Beyond the Parks Road Trip Feature

Lesser-Known Disney Road Trip Landmarks

It is generally known that there are so many Disney-related tributes for fans to visit worldwide. Some of the most obvious examples are rides and various other attractions that make up the scene of beloved Disney Resort destinations. But for the adamant Disney fan looking to get as much as possible out of everything Disney, there are numerous other sites and venues worth exploring in addition to those more glaring callouts. Many of these other sites often get overlooked or remain largely in the shadow of theme park glory. Yet, all of them pay tribute to the lasting legacy of Walt Disney himself. Are you interested in exploring all those other Disney landmarks for yourself? If you are in the continental United States, these eight great examples are worth taking a Disney-designated road trip for.

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8. Walt Disney’s Birthplace in Chicago

How would you like to see the house in which Walter Elias Disney was born? Well, if you are in the downtown area of Chicago, Illinois, then doing so is just a simple detour away. The modest dwelling in question sits on the corners of Tripp Avenue and Palmer Street, at the address 2156 N. Tripp Avenue. It was built in 1893 by Walt’s father, Elias Disney, with Flora Disney (Walt’s Mother) drawing up the architectural plans herself. The house cost $800 to build—a pricey sum back then, given Elias reportedly only made $1 a day.

Walt Disney was born on the second story of this cottage-like home, as were his older brother Roy and sister Ruth. However, the family moved to Marceline, Missouri, in 1906 when Walt was just four years old.

Sadly, a lot of the home’s significance as a Disney historical landmark has gone largely unnoticed within the last century. Not only has homeownership changed countless times, but massive renovations have hindered many of the original design details and authenticity. So that’s why husband and wife team Dina Benadon and Brent Young decided to purchase the home back in 2013 with intentions to reestablish it as a heritage site rightfully named “The Walt Disney Birthplace.” With a grant from the Walt Disney Company plus crowdsourced funding from adamant Disney fans, they’ve already succeeded in the ongoing task of restoring the home to its previous glory.

While there’s still work to be done, the Walt Disney Birthplace is well on its way to being fully restored. In most cases, you still cannot publicly attend the house, but you can still drive by it if you’re on the ultimate Disney road trip. And you can always check out their official blog for updates and all the latest on the Walt Disney Birthplace here.

Walt Disney Birthplace

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7. Walt Disney Hometown Museum in Marceline

Walt Disney may have been Chicago-born, but it was in Marceline, Missouri, where he spent most of his growing-up years. In fact, memories of Marceline have been reflected throughout various Disney television and film presentations over the years and even inspired the scene we know to be Main Street, U.S.A., at Disney Parks.

Not only did Walt Disney arrive in Marceline by train at the tender age of four, but it’s also well-known that he had a lifelong love of locomotives. Therefore, the location of the Walt Disney Hometown Museum, right onsite of the former Santa Fe Train Depot no less, is most befitting.

Spanning a grand total of 10,000 square feet, the Walt Disney Hometown Museum was established back in 2001 in honor of Walt’s 100th birthday. Most of the museum’s original collection came directly from Ruth Disney Beecher (Walt’s sister), but now the impressive collaboration contains more than 4,000 artifacts and memorabilia. From personal letters and gifts to photographs, sketches, and many other nostalgic nods to Walt Disney’s past, this is the ultimate fan destination for experiencing the humble beginnings of a great man who positively impacted and revolutionized entertainment and theme parks. To learn more about the Walt Disney Hometown Museum or to visit, click here.

Disney Hometown Museum

Credit: Yesterland

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6. Tam O’Shanter

This Scottish steakhouse based in Los Angeles, California, may initially seem like an unexpected Disney-related landmark. But when you consider the fact that it was one of Walt Disney’s favorite lunch spots, it all makes sense. In fact, he was known to frequent Tam O’Shanter quite regularly, being seated at his favorite table, #31, where he could often be found sketching on napkins and such. His favorite dish was Toad in the Hotel—a filet mignon with mushrooms, onions, and Guinness gravy in a Yorkshire pudding.

Owing to its storybook likeness and architectural design, some have even speculated whether this favored restaurant inspired the cottage from the animated film classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. While the original exterior of the establishment has since been changed up quite a bit from its earlier renderings, the interior retains much of its cottage persona to this day. Additionally, you will find many direct callouts to its beloved famous former patron right onsite.

Tam O'Shanter Restaurant

5. Disney’s El Capitan Theatre

The fame of this Hollywood theater long predates its official association with the Walt Disney Company. It opened to the public at 6838 Hollywood Blvd. in 1926 as part of the “Hollywood theater district” that was envisioned by real estate developer Charles E. Toberman (alternately known as the Father of Hollywood) in the early 1920s.

