Everything you could ever need to know about the Walt Disney Family Museum! Hours, ticket prices, what’s good for families, and more. Also, lessons you can learn from the life of Walt Disney mostly from the quotes of people who remembered him and his legacy!
I received free admission to the museum thanks to Disney as part of the Incredibles 2 Event.
What is the Walt Disney Family Museum?
If you’re asking this question, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Until I found out I was going to the museum, I didn’t even know it was a thing. And now I’m encouraging everyone and anyone who is a Disney fan to go because Walt Disney’s story is an incredible one!
But back to the answer to the original question.
The Walt Disney Family Museum is a museum in the San Francisco Bay area that’s all about Walt Disney and the work he created. It tells Walt’s story chronologically from his birth to his death and everything in between. And it’s done in a way that is interactive, interesting, and fun for Disney fans of all ages.
The museum is owned and run by the Disney family and not technically associated with Disney the company at all. You get more info on the Walt Disney Museum website.
As an added bonus, you can walk down the street past the museum for a good view of the Golden Gate Bridge or just go inside the museum for a better one from the lookout point right before Walt’s bench.
Insider Tips for Visiting the Walt Disney Family Museum
I’m going to start out with everything you need to know about visiting the Walt Disney Museum but don’t stop there. Under my tips and tricks is my personal favorite part of the museum and some great quotes from the museum with lessons you can learn from Walt’s life!
Walt Disney Family Museum Tickets
Museum tickets currently cost $25 for adults, $15 for ages 6-17, and under 5 are free. Tickets often come with admission to whatever current exhibits are going on such as the Make Believe: The World of Glen Keane exhibit that I talk about below. You can buy regular tickets for the museum here.
If you live nearby or think you’ll be visiting the museum more than 4 times in a year, you can also purchase a membership ($100/person with options for family packages as well). Memberships also come with a number of benefits such as discounts for guests, VIP tickets for exhibitions, museum store discounts, and more. Memberships are available here.
Walt Disney Museum Ticket Discounts and Free Days
Admission is free-year round for active and retired military, their spouses, and dependents with valid ID. Active military can also get free admission for themselves plus five extra guests (six total) between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Get more information on military discounts here.
Groups of 10 or more can also receive a discount on admission whether they are looking for a group tour or self-guided visit. You can find more info about the group discounts here.
Museum Hours and Best Times to Visit
The museum is open every day, EXCEPT TUESDAY, from 10AM – 6PM with the last hours entry at 4:45PM (you’ll be glad you’re in by then). It’s also closed on January 1st, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day and typically closes early on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
When we asked our tour guide, she said that the best time to visit is when school is in on a weekday (aka not in the summer/spring break or on the weekends). However, that isn’t an option for everyone so otherwise, the website says that the crowds are lighter between 10AM and 1PM on any given day. We visited the museum on a Thursday morning and there were a few people, but it was pretty much our group, a field trip of kids, and a few random stragglers wandering around the place.
You might also think that Sundays would be a great day to go but every Sunday from 11-4, the Off the Grid Presidio Picnic happens in the field across the street and our tour guide said that the place gets pretty crazy with people doing both at once! But if you’re up for crowds, the Presidio Picnic features food trucks, lawn games, yoga, and more! It might be a great place to grab some lunch either before or after visiting the museum. Get details here.
Should You Do a Guided Tour?
While there is an option to do a guided tour of the museum, I actually think the museum will be more appreciated with a self-guided tour that you take at your own pace. But don’t hesitate to ask the staff questions when you see them around, they’re filled with incredible amounts of knowledge and eager to help and share what they know!
A great alternative to a guided tour is to use the interactive storytelling application the museum provides through the STQRY app. It allows you to use your phone hear more inside info from curators, read stories behind items in the museum, and more. The only caveat is that you need to have a phone and headphones to listen! Find out how to download the app here.
If you’re doing your own self-guided tour, it’ll give you more time to see everything you want to see, not just the things the tour guides think are important. Like these Snow White paper dolls that I think are so cool, it’s likely they’re not important to Walt Disney’s life history and might be skipped on a tour.
How Much Time Do You Need to Visit the Disney Family Museum?
My biggest tip is to plan enough time to thoroughly experience the museum. We spent about an hour and a half in the museum, and I definitely didn’t read everything. If I hadn’t have been with a big group, I probably could’ve taken 2-3 hours easily. There is so much to see, read, and do in the museum that you could easily spend half the day exploring.
Think about how much time you think you’ll need then add another 30 minutes or an hour if you’re going to shop or eat in the museum cafe. Take your time in the final two rooms of the museum. Read things and let yourself feel what you’re reading. It’s not an experience to be rushed and if you have somewhere else to be afterwards and are rushing through the collection, you’ll likely miss out on some of the most significant pieces in the museum.
Is It Worth the Time to Tour the Special Exhibits?
