Where to see art
Where to take the kids
Opened in 2009 by a foundation headed by Walt Disney's oldest daughter, Diane, the museum offers a fascinating look at the man behind the mouse. It's housed in a repurposed army barracks and gymnasium in the Presidio, a former military post that's now part of the national park service. Inside, galleries are set up chronologically, beginning with Walt's early cartoons for his high school yearbook and ending with his death in 1966. Highlights include an interactive gallery documenting Disney's innovations in sound synchronization; an original multiplane camera that shows how Walt and company first developed dimensional animation; the audio-enhanced nail-biting tale of how the Disney brothers financed Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; and a 13-foot model of Disneyland as Walt originally envisioned it. Rotating exhibits give you an up-close look at some of the artists who have brought Disney's most beloved characters to life. The Fantasia-themed theater screens classics six days a week.
The opening in 2008 of the redesigned Academy marked the debut of the world's “greenest” museum and put San Francisco firmly on the world science museum map—it's the only such institution to combine an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum and scientific research program under one roof. The complex is anchored by a four-story rainforest dome that's home to flitting butterflies and birds, and a “living roof” that features some 1.7 million native plant species. In between is the Steinhart Aquarium with the world's deepest living coral reef display, an Amazonian “flooded forest” viewed via an acrylic tunnel, the all-digital Morrison Planetarium, a live penguin habitat, an African Hall with lifesize dioramas of lions and gazelles, and a swamp featuring Claude, the albino alligator. As opposed to most museum fare, the Academy's dining options are first-rate: The Academy Cafe offers a half-dozen organic, sustainable ethnic food stations; the Moss Room is a proper, fancy sit-down restaurant with a dripping moss wall.