Everything You Need To Know About The Walt Disney Family Museum

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Everything You Need To Know About The Walt Disney Family Museum

Disney is synonymous with lovable characters and films. It all started with the man himself: Walt Disney. Even though Walt Disney passed away in 1966, his legacy has lived on and will likely continue for generations. Walt gained notoriety at a time when film and television were used frequently to document history. Thankfully, we can learn so much about the animation pioneer through the Walt Disney Family Museum.

Walt’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller, cherished her father and his accomplishments. As time went on following Walt’s death, Diane grew concerned that people will think of Disney as a corporate logo rather than American innovator. Through her efforts, Walt’s legacy has been immortalized through the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.

The Walt Disney Family Museum is not affiliated with the Walt Disney company. It is owned and operated by the Walt Disney Family Foundation. The purpose of the museum is to display Walt’s life and accomplishments. It tells the story of his life and includes hundreds of photos and artifacts from his life, including his Academy Awards and equipment used to create Disney films. 

Along with Walt’s accomplishments, the museum also highlights essential moments in Disney history. From the animator’s strike during the Great Depression, connections with artist Diego Rivera and Andy Warhol, to treasured Disney collectibles. While the focus is on Walt’s life, you get an appreciation for Disney as a timeless company. 

in front of walt disney family museum

Where Is The Walt Disney Family Museum?

golden gate bridge from the walt disney family museum

Who knew that a former military fort could transform into a beautiful recreational area? The Walt Disney Family Museum is located in the Presidio of San Francisco. Initially, the indigenous tribe, the Ohlone, occupied by much of San Francisco. Spain established the military fort, El Presidio, in 1776.

It remained under control of Spain until Mexico won their independence and received land in modern-day California. After the United States seized the territory in 1847, the United States continued using it as a military base. 

In 1989, Congress voted that the Presidio no longer be an active military base. This left it open to become a National Park in 1994. Since then, the Presidio has been a welcoming hub for San Francisco recreation. 

Nearby Crissy Field once served as an airfield but is now hosts several recreational and educational activities. It is also adjacent to the Golden Gate Bridge, making it a top-rated tourist destination.

The Walt Disney Family Foundation chose the Presidio has the home for the Family Museum because it was close to the Disney family. Also, Diane stated that the goal was to create a museum that is “scholarly and serious, but it’s fun.” 

When visiting San Francisco, the Presidio is a must-see because of its beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Throughout the year, there are hundreds of outdoor activities and festivals hosted there. 

How Do I Get There?

mickey and walt norman rockell painting

First and foremost, it must be understood that the Family Museum address is 104 Montgomery Street. There are two streets in San Francisco called Montgomery. One is in the Presidio, and the other is in the Financial District. 

These are on opposite ends of the city. It will not be a quick detour if you accidentally go to the wrong address. Put in the zip code 94129 if you are using a GPS and make sure your directions are guiding you towards the museum. 

If driving is not an option, there are plenty of public transportation options in San Francisco. Just allow extra time for travel as frequent stops and delays can extend the trip. 

The PresidiGo shuttle takes visitors from downtown San Francisco to the Presidio. In total, the trip takes 25 minutes and is free. Their website, www.presidiobus.com, offers live tracking of the shuttles. There are two main routes: the Crissy Field and the Presidio Hills. It runs every weekday from 11am-6pm and begins as early as 6:30 am on the weekends. 

In addition to the shuttle, San Francisco has the Muni and the Golden Gate Transit buses. 

Parking Near The Museum

The easiest method of transportation would be by car. Parking tends to be available all over the Presidio, but it does cost money. The parking rates can vary depending on where exactly you decide to park. You will need a max of $11 on the weekends and $10 on the weekdays. The meters do take Visa and Mastercard, so you do not need to worry about collecting quarters. 

While there is lots of parking throughout the Presidio, there is a limited number of spots right in front of the Walt Disney Family Museum. Check events that are happening at the Presidio to determine how early you should arrive. On my most recent visit, there was not much happening. There was plenty of parking options 15 minutes before the 10 am opening on a Saturday.

It is always recommended to bring your belongings with you instead of leaving them in the car. The Family Museum does have a free coat check that can also hold large items. 

What Does The Museum Look Like?

inside family museum

Many of the Presidio’s buildings have the same look given its history as a military base. Redbrick buildings are connected all around. The Walt Disney Family Museum itself was a former Army barracks and two additional buildings, but you would not necessarily know it by the look of it. 

Parts of the museum are in separate buildings, but the signs and employees make it simple to navigate. The Family Museum, cafe, gift shop, and theater are housed in one building. The exhibitions are located in a separate building called the Diane Disney Miller Exhibition Hall. Dots on the concrete guide you from the Family Museum to the exhibition hall. All of the buildings are handicap accessible with ramps and elevators to take guests to different areas. 

