Any Disney fan will tell you there are countless places and things that could be mentioned and interacted with in regards to Walt Disney himself, the studios, places & landmarks, but in researching and mapping out this tour I was looking to navigate a flow that was possible to share strictly as a driving adventure in the LA area, (limited of course by the current pandemic constraints).
I was used to tucking my 4 kiddos into bed, giving my husband a kiss goodnight and heading off to close the Disneyland Theme parks multiple nights a week. When the parks closed, this non-sleeping Disney nerd needed something to do with my time and I started to hunt down as many spots as I could just to feel the magic of Walt Disney…
As I sought these spots out, they came together in a chronological order of Walt’s life, however you could hit any number of them in any order that suits you…
Let the magic, begin!
- (1923) Walt Disney’s First Steps in LA – Uncle Robert’s
A 21 year old Walt came to Los Angeles in July 1923, with a suitcase, an unfinished “Alice” film and $40 in his pocket. While trying to find work as a film director in Hollywood, he continued working on his own projects. Walt stayed with his Uncle Robert for a few months and for $1 a week, setup a workshop in the garage. The original structure was saved from demolition years ago and relocated to The Stanley Ranch Museum in Garden Grove by Historical Society for public viewing.
*This home can be found in Roy’s wedding pictures. There is a sweet video that this picture is from of Walt kissing Lillian on the front yard grass. Look across the street for what was a boarding home Roy & Walt moved into after signing the deal for the Alice comedies and invested in their 1st LA based cartoon studio a short walk down the street at Stop #2
- (1923-1926) Disney Bros Cartoon Studios / Kingswell Studio (1st official animation studio)
An important time in Disney history when brothers Walt & Roy teamed up to work on the “Alice Comedies” and succeeded. It’s here that Walt met Lillian Bounds when she was hired as an inker.
- (1925) 1st Disney Home as Husband and Wife
When Walt married Lillian, they spent four months in a small apartment facing the alley down the street from the Kingswell Studio at:
*(1926) The couple briefly moved to a larger apartment, which was demolished in 1963:
(The site is now Sunset Nursery.)
- (1926-1940) Walt Disney Studios Hyperion Location
After the success of the Alice comedies, Walt and Roy needed a bigger space and began construction on a new studio complex on Hyperion Ave. They spent 14 years there before relocating to Burbank. Sadly, the buildings were demolished in 1968 for the Gelson’s market that now stands in it’s place. *Don’t miss the Point of Historical Interest sign high up a light pole of the sidewalk in front of Gelsons.
- (1927-1933) Twin Brother Homes
After the launch of the successful Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit series, Walt and Roy built matching homes next door to each other. This spot felt very sweet to see and the homes still look and exist in almost exactly the same way.
- (1932-1950) Disney Family Home
With Mickey Mouse and his first Oscar under his belt, Walt set out to build a magnificent English/French-style mansion for his expectant wife. Sadly Lillian would go on to miscarry, but later in 1933 their first daughter Diane was born and daughter Sharon later would be welcomed into the home here as well. The 12-room home with a pool, theater, and gymnasium, is where The Disneys raised their children and became a family from 1932 – 1950. Although you cannot drive up to it, you can catch a wonderful glimpse of the side and style of the home as you drive past the arching driveway next to the street.
*FUN FACT – Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov now owns the home & has committed to preserving the memory and feel of the era. It’s walls now showcase original Disney Studios artwork and historic photos of Walt Disney.
- Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round
This iconic Los Angeles landmark was installed in 1937 and a spot Walt loved taking his young daughters for what he called “Daddy’s Day.” This is the spot Walt said he ate peanuts watching his girls go around and around, and is the famed spot Walt has been quoted as telling a reporter he would sit on a bench and dream of building a place like Disneyland.
The address is listed as:
4730 Crystal, Springs Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90027
*Worth noting- this is a quick stop. The merry-go-round is currently gated and the sides are rolled down around it. If you park in the lot listed below, you can literally walk down in front of it and right back up to your car:
*EATS! 8. Tam O’Shanter – (Currently only offers outdoor patio dining. Open Tuesday-Sunday for lunch & Dinner service)
This would be a great time to stop for a little lunch, (although you won’t be able to sit in Walt & his imagineer’s “Disney Table” right now or see some of the wonderful details inside this establishment). Walt was friends with Lawrence Frank who opened “The Tam” in 1920 close to Hyperion Studios and Walt’s Los Feliz Home. In fact, he frequented the restaurant so much, it was commonly referred to as the “studio commissary”.
*EATS! El Capitan Theater
In the 1980s Disney purchased the historic 1920s theater, $14 million in renovations later and in 1991 The Rocketeer premiered here.
*(Currently only open Saturdays & Sundays for call ahead/pickup) Reservations open every Friday to order ahead for your weekend concessions to go!
Grab your magic inspired snacks to complete this walking portion of your tour! They literally roll out the red carpet out for you, its contactless with designated pickup only parking spots, a photo backdrop, mickey pretzels, popcorn buckets, drinks and so much more to chose from! They even throw in some activity books and crayons!
