Living the Magic of Disney at the Walt Disney Family Museum

Living the Magic of Disney at the Walt Disney Family Museum

Somehow I didn’t know that there was a Disney museum in San Francisco until a week or so before our visit. Granted, our visit to San Francisco was put together at the last minute so we didn’t know a lot of things existed there, but I digress.

It’s Disney. And if it’s Disney, I feel that I typically know about it. I mean, I love Disney!

It wasn’t until I was browsing around on Google Maps for hotels within a particular area that I noticed the Walt Disney Family Museum. I guess I figured that sort of thing would exist near Disneyland or Disneyworld– not out in San Francisco.

Needless to say I was super excited and made it our goal to visit. A goal we almost didn’t make because the museum was a bit hard to get to and we were feeling defeated.

Luckily we found a way out there and let me just say it was worth all the hassle. It was seriously one of the best museums I’ve ever been to, and not just because it was Disney related.

Full disclaimer here, I’m typically not a museum person. I get bored quickly and then I get antsy and then I just get plain irritated. Most museum trips for me last an hour at best. But the Disney museum? The Disney museum was different. It was interactive, it was innovative, and it was tons of fun.

San Francisco - Oct 2014

The museum, which opened semi-recently in 2009, is operated by the Walt Disney Family Foundation, a non-profit organization established by Disney’s heirs, and is not affiliated with The Walt Disney Company.

The museum is made up of ten galleries, which together tell the chronological story of Walt Disney. Beginning with his birth in Chicago, his trials and tribulations as an animator and ending with his devastating death, the museum spares no details.

It almost felt like you were on a ride, as the exhibits really bring Disney to life and allow visitors to experience the magic of Disney. I love how they cleverly designed the museum with interactive media mixed amongst the displays.

San Francisco - Oct 2014

One minute we were “riding the train to Hollywood”, then next we were watching clips of early Disney shorts, and the next trying to add sound effects to movies the old fashioned way.

We took the time to examine every exhibit and found the pacing of the museum to be excellent. And guess what, we spent well over an hour there and I wasn’t bored at all!

I was actually surprised at some of the themes the museum covered.

While I expected to see some of Walt’s early sketches and learning about his start in the animation industry, I didn’t expect it to be so technical. They went into the types of technology they used back then from rigging to eventually adding color– even including what colors they used for each character! Seeing all of the work that went into making such short films, made you appreciate Disney and all those who worked on the films even more.

I also found it interesting that they highlighted Walt’s involvement in the World Wars, and how Disney was used in military campaigns. They showcased a few mini clips he made for supporting the US troops in the war.

San Francisco - Oct 2014  San Francisco - Oct 2014

Of course the museum covered some expected things as well. Anyone who’s a lover of Disney memorabilia or vintage toys won’t want to miss this museum’s collection.

You’ll find stuffed toys, record players, toothbrushes and even original Mickey Mouse Club wear. I’ll admit, Disney has come a long way and their merchandise looks much better nowadays than some of the almost creepy things we saw in the museum!

San Francisco - Oct 2014

One of the highlights of the museum is the 12-foot concept model of Disneyland. Seeing as that’s the one Disney Park I have yet to make it to, it was fun getting to look at this 3D model.

As you spiraled around the room that contained the model, you also got to see concept art and sketches for the different attractions there. I loved getting to see the It’s a Small World Section!

San Francisco - Oct 2014
San Francisco - Oct 2014  San Francisco - Oct 2014

At the end of the museum you’re led out to an area where they often hold various lectures and events throughout the year. The weekend we happened to be there they were hosting a Marc Jacobs event, where he was there signing autographs for his new Disney-inspired book.

There they also house their Fantasia-themed theatre, which screens Disney classics six days a week.

Since Disney has touched the lives of so many generations, it was actually quite touching to see families enjoying the exhibits together.

San Francisco - Oct 2014

But that doesn’t mean The Walt Disney Family Museum is just a place for kids. While yes, it’s a great environment for families to spend the afternoon, but it’s also a space that any adult could enjoy.