This one totally depends on what the exhibits are but from what I’ve seen so far, the answer is always yes. The special exhibits are included in the price of your admission so there’s no reason not to. We had the chance to check out the brand new Make Believe: The World of Glen Keane, and as a girl who grew up on the characters he draw like Ariel, Tarzan, and Rapunzel – I absolutely loved it. I loved the museum too but seeing iconic drawings of Ariel really made me smile because they always make me think of my sister, the one I wrote about in this post.
Since the exhibits are free with admission, you can always just walk through the exhibits quickly if they’re not up your alley. But I’m guessing the Make Believe one is up pretty much any Disney fan’s alley. Learn more about Glen Keane and this exhibition here.
Plan to Eat Lunch at the Museum Cafe
On the main floor of the museum, there’s a little cafe with a pretty good cafe menu full of soups (like Walt’s chili), sandwiches, salads, and kid staples like grilled cheese sandwiches and mac and cheese! The lemonade and cookies are pretty yummy too! Enjoy the museum in the morning then grab a bite for lunch at the cafe before heading home. There are tables both inside and outside as well as fun chairs in the big field across the street from the museum.
If the museum is busy, the cafe might take a little while. They were moving as quickly as they could go but our group of 20+ took a while. Just be prepared if the line is long. If you skip the museum, scroll down on this page of other eating options nearby for restaurants that the museum recommends.
Save Time to Shop in the Walt Disney Museum Store
Last but not least, save some time at the end to shop in the Walt Disney Museum store. Unlike a normal Disney store you might find at Walt Disney World, you’ll find things related to the history of Walt Disney. Things like drawings, books, and shirts that serve as a reminder of Walt Disney’s life and the museum you just visited. They’re cool souvenirs and not as outrageously priced as you might expect for a museum.
If you don’t want to buy something during your visit then lug it home on an airplane, you can always shop online at their store as well instead!
What Families Will Love About The Walt Disney Museum
While I recommend that adults visit the museum at least once on their own, it’s definitely a family-friendly place as well. We talked to the tour guides and asked them about visiting with kids, and these were some of the things she said kids typically loved most. I added a few things I think my son would enjoy most as well!
The Museum Offers Special Activities for Families
In addition to the museum being full of pictures, objects, and movies that kids will probably recognize, the museum also puts on regular family-friendly activities in addition to the regular collection. You’ll want to check the full calendar before you go but these are some of the highlights!
- Spotlight workshops – families can learn more about Walt’s talents and try a hand at their own. For example, April’s workshop will help you learn how to draw an elephant. Get the full schedule for family-friendly workshops here. Spotlight talks are included with the price of admission.
- Screenings of Classic Disney Films – The museum offers screenings of classic Disney films such as the Little Mermaid and Dumbo every afternoon. Films are an extra $5 with museum admission or $10 without for adults and $8 without for youth/students. See the film schedule here.
- Family-Friendly Talks – The museum also offers special talks from curators and others, some like story time that are specific to kids. Check out the full schedule here.
- Classes – If you live in the area, the museum also offers once a week and summer camp style art and animation class for kids grades 3 and up. Learn more here.
Interactive Exhibits Throughout the Walt Disney Museum
As a mom, one of the things I look for most when I visit a museum is how interactive it is. Can my 5-year-old touch things, feel things, and do things or will he be stuck just looking at pictures that he won’t really understand because he can’t read? The Disney Museum has done a fantastic job of incorporating interactive exhibits throughout the museum including everything from computer programs to moving trains and more. They’ve really made what could otherwise be pretty boring for the littles, something I think they could really enjoy.
The Disneyland Model
Within the regular collection, one of the coolest things about the entire Walt Disney Family Museum is the miniature model of Disneyland. It’s in one word – incredible. Don’t just go straight to the museum though, start at the top of the ramp and read about how Walt Disney came up with the idea for Disneyland, how he proposed the idea, sketched the entire park out, and even described it in a letter. It’s almost like he saw the park then imagined it into existence. It’s amazing how similar to those sketches the park looks today.
What I Loved Most About the Disney Family Museum
I’m a huge Disney fan, but I really didn’t know that much about the man Walt Disney before going into the museum. My good friend Patty even shamed me when I mentioned that I wasn’t sure who Roy was. Ha! But I’m always honest with you all, so there you go.
I know a lot about Disney movies, Disney parks, Disney cruises, and a lot of things Disney – but I’ve never been one to know a lot of history about things.
So you’d think the thing I loved most about the museum was learning about Walt in general. And I did, I really loved that. I loved seeing how Walt Disney Studios and the parks all got their start.
But for me, that wasn’t it.
Before I just outright tell you, here are two quotes that I took pictures of in the final room of the museum.
These quotes say it all. As I learned about Walt Disney, it all came back to three things for me – hard work, innovation, and family. Family has always been my number one priority in my life, and I love love love that it was in Walt’s too.