You could also pay $15-$20 for the convenient vendor run parking behind the theater if you’d like to get out and explore the walk of fame stars on foot . (All of #9-#10 items can be completed in this one stop).
9. Grauman’s Chinese Theater (now: TCL Chinese Theater)
(July 1932) Silly Symphony, “Flowers and Trees” in color premiered here.
(August 1964) Mary Poppins premiere
(October 1967) Jungle Book premiere
- (1960) Walk of Fame Stars
Disneyland (2005 special recognition) – 6834 Hollywood Blvd. (in front of the Disney Studio Store & Ghiradelli ice cream sho)
Roy Disney (1998 Motion Pictures) – 6833 Hollywood Blvd.
Mickey Mouse (1978 ) – 6925 Hollywood Blvd. (by Grauman’s Chinese Theater)
SHOP! *If you’re up for some shopping:
The brand new Funko Hollywood store is just a few blocks east of this and currently open Wed-Sunday from 12pm-6pm. You can shop Disney inspired Loungefly items, Pop collectibles and engage in some great life size Pop character photo opps! *Pro Tip: Park in the Public Parking off Argyle Ave. & Hollywood Blvd. and receive parking validation for any purchase in the store.
- (1940-Current) Walt Disney Studios
There is so much to see just in a drive around the 51 acre studio lot (and a great walk if you’re up for it around the blocks it covers). From the giant sorcerer’s hat of the animation studio off Riverside Dr. to the welcome sign off Alameda Ave. and the seven dwarfs holding up the Frank G Wells theater. These buildings have hosted countless hours of creation and tireless efforts from Disney cast members over the past 80 years in this location, it’s worth some serious attention. Not to mention the significant events of World War II soilders inflitrating the studio lot and Walt riding bicycles with his daughters throughout the property.
Eats! (1960) Paty’s Restaurant
One place we like to go that seems to have something to please everyone is Paty’s Restaurant. (Currently the outside patio is open for dining everyday 9am-8pm) This is how the whole idea for this tour began! My mother and I went on a D23 tour of the studios in January and searched for a place with a connection to Walt to eat after the tour…and down the rabbit hole I went!
Paty’s opened in 1960. (Disney Legend and composer Buddy Baker once owned the restaurant) It’s been shared that Walt would linger with a cup of coffee at the counter to watch the baker make loaves of bread many times a week.
- (1966) St. Joseph’s Hospital (Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center)
Walt collapsed just after Thanksgiving 1966, and was admitted to the hospital under the pseudonym “John Smith”. On December 15th, (ten days after his 65th birthday), Walt succumbed to his Lung cancer. His remains were cremated two days later and his ashes interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California
(Across the street from the studios)
- (1966) Walt Disney’s Memorial Site
If you’d like to pay your respects and drive through a piece of Los Angeles beauty, the winding hill roads of Forest Lawn Memorial Park will provide a stunning view of the resting place for thousands of loved ones. If you are up for a short walk out of the car, the Disney family Garden of Communion is a lovely moving space to sit and peacefully collect your heartfelt thoughts and appreciation for everything Walt Disney has contributed throughout his life and long after his passing. Walt, Lillian, Daughter Sharon & her husband Robert are all interred here and noted on the plate over looking the sweet subtle garden.
Located in the Court of Freedom section, a small private garden behind a swing gate directly to the left of the entrance of the Freedom Mausoleum building.
- (1986) BUST OF WALT DISNEY at the Academy of Television Arts & Science’s Hall of Fame
With little to no one working in this building right now, we chose to park in the loading zone right in front with our hazards on to walk up to the bust. It’s located just to the right of the main building up a couple stairs in the alcove. There are many famous faces and names and QR codes on most of the stars so you can take a photo with your phone to find out more information.
*Noteworthy Locations not included:
(1926) Carthay Circle Theater – far off this general tour area and demolished in 1969 (site only)
(1932-1938) Riviera Polo Field & Club– Where Walt’s friend Roy Rogers got into the game of Polo.Walt experienced an accident on the field and left the game in 1938 with lingering physical issues from the incident until his death.
(1948) Smoke Tree Ranch – Lillian & Walt buy their first home. (Walt will sell it in 1954 to help fund Disneyland.) The couple returned to Smoke Tree to purchase a second home in the same community in 1957.
(1950) Bel Air/Holmby Hills Home on Carolwood Dr. – The Carolwood Pacific miniature railroad as well as his Barn was relocated to Griffith park site & home was demolished and a new home built over it.
(1999) Walt’s Barn – When the Disney home in Holmby Hills sold, Walt’s daughter Diane made every effort to save Walt’s barn and assisted in relocating it to Griffith Park where it operates today as a museum dedicated to Walt’s love of trains by the Carolwood Foundation. (It is currently closed, and you cannot see much from the parking lot or fence but this is one of our favorite spots when it’s open).