How Do I Get Tickets?

You can purchase your tickets at the door, online, or with different San Francisco tourism packages. General admission to the Walt Disney Family Museum includes access to the museum only. It does not get you into special exhibits or film screenings. Prices for General Admission are as follows:

  • Adults: $25
  • Senior (65+): $20
  • Students (w/ ID): $20
  • Youth (ages 6-17): $15
  • Free for Children 5 and under, military personnel, and museum members. 

Special exhibits are sometimes free or have a separate admission price. It depends on the exhibit and who is loaning the works within it. Sometimes, you can purchase a combo ticket to get access to both the museum and special exhibit. For example, The “Mickey Mouse: From Walt To The World” exhibition for May 2019 to January 2020 adds ten dollars to general admission for the combo tickets. 

For film screenings, it is $5 to add on to your general admission ticket. You can choose to only go to the film screening for $10 (adult/senior/students) and $8 (youth). 

walt disney family museum membership

What Do I Get As A Walt Disney Family Museum Member?

The only way to become a member is to pay for a membership from the museum directly. Since the family museum operates as its own entity, you cannot use Disney gift cards or an annual pass. Becoming a member does entitle you to some great perks, including:

  • Unlimited admission to the main galleries
  • Free tickets to some films and special exhibitions
  • Free or discounted access to other museums across the country with the Time Travelers reciprocity program (Including the Walt Disney Hometown Museum in Marceline, Missouri)
  • Early access to special exhibitions
  • Entry into member-only events
  • Discounts in the museum store

Memberships last for one year. Several different levels can get you discounted membership fees or extra perks. 

  • Individual Membership: $100 for one person
  • Individual Membership for students, seniors (65+), or California Educators: $75
  • Dual Membership: $190 for two members and one guest
  • Family Membership: $245 for four members and one guest
  • Friend Membership: $500 for two members and two guests
  • Supporter Membership: $1250 for two members and two guests.

Portions of each membership level are tax-deductible. If you decide to become a member and already purchased museum tickets, you can apply the price of your ticket to membership within 30 days of the ticket purchase. You can also sign up for payment plans if you register as a member with a Family Museum staff member.

Walt Disney Family Museum Discount Tickets

If the Walt Disney Family Museum is just one stop for your San Francisco trip, you can purchase passes with different travel partners that include admission to the museum, as well as other San Francisco landmarks. 

The San Francisco C3 Pass: You will get one-time admission to three San Francisco spots of your choice. In addition to the Walt Disney Family Museum, your options include:

California Academy of Sciences

Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure

Aquarium of the Bay

Exploratorium

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art — SFMOMA

Bay City Bike & Parkwide Bike Rentals

de Young Museum + Legion of Honor

GO Card San Francisco: There are multiple levels for the Go Card to help you plan your ideal San Francisco trip. There are over 25 attractions to choose from, including the Walt Disney Family Museum, bus tours, and other San Francisco museums. You can save up to 60% on admission with a GO Card, so it is an excellent option if you are trying to see a lot of the city. 

The Museum Layout

multi pane camera at disney museum

The main building for the Walt Disney Family Museum is 40,000 square feet. There are two floors of galleries and a lower level that houses the theater for film screenings.

As you walk through the main building, you are observing Walt Disney’s entire life story. Just before the first gallery, you can find Academy Awards and Walt’s Presidential Medal of Freedom. It serves as a reminder of the great things Walt Disney accomplished before you step back in time to his childhood and young adulthood. 

Each gallery focuses on a different aspect of Walt’s life and career. There are various displays from Walt’s personal property, replicas, early sketches, listening devices, and interactive galleries. You will find something different in every room in terms of the layout and presentation. 

Some of the most significant pieces include a replica of the ambulance Walt drove in World War I and a 12 foot in diameter model of Disneyland. One must-see is the two-story multipane camera used to create more dimensional scenes in iconic films such as Pinnochio and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Check it out from multiple areas of the museum to take in the size of the camera. 

mickey mouse exhibit at the walt disney family museu

Walt Disney Family Museum Exhibits

The Diane Disney Miller Exhibition Hall has rotating exhibitions that can have varying topics. You can follow the dots from the main building to make your way to this separate building. The exhibition hall is much smaller than the main building, but two stories of specific works related to the particular topic. Below is a list of different exhibitions that have been welcomed at the museum.

