walt Disney Family Museum and the Palace of Fine Arts

Photos by Matthew Hansen

Comments (9)

On February 18, 2012 at 11:56 PM , greenwithenv18 said...

Hey tour guides.. i have a helpful hint to you guys. i dont know if you already know about this, but i had just found out about this only a couple of weeks ago. Walt Disney had a real passion for trains that i had never knew about. This museum is dedicated to his hobby of collecting and fixing up trains. if you guys want to check it out then its open every 3rd sunday of the month and its pretty rad. Seeing the love he had for his trains was really cool to see. Would love to see some pics of it up here sometime!

On February 19, 2012 at 7:52 AM , Terry said...

Hi Matthew..I have visited the museum and found it difficult trying to describe it to friends and family in a way to evoke the emotion that it generated. Especially the last gallery. Your description is wonderful and I hope it encourages those who can, to make the trip. And you're right..a few hours just isn't enough time. I spent almost an hour at the amazing model of Disneyland alone. Can't wait to go back now. Thanks!

On February 19, 2012 at 8:51 AM , Connie Moreno said...

A very good friend of mine made an ENORMOUS donation to the museum as of way of preserving his life long collection. His name is Dean Barickman and you'll see his name all over that museum!

On February 19, 2012 at 9:38 AM , Matthew Hansen said...

greenwithenv18 - I believe you're talking about Walt's Barn. We have had the pleasure of visiting and we're actually headed out there today. It's an amazing place and a great recommendation! :)

Terry - It's such a special place. We would be members and go all the time if it weren't so far. I wish there was an easy way to get there quickly... maybe a monorail up the coast, hehe. :) That Disneyland model really is something, isn't it?

Connie - That is so cool! I really love when people are generous. A lifelong passion like that is so much better when it is shared so that it can be enjoyed and appreciated by many. :)

On February 19, 2012 at 11:59 AM , Jennie said...

I thought I knew most of the Disney areas to visit, but had no idea the family museum was in SF. I will definitely be making a trip up the coast for this special place. Thanks for the info.

On February 19, 2012 at 5:29 PM , Tom Bricker said...

We're doing a trip to the Archives on our next Disneyland trip, but I think a day-trip to the Walt Disney Family Museum is in order on trip soon after that one. It seems like a place that you really *need* to visit if you appreciate the history of Walt and the Company in general. I can spend hours in One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios, so I assume this would be right up my alley.

Thanks for the review!

On February 20, 2012 at 1:34 PM , Mark Hickson said...

My only trip to the Museum was a bag of mixed emotions. My old WDI friend Bruce Gordon worked on this project before he died. I know the model at the end was his "baby" as he loved models. I went with family and was unable to take the time to let it all sink-in. I plan to return this year all by myself and take several days to do it right.

PS great story guys!

On February 27, 2012 at 2:54 PM , Matthew Hansen said...

@ Jennie - It is SO worth the trip. It fits right into San Francisco but it feels so much like Disneyland.

@ Tom - The Archives sound like blast. The WDF Museum is definitely a must visit. Not to mention the photo and dining opportunities in/around San Francisco! :)

@ Mark - Wow. I'm sorry for the passing of your friend, Bruce. That model is unlike anything I have ever seen. I could easily spend a day combing over its detail and beauty. I hope your upcoming trip is everything you want it to be.

On February 27, 2012 at 10:55 PM , P.T. said...

I love this museum. I just wish we could take pictures inside. The Disneyland miniature is soooo worth taking photos of!