Ever since I started blogging, I’ve struggled with work > life > family balance. It seems like something always has to give for me to be successful. I can’t be successful in all three things at once. But as I walked through the Walt Disney Family Museum, I realized that’s not true. It’s about focusing on one thing at a time rather than trying to do it all at once. Work hard and be creative at work but when the work day is over, turn it off and give your family your undivided attention. I’ve been terrible at that, and it’s something I really need to work on.
On another note – walking through the museum and seeing Walt’s emphasis on families and making people smile really helped me understand a bit more why my smile is instant the moment I walk past the ticket gates at Disneyland or Walt Disney World. Walt created these parks so that we had somewhere to go to enjoy ourselves and our families. And next time I head to Disneyland to eat all the Disneyland snacks, I’ll be sure to honor Walt and smile as I walk in.
6 Things We Can Learn from Walt Disney
Walt led an amazing life, one that we can all learn a lot from. These are just a few of the lessons I learned from Walt Disney’s life and the Walt Disney Family Museum. And while I might talk about business with some of these, they are all lessons we can apply in our personal and professional lives!
The Good Doesn’t Come Without the Bad
Outside of the family aspect of the museum, the thing I appreciated most was that the Disney family didn’t shy away from sharing Walt’s failures and bad times. Walt was constantly trying new things, succeeding for a while, and then failing. And even once Walt Disney Studios was up and running, things weren’t perfect. There’s an entire section dedicated to the workers’ strike because they didn’t feel they were being compensated fairly for their expertise.
You may look at Disneyland and think, wow this park is amazing. But did you know that opening day was a nightmare full of problems? It might be amazing now, but it was built with its fair share of trials and struggles along the way.
It’s Good to Be Interested in All the Things
A couple of months ago I was having a conversation with my husband about how I no longer have any hobbies. Before I had my son and became a blogger, I had a lot of hobbies. I ran. I played volleyball. I played the piano and sang in the choir. I read and did book reviews. I planned monthly girls night and spent time with friends. It felt like my life was full of hobbies, and that’s how it always has been.
In the last five years, I’ve lost that somewhere. Walt has inspired me to start getting back into the things I love outside of work and family.
These two quotes from the final room in the Disney museum say a lot about Walt’s fascination with things and hobbies.
As I walked through the museum, I love seeing all of Walt’s different passions brought into life. He loved trains. He loved miniatures. He loved trying out new things. It’s no wonder this man imagined the most magical place on Earth. Being interested in different things and trying out new things sounds like a good recipe for success to me.
We All Have to Start Somewhere
As a blogger, I remember the very first time a company sent me a product to try out. It was a $5 Scrub Daddy, and I was ecstatic that someone would be willing to give me $5 worth in free product just to write about it on my blog. Fast forward five years and things are totally different, but I had to get started working with brands somehow.
Walt’s career was pretty much the same as mine, well close at least right? I’m totally kidding but this quote on one of the museums in the wall made me smile because I’ve totally been there. We all have to start somewhere whether it’s being an intern or apprentice, getting paid minimum wage, or even just volunteering to help out with something we love. It’s the reason you learn your scales first in piano lessons, you have to start somewhere to get somewhere.
And who knows, maybe you’ll end up winning an Oscar custom designed just for you (this one is for Snow White and the Seven Dwarves).
When You Fail, Try Try Again
I mentioned it above but Walt Disney failed a lot. He started a lot of companies. He closed a lot of companies. He was constantly trying something new when something else didn’t work. He created his first animated character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, that was eventually through legal matters taken over by the company he was working for. And what’d he do? He created Mortimer Mouse. And then he fine-tuned and turned it into Mickey Mouse. And even though we always say it all started with a mouse, it really didn’t – that’s just where what we know and love started.
It’s Okay to Slow Down
Life gets so busy and loud that I think our brains are regularly on full speed ahead. It’s almost like it’s a requirement to be busy these days. But no so. If you’re busy doing things all the time, when are you going to have time to think and dream up new things? We all need to take time to slow down, unplug, and just enjoy the moment without feeling the need to be somewhere else or the need to be doing something.
This bench is a place Walt did just that – sat and just watched his girls ride the carousel over and over again. No bugging the girls to be done. No phone to distract him. Just him and a bench.
And rumor has it, this is the bench where Walt Disney dreamed up the idea for Disneyland, so there was a theme park where families could go – one that wasn’t dirty.
Kindness Trumps Success Every Single Time
If there is one thing I learned about Walt Disney from walking through the Walk Disney Family Museum, it’s that it’s more important to be kind than it is to be successful. The final room is a tribute to Walt Disney from people around the world and the thing I kept coming back to was that not one of the quotes talked about Walt’s success, even though it was great. People talked about how Walt treated others. They talked about how Walt and Walt’s creations put a smile on their face. And they talked about the man Walt was, not the things he did.
Walt created so much of what he did just to make others happy.
That’s an example I for one want to follow.