  • “Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men: Masters of Animation”
    • This exhibition ran from May 2018 to January 2019 and featured work from some of the best artists from Walt Disney Studios. They were called the “Nine Old Men” by Walt himself and included the following artists: Les Clark, Marc Davis, Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Eric Larson, John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman, and Frank Thomas. These artists were responsible for classic films such as Pinocchio, Bambi, Lady, and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, and Peter Pan.
  • “Home For The Holidays At Carolwood”
    • This holiday-themed exhibition has been installed yearly since 2016. It features a look inside the Disney home on Carolwood Drive in Los Angeles. It is a celebration of Walt’s family with a focus on his love for trains.
  • “Awakening Beauty: The Art of Eyind Earle”
    • Eyvind Earle was the lead stylist for Sleeping Beauty. The exhibition featured over 250 works including concept painting for Sleeping Beauty and Lady and the Tramp. Additionally, it offered a look inside Earle’s life and included cartoons he made while in the U.S. Navy and advertisements for different American companies.

Film Screenings At The Museum

The theater is designed to emulate Fantasia. Tickets for screening must be purchased on the day of your visit and are first-come, first-served. Films are changed out frequently and can vary depending on the day of the week. It is not always the same ol’ Disney film either. 

While they do host screenings of classics like Bambi and Alice In Wonderland, they also show documentaries and lesser-known Walt Disney films. July of 2019 rotated Mickey and Minnie cartoons with the 2008 documentary about Walt’s tour in South America called “Walt and El Grupo.” 

Are food and drink allowed at the Walt Disney Family Museum?

cafe menu at walt disney family museum

When you are visiting the Walt Disney Family Museum, you may end up getting hungry. There is no food or drink allowed in the museum, but there is a cafe on the lower level. The Cafe is run by Taste Catering and offers soups, salads, sandwiches, pastries, and hot and cold beverages. 

Soups, salads, and sandwiches are not available after 3 pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays and 4 pm on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. (The museum is closed on Tuesdays)

What Else Can I Do At The Presidio of San Francisco?

The Presidio is a 1500 acre national park. There is so much to do beyond just the Walt Disney Family Museum. Your first stop should be the Visitor Center, located at 210 Lincoln Boulevard. Here you can get all the information you need for daily events, getting around, and learn more about the Presidio’s history. 

There is truly something for everyone at the Presidio. Families might enjoy the House of Air, an indoor trampoline park, or Julius Kahn playground to burn some energy. There are also plenty of parks for leisurely strolls. Be sure to check out the Yoda statue at the Letterman Digital Arts Center. 

For those that love the outdoors, the Presidio boasts 25 miles of trails. Plus there are ten scenic overlooks to take in the beauty of San Francisco. The visitor center can guide you to hiking trails for those with mobility issues, novice hikers, and advanced explorers. 

If you are more of an indoors person, there are lots of museums to check out. The Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center gives some historical insight into the iconic bridge. Additionally, the Society of California Pioneers can immerse you in California culture, art, and history. 

The Presidio has quite a few restaurants including cafes in the welcome center and standard American grill food. Sessions at the Presidio is an excellent spot for those who love a craft beer. Arguello is arguably the highest-rated restaurant and offers Mexican food for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. 

Where Should I Stay When Visiting The Walt Disney Family Museum?

If you want to stay overnight in the Presidio, you have three main options. Right next to the Walt Disney Family Museum is the Lodge at the Presidio. Here you will enjoy views of San Francisco and be in the heart of the national park. 

For a more intimate hotel, the Inn at the Presidio was formerly the quarters for officers when the park was an army base. The hotel is more secluded and surrounded by trees and greenery. 

If you are a camping fan, Rob Hill Campground is a great option. Two campsites can accommodate up to 30 people each. Amenities include a fire pit, barbeque grill, and restrooms. (No showers though) Reservations fill up fast, so you want to plan ahead. The camping season runs from April to October with reservations usually starting around February. 

Is The Walt Disney Family Museum Worth It?

walt disney family museum tribute to walt

Absolutely! The Walt Disney Family Museum is an excellent tour of Walt’s life. Each gallery has a unique design and interactive components. You will learn about Walt Disney as a man, animator, husband, father, manager, and goodwill ambassador. 

Every corner of the museum will have something to excite every Disney fan. Film cells, sculptures, and incredible stories about how our beloved films came to be. There is something new to discover in every single room, even for the biggest Walt Disney fans. 

If you are an American history buff, the Family Museum practically tells the story of America in the 20th century through Walt’s perspective. From his days as a soldier in WWI, the struggles during the Great Depression, and Walt’s testimony to the House Un-American Activities Committee. The museum also shows the impact Disney has had on American culture and its reach to other countries. 

For Disneyland fans, the museum tells the story of how Walt came up with the idea on a bench in Griffith Park and the bumps along the way. It ends with a large scale model of Disneyland as it existed during Walt’s lifetime. I found myself watching the model for a long time. The displays move and light up just as the attractions do. Although the park has changed a lot since Walt’s passing, but you can still feel the magic when you look at the display.

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