Walt Disney Family Museum Tips for Visiting

Walt Disney Family Museum
Walt Disney Family Museum

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.

Hyperion Studio
Hyperion Studio

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.

Walt Disney Family Museum
Mickey merchandise
Walt's Los Angeles
Walt’s Los Angeles
Walt's bench
Walt’s bench
Walt
Walt

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.

Disneyland diorama
Disneyland diorama

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.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Walt Disney Family Museum
View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Walt Disney Family Museum

Top 10 Rides and Attractions at Disneyland 

Having just come back from Disneyland a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d reflect on some of my favorites. I put together this list of my Top 10 Rides and Attractions at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Some of these are sentimental favorites, others are great thrill rides, but I love them all for different reasons. For listing purposes, I have split up the list into two parts, one for traditional rides, and the other into attractions/shows/entertainment. I’m sure many will disagree, but hopefully I’ve got some of your favorites here, or maybe you’ll come to appreciate a new attraction from my lists.

 

RIDES

10. Indiana Jones Adventure – The theming of the thrilling dark ride is spot on. The queue is amazing and the story is great.

9. Casey Jr. Circus Train – I love the simplicity of this, which is one of two Dumbo rides, and how you get a great view of the canal boats and Matterhorn.

rides

8. Storybook Land Canal Boats – Rides are always better when they’re on a boat. This slow moving trip through Monstro and around the houses and castles of many of our favorite characters is most beautiful at dusk with the twinkle lights.

7. Mr Toad’s Wild Ride – I think I move this up on the list a bit since we used to have it here in Florida, but don’t anymore. I used to love to ride it as a kid and now get to ride it again as an adult.

6. Disneyland Railroad – I love that there are different styles of seating and scenes to see while riding the train all around the park.

Matterhorn5. Matterhorn Bobsleds – Although this can be one of the roughest Disney rollercoasters or rides overall, I love the new upgrades to Harold. To me, this is the icon of Disneyland. It was the first thing I saw from almost a mile away on my first trip, and a trip is not complete without Matterhorn Macaroons from Jolly Holiday Bakery.

4. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree – This is one of those rides that is just dadgum fun! It is one of my must rides every trip and is the ride I tend to see the most smiles on across the board in either of the two parks. Plus it has an awesome soundtrack.

3. Radiator Springs Racers – Another must do for every trip. This one I prefer at dusk or at Racersnight. It is an amazing combination of a racing ride and a classic dark ride, with some competition thrown in for good measure. I’d love if they made a ride of similar nature in Walt Disney World.

2. Pirates of the Caribbean – A classic. That smell. Those drops. The fireflies. The song. Despite the fact I get soaked every single time, I adore this ride and love that Walt got to work on it.

1. Alice In Wonderland – If I don’t get to ride any other rides at Disneyland other than this, it will still be a great day. I think I built an emotional and sentimental attachment to this ride since my first trip. I did no research before I came to Disneyland, but had seen things and was aware of a picture I had seen of Walt riding back in the 1950s. I don’t really even like the movie, but I absolutely adore and cherish this ride. The updates were handled with care and I think mirror the spirit of the original attraction.

Alice

Honorable mention: Haunted Mansion Holiday – This is a fantastic overlay with The Nightmare Before Christmas taking over the Haunted Mansion for the last few months of the year. I could ride this over and over with the holiday version.

 

SHOWS/ATTRACTIONS

10. Fantasmic – The Disneyland version is far superior to the one at Hollywood Studios, in my opinion. Between the dragon and the use of the Mark Twain and Columbia, it is an awesome improvement.

9. Aladdin – I enjoy the Genie’s up to the minute changes on his jokes in this Broadway style show. Flying carpet is pretty sweet too.

8. Animation Academy – This is not just an awesome place to cool off on warm days, but now the only place on either coast where guests can learn to draw classic Disney characters for free.

7. Red Car News Boys – Part of my appreciation for this live act comes from my enjoyment of Newsies. Another is my love of the Red Car Trolley itself and Buena Vista Street in general. But much of it is attributed to the addictive earworm that is A Suitcase and a Dream.

6. Five and Dime – Yet another fun live musical group that performs outside Carthay Circle in DCA. I love their fun take on classic songs.

5. Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln – A classic attraction that combines parts from the Hall of Presidents and the American Adventure, but focuses on the 16th President and his life.

4. Enchanted Tiki Room – One of Walt’s attractions that still lives on today. The outside waiting area is so charming and beautiful at night, plus you can get dole whips quicker on the inside line usually, and the attraction has its own bathroom.

3. Mickey and the Magical Map – This show is one of my new favorites. I really enjoy the combination of projections and live performers from some of my favorite musical moments in Disney movies.

2. Disneyland Forever – I love these fireworks, but it was mostly in conjunction with the projections on Main Street, Sleeping Beauty Castle, and the Matterhorn that made this amazing. I go back and forth between preferring this or Paint the Night, but they’re both amazing. I can’t wait to watch it again by It’s A Small World.

1. Paint The Night – I am not a huge parade person usually, but this one blew me away. I stood watching this with my jaw dropped and a stupid grin on my face. The technology is incredible and the music is great.

PaintMackDonaldMickeyVortex

Honorable mention: World of Color – The original version was my everything. I would watch it every night if I could. I am still astonished and appreciate the technology behind it, and I like the parts of the Celebrate show with Walt. I miss the other incarnation, but like the new one over Winter Dreams.

 

These are just my opinions at this moment in time, and I will admit, my own Top 10 rides list shifts around based on my mood. But as the wind blows right now, these are where they stand. Did I hit any of your favorite rides? Do you have a completely different Top 10? Leave me a note in the comments with your thoughts.