Did you know that the Walt Disney family has developed a world-class museum in The Presidio Complex of San Francisco? The museum highlights the accomplishments and life of Walt Disney, the man. Through his amazing story, the museum seeks to inspire others to develop their own imagination and strive to reach their goals. Click the audio bar at the bottom of this article to listen to my podcast with Kirsten Komoroske, the Executive Director of the museum. Then, take a virtual walk through the life of Walt Disney as you check out the highlights of the museum in the chronological tour of Walt Disney’s life that I highlight in my article and podcast description that follow the interview. Use this article as a guide when you are in San Francisco and visit the museum for yourself. As you visit the Walt Disney Family Museum, I think you will be inspired, too, as you learn more about the life and work of Walt Disney.
Walt Disney Family Museum Location
The Walt Disney Family Museum is located near the Golden Gate Bridge in The Presidio in San Francisco, California, only about 15 minutes via car from Fisherman’s Wharf. The Presidio was an active Army base from 1846 until 1994. It is now a United States National Historic Landmark, as well as a United States National Park. The museum is located in one of the renovated Army barracks. The exact address is 104 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94129. Be sure to enter the zip code in your GPS when using mapping applications, because there are two Montgomery Streets in San Francisco. (The other Montgomery Street is located in the Financial District of San Francisco.)
Walt Disney Family Museum Admission
Pass through the security checkpoint and purchase tickets just inside the porch of the building on the main floor. Regular adult admission is $25. Admission for seniors and students is $20. Youth admission is $15 for ages 6 through 17. There is no charge for children under six years of age.
Walt Disney Family Museum Entrance Hall
After you purchase tickets, walk to the Entrance Hall to the right, behind the ticket desk. Look for the copies of the Norman Rockwell charcoal sketches of Walt Disney’s two daughters, Diane and Sharon Disney, completed when they were children. Diane was the founder of the Walt Disney Family Museum. Both Diane and Sharon have passed, but Diane’s husband, Ron Miller, still serves on the Board of the museum as do some of Walt’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
After you view the Norman Rockwell sketches, look to the left to see the furnishings of the apartment that Walt Disney kept on the second floor of the Main Street Fire Station of Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Walt not only stayed in the small apartment when Disneyland was being constructed, but he could watch from the windows of the apartment when guests visited Disneyland after it opened in 1955.
Before you leave this room, look for awards earned by Walt Disney and other special exhibits including the Key to The City of San Francisco presented to Walt and his wife, Lillian, in 1958. Then, after circling the Entrance Hall, walk to the back corner to present your ticket and enter Gallery 1a of the museum as you begin a chronological walk through the life and times of the man and the genius of Walt Disney. As you walk through the museum, be sure to look in each Gallery that you visit for the “Family Story” display that tells about Walt’s family life at the time represented.
Walt Disney Family Museum – Gallery 1a – Small Beginnings
You will first enter Gallery 1a, titled “Small Beginnings,” where you will see family pictures of Walt Disney as a boy, an ambulance from World War I like the one Walt worked on as a medic in France during the war, and Walt’s drawings that were included in his high school’s publication, “The Voice.”
Walt Disney Family Museum – Gallery 1b – The Dawn of a Career
At the back of Gallery 1a, walk through the doorway to enter Gallery 1b, “The Dawn of a Career.” Here, you will learn about Walt’s first paying job as an artist, where he met fellow artist, Ubbe Iwerks, who played an important role in Walt’s future. See a Universal Camera, like the one Walt purchased for $300 for his short-lived company, “Laugh-o-gram Films,” and learn much more about Walt’s early career. Next, take the elevator at the back of Gallery 1b to the second floor.
Walt Disney Family Museum – Gallery 2a – Hollywood
You will exit the elevator into Gallery 2a, “Hollywood.” Next to two more cameras, look for a facsimile of the 1924 letter Walt Disney wrote to Iwerks asking him to join him as an animator for the Disney Brothers Studios that Walt had formed with his brother, Roy.
Walt Disney Family Museum – Gallery 2b – Oswald, Mickey & The Walt Disney Studios
Now, walk across the Gallery and enter Gallery 2b, “Oswald, Mickey, & The Walt Disney Studios.” Here you will see a display of antique and modern Mickey Mouse dolls and toys.
Children might enjoy playing on the synchronized sound equipment here to see how some of the sound was supplied for early animation. Look for the earliest drawings of Mickey Mouse in this room!
Walt Disney Family Museum – Gallery 3 – New Horizons in the 1930s
Walk around the corner to Gallery 3, “New Horizons in the 1930s”. The “Family Story” section in this gallery highlights Walt and Lillian’s family that grew to include daughters Diane and Sharon at this time. Vintage artifacts, animation art, and character merchandise, especially referencing the “Silly Symphonies,” are included in this gallery.
Walt Disney Family Museum – The Move to Features
The next Gallery, Gallery 4, highlights “The Move to Features”. Original art from Snow White, three-dimensional model figures, magazines of the period, audio clips, and related 1930s merchandise share Disney’s production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. There is an old Moviola camera that can be turned to watch animation in action.
Walt Disney Family Museum – We Were in a New Business
Move to the large Gallery 5 titled, “We Were in a New Business.” Here you will see an Animator’s Desk, the Multiplane Camera that Walt designed, and rare animation art.
Walt Disney Family Museum – The Toughest Period
Around the corner, find Gallery 6, “The Toughest Period,” about the strike by the union against Walt and his company, a really difficult time for him. Likewise, just about this time, the United States entered World War Il. Walt Disney played an integral role, as displayed in the section of this Gallery labeled “The War Years,” in providing films to support the war effort.