During its early years, El Capitan operated as a live theater that hosted plays and performances. By 1942 it was revamped into a movie theater.

It wasn’t until the late 1980s that Disney took control of El Capitan, as a result of having purchased a controlling stake in one of Pacific Theatre’s chains. After elaborate renovations and restorations, El Capitan reopened in 1991 as an impressive 1,040-seat theater with a distinct Disney quality.

El Capitan is now known as the ultimate Hollywood go-to for all the latest Disney movie premieres. And going to such an event is truly an experience far exceeding any other movie-watching endeavor. From elaborately clothed ushers to some films even being preceded by live stage events or even character appearances, attending a Disney movie premier at El Capitan is certainly a bucket list moment for any Disney fan passing through the greater Los Angeles/Hollywood area.

El Capitan Theatre

Credit: El Capitan

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4. Walt Disney Concert Hall

Suppose you are a Disney fan who has an appreciation for music. In that case, visiting the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles should most definitely be on your list of alternate Disney explorations. Having opened just shy of 20 years ago, in October 2003, the Walt Disney Concert Hall stands out as an internationally recognized landmark. It was constructed by famed architect Frank Gehry and has been praised repeatedly for being the world’s most acoustically sophisticated concert hall. It is also the official home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and is renowned for presenting various musical performances throughout the year.

Some folks make the incorrect assumption that, aside from the name, the concert hall has no true ties to Disney. But it was, in fact, Lillian Disney (Walt Disney’s widow) who made the initial gift of $50 million dollars to have a performance venue built for the people of Los Angeles as a tribute to Walt Disney and his devotion to the arts and to the city. Even though this donation was made back in 1987, and Lillian Disney died long before the project was completed, the Walt Disney Concert Hall still has significant Disney historical ties.

Walt Disney Music Hall

Credit: LA Phil

3. Griffith Park in Los Angeles

Before heading to Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, make it a point to stop at this other park. While it is located an hour away, it is still essentially a place to come to and celebrate Disney heritage and history. For it was the unassuming merry-go-round at this location that ignited the first spark of inspiration in Walt Disney to go on to envision the theme park that was to become Disneyland.

Griffith Park Carousel

Credit: National Carousel Association

As the story goes, Saturday was “Daddy’s day” for Walt and his two daughters. As he took them to Griffith Park, where they rode the merry-go-round, he sat on a bench, watching. As Walt recounts it:

I felt that there should be something built where the parents and the children could have fun together. So that’s how Disneyland started.

Visitors to Griffith Park today can still see the merry-go-round that started it all. And as of 1999, there has been another landmark of Disney historic significance added to the site. It is Walt’s Barn from his former home in Holmby Hills. Having once served as Walt Disney’s workshop as well as the location for the controls of his own Carolwood Pacific Railroad (a 1/8 scale steam railroad in his backyard), Diane Disney Miller (Walt’s daughter) worked with the Carolwood Society to have the original barn removed from its former property to be reassembled onsite at Griffith Park.

Walt's Barn

Credit: Carolwood Society

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2. Walt Disney Family Museum

Located in the scenic Presidio of San Francisco, this may just be one of the best-known Disney detours for ardent fans to take in the state of California. Founded by Diane Disney Miller in 2009, the Walt Disney Family Museum comprises a 40,000-square-foot space within its primary building and features a vast collection of artifacts and other relics from Disney’s past. It also presents some pretty impressive contemporary interactive galleries and state-of-the-art exhibits that even feature narrations in Walt Disney’s voice!

Some of the Walt Disney Family Museum’s greatest callouts include a 12-foot diameter model of Disneyland, a Fantasia-inspired digital theater that showcases Disney films daily, 10 permanent galleries, and items related to Walt’s Carolwood Pacific Railroad, including the Lilly Belle locomotive! The lobby showcases 248 awards Walt won during his career, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and various Academy Awards.

A Walt Disney Family Museum visit is necessary for any Disney fan in greater San Francisco. Click here to learn more or get directions.

Walt Disney Family Museum

Credit: Walt Disney Family Museum

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1. Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale

This last detour may be on the sadder side of things, but many true Disney fans feel that it is only appropriate to pay their respects to the wonderful man Walt Disney was. And despite morbidly popular urban legends about him having been cryogenically frozen and his remains being stored in some secretive Disney Park location, the reality is that Walt Disney was cremated, and his ashes were interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. A memorial for him can be found at the place of honor in a surprisingly uncrowded and humble location on a hill. For adamant Disney fans, a pilgrimage to Walt’s final resting place is a most befitting tribute and the ultimate must-do.

Walt Disney's Memorial at Forest Lawn

There are numerous callouts to the Walt Disney