I finally made my way to the Walt Disney Family Museum located in the Presidio of San Francisco, California. I had been wanting to return to San Francisco since I first visited there in 2009, and the museum was a big part of why. It was not open yet when I went previously, so I thought this was a great cornerstone of a second trip to the City by the Bay.
Before I went to the Walt Disney Family Museum, I did very little research in the way of planning my trip. The one thing I did do ahead of time was to order my tickets. This is by no means necessary, but if you are a member of the free Disney Movie Rewards program (where you get points for Disney movie tickets purchased, movies on dvd and blu ray, as well as soundtracks and other cds), they have the tickets for 1,000 for adults, and 800 points for kids. Basically, you are getting your tickets for free if you have enough points, but keep in mind it can take 2 – 4 weeks for them to be delivered by mail. I’d recommend ordering them a couple of months before your trip and then you’ve got plenty of time.
Regular ticket prices are currently $25 for adults, $20 for seniors (65+) or students (w/ id), $15 for children (6 – 17), and children ages 5 and under are free with a paying adult. If you don’t have Disney Movie Rewards, there are still other ways to get discounts on your tickets. Gold Members of Disney’s fan club D23 can get $3 off one day admission for up to four guests per member. Tickets are good for any days, so you don’t need to pick a specific date when your purchase tickets to the Walt Disney Family Museum. You can also occasionally find coupons for $3 off on sites like Bay City Guide, or in coupon books around the city of San Francisco. The Museum also offers free admission for active duty and retired military and their spouses and dependents with valid id.
Parking at the Walt Disney Family Museum is paid on street, but you can use credit cards or cash. You go to a machine and pay for a certain amount of time, and then it prints a receipt which you put on your windshield to designate you’ve paid for the parking. Museum hours are Wednesday through Monday from 10am – 6pm with closures on New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. Please note that last entry is at 4:45pm, and that some of the special exhibits can close 30 – 60 minutes before the rest of the museum (I found this out the hard way, but it worked out in the end). Pictures are allowed throughout much of the museum (unless otherwise indicated), but this certainly adds to your time if you try to get pictures of everything like I did.
Try to get to the Museum as early as you can. Rope drop it if possible. On the two days I went, one in the early afternoon, and the other first thing when they opened at 10, the morning was much quieter. I almost had the Museum to myself for a good hour, which was heavenly. The Walt Disney Family Museum is set up to chronologically follow Walt Disney’s lifespan from 1901 up until even after his death in 1966. Wear comfortable shoes. Even though it isn’t a huge museum, it snakes back and forth with over a dozen gallery rooms plus the special exhibits. There are benches and seating along the way, as well as an elevator at the halfway point to return to the lobby for a refreshing break in the cafe if you need it.
Give yourself plenty of time. I thought half a day was going to be enough, but ended up returning for another two hours the next day to finish the exhibits I did not get to the day before. The Walt Disney Family Museum is made up of lots of pictures, video clips, and audio clips. Allow yourself to play and explore. If you aren’t particularly interested in Walt’s life as a child, then move on to his adult years. If you love Disneyland, make sure you take your time exploring the huge diorama from all angles and the binder that goes with it.
The Walt Disney Family Museum shop has some fantastic books, movies, artwork, and typical gift shop offerings. Don’t forget to factor in shopping time into your schedule and your budget. The Museum Cafe has a variety of sandwiches, soups, salads, baked goods, snacks, and drinks. We took a breather here and were very happy with our snacks and refreshing sodas.
Know that this is a bit of a trek from Disneyland and Southern California to get to the Walt Disney Family Museum. Not everyone will be like me and want to drive from San Francisco to Anaheim, so either plan two trips, or maybe look at flying between the two. The drive down the interstate can be done in about 6 hours depending on traffic. We took our time and split up the drive down through Big Sur, stopping in Solvang, visiting Santa Barbara, Ventura, Hollywood, and then on to Disneyland. It was a once in a lifetime amazing ten day trip, but I don’t know that I want to drive it ever again. In the future I’d probably stick to separate trips for San Francisco and Disneyland, however it was awesome to do … once.
For any Disney fans, I highly recommend a trip to the Walt Disney Family Museum. It has a ton of great information compiled by Walt’s daughter Diane Disney Miller and her family. It covers Walt’s family life, his various animation studios, tv shows, movies, war time efforts, involvement in the Olympics, Disneyland, and more. I could have spent a week in there easily if I was by myself to experience every video clip, audio clip, and picture. Enjoy it and try to check the calendar ahead of time for any special exhibits or events like movie screenings.