Walt Disney Family Museum – Gallery 7a – Postwar Production
Gallery 7a, “Postwar Production,” highights 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,as well as other productions that began after the war. See artifacts from some of Disney’s live action movies here.
Walt Disney Family Museum – Gallery 7b – Walt’s Collections & Family Treasures
Continue through to Gallery 7b, “Walt’s Collections & Family Treasures,” to see dollhouse furniture and other specialty items belong to Walt’s daughters and family.
Be sure to see the charm bracelet Walt gave to his wife, Lillian. He had the bracelet custom made of miniature Oscar charms, each engraved with the name of the film for which Walt received the Oscar.
Walt Disney Family Museum – Gallery 8 – Walt & the Natural World
Walk down the beautiful corridor of Gallery 8, “Walt & the Natural World,” as you look out toward the Golden Gate Bridge from the back of the museum. I think this is the most beautiful Gallery of the museum. At the end is a bench that Walt sat on when he watched his daughters ride the carousel at Griffith Park and dreamed of the days when he would open his own park that would set the standard for parks throughout the world.
Walt Disney Family Museum – Gallery 9a – The 1950s & 1960s, The Big Screen, & Beyond
Next, walk to the most impressive Gallery, 9a, titled “The 1950s & 1960s, The Big Screen, & Beyond.” In this large Gallery, you will see the Lilly Belle, the scale-model locomotive train that Walt helped build and install on a half-mile track around his home. And, you can’t miss the 12-foot model of the Disneyland of Walt’s imagination.
Walt Disney Family Museum – Gallery 9b – Walt’s Final Projects
Walk down the stairs to Gallery 9b to see “Walt’s Final Projects”. It is amazing how much of Walt Disney’s imagination is still coming to life today!
Walt Disney Family Museum – Gallery 10 – Epilogue
In the emotional first section of Gallery 10, “Epilogue,” see the numerous tributes to Walt at his death at the age of 65, on December 15, 1966. As people from all over the world learned that the entrepreneur, visionary, and genius had died, they expressed their appreciation, prayers, and grief in creative and moving ways. The final room of Gallery 10 presents an optimistic vision for the future based on the legacy of Walt Disney.
I was surprised at how much I learned and how impressed I was by the experience of visiting this museum. I spent several hours in the museum, and I could have spent more if I wanted to join the gallery talks or movies that are presented at various times throughout the day.
Walt Disney Family Museum Café and Store
Before you leave the building, you may want to check out the museum café and store. These are open to the public during museum hours. These do not require admission purchase. The café has indoor and outdoor seating. The museum shop offers gifts and unique products.
Walt Disney Family Museum Hours and Information
The museum is open from 10 am until 6 pm daily, except Tuesdays and January 1st, Thanksgiving Day, and December 25th. The last admission is at 4:45 pm.
The museum offers special events, classes, field trips, film screenings, and many other opportunities to learn more about Walt Disney and his work. Check the museum website at www.WaltDisney.org for the latest events, exhibitions, and activities. Follow the museum on social media at:
Special Exhibition – Nine Old Men: Masters of Animation
If you visit the Walt Disney Family Museum trough January 7, 2019, be sure to pay the extra $5 to visit the temporary exhibition, “Nine Old Men: Masters of Animation”. For the first time, artwork from animated Disney features are presented in one exhibit, beginning with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” from 1937 through the “The Fox and the Hound,” from 1981. See the drawings, animated film clips, and information about the lives of the animators who worked alongside Walt Disney, bringing his vision to life. The nine featured animators, playfully named the “Nine Old Men” by Walt Disney himself, are: Ward Kimball, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Wolfgang Reitherman, Milt Kahl, John Lounsbery, Marc Davis, Les Clark, and Eric Larson. The exhibition is housed about one block from the main building of the Walt Disney Museum in the Diane Disney Miller Exhibition Hall at 122 Riley Avenue.
The Walt Disney Family Museum is not affiliated with Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Hotels near Walt Disney Family Museum
If you are looking to stay near the museum, there are two elegant hotels in the Presidio that you might want to consider. I did not stay at either property, but I was able to stop in and visit the Lodge at the Presidio. This hotel is in the next renovated barracks beside the Walt Disney Family Museum. It opened in Summer 2018.
Some of the rooms at Lodge at Presidio have Golden Gate views. Its sister property, Inn at the Presidio, has been open since 2012. The properties are managed and operated by Waterford Hotels & Inns on behalf of the Presidio Trust. Check the website here for information: https://www.presidiolodging.com
Note: I am not affiliated with Waterford Hotels, Disney enterprises, or the Walt Disney Family Museum. I would like to thank the museum for my admission to the museum and to the special exhibition, “Nine Old Men: Masters of Animation,” at this visit. I have visited twice previously at my own expense, and I can’t wait to visit again!
If you love all things Disney, as I do, click on these highlighted links to check out my blogs and podcasts about:
I also have two paperback books, with Kindle versions available, on Amazon that might be useful for you for making the most of visiting Epcot or visiting Magic Kingdom in Disney World in Florida. Check out the link to the books by clicking on my Amazon author page to scroll through my paperback and Kindle book choices here:
While you are in San Francisco, check out these 11 Awesome San Francisco Area Special Experiences, too!
Don’t forget to listen to the accompanying podcast by clicking on the audio link at the bottom of this article to hear more about the Walt Disney Family Museum.
Until next time, I hope all your travel days will be just perfect!
One Perfect Day in Travel podcast