And enjoy it we did!

We left the museum feeling giddy and childlike as though our creative spark had been ignited once again– but I guess that’s just the magic of Disney.


A special thank you to The Walt Disney Museum for allowing us to visit as guests. As always, all opinions and love of Disney are my own!

Do you love Disney? Have you been out to The Walt Disney Family Museum?



  1. Stephanie C.
    February 18, 2015 / 10:36 pm

    oh wow – I didn’t know about this museum. How interesting to see the models and sketches. I also didn’t know about Disney involvement in World Wars. This looks like a really great museum to visit!

    • Beth Williams
      February 20, 2015 / 10:00 am

      It was a lot of fun! I hope you get to visit someday.

  2. February 18, 2015 / 10:35 pm

    Oh wow – this is so amazing! I haven’t heard of this museum

    • Beth Williams
      February 20, 2015 / 10:00 am

      Glad to introduce it to you!

  3. Fi Ní Neachtáin
    February 18, 2015 / 5:50 am

    Oh wow, how amazing that you got to visit the Disney museum, I’d love to visit there. All the exhibits and the model in particular look so cool. A must visit for all Disney lovers I’m sure. I have to get there one day.

    • Beth Williams
      February 20, 2015 / 9:59 am

      The model was really interesting! (And colorful). So many kids were flocking to it and enjoying the running train set around it.

  4. February 18, 2015 / 4:20 am

    We are totally a Disney family, we love us some Disney. We haven’t been to a Disney theme park or The Walt Disney Family Museum yet, but it’s on the bucket list, maybe next year around tax return, when we got the money to do such a thing. Looks like a place everyone would really have a blast at.

    • Beth Williams
      February 20, 2015 / 9:59 am

      Yes!! It would be fun to plan a visit around California and go to both Disneyland and to SF for the museum.

  5. February 18, 2015 / 2:27 am

    I swear I’ve got to get my family to Disney this year. I’ve been wanting to go for the last three years now. The kids are definitely old enough to get around and decide exactly what they want to see and do.

    • Beth Williams
      February 20, 2015 / 9:58 am

      It’s probably best that you’ve waited until your kids are a bit early! My family took me to Disney when I was 5, but I don’t remember it at all. Hoping to visit both US parks this next year!

  6. February 17, 2015 / 10:53 pm

    What a fun museum!!! This is going on my must see list for the next time we are traveling in San Francisco. The history of Walt Disney is amazing and so intriguing to learn about!

    • Beth Williams
      February 20, 2015 / 9:57 am

      It is! There’s such a fascinating history behind it. It’s crazy to think one man did so much!

  7. February 17, 2015 / 5:58 pm

    I had no idea that there was a Disney Museum in San Fran! I live in Orlando and love all things Disney. I’m also a bit of a nerd and love museums so this is going on my bucket list! I had no idea that Disney was use in military campaigns. You learn something new everyday!

    • Beth Williams
      February 20, 2015 / 9:57 am

      Jealous that you live in Orlando! I’m hoping to make a trip out there soon to relive the WDW experience ;)

  8. February 17, 2015 / 5:38 pm

    Disney museum in San Francisco???!!! Say it isn’t so! I didn’t know this…and now thanks to your post I am curious and avid to visit it one day with my family! It would be nice to see the historical background that formed one of the famous companies in the world. Thanks for sharing :)

    • Beth Williams
      February 20, 2015 / 9:56 am

      I think it’s perfect for a family visit! I hope you make it there one day :)

  9. February 17, 2015 / 3:06 pm

    I have never been to Disney later on a disney museum and though I too am not a museum kind of person I am sure I would enjoy the Disney one. Thanks for sharing your adventure I hope to one day visit a place like that.

    • Beth Williams
      February 20, 2015 / 9:55 am

      The Disney museum was a lot of fun! Not your typical museum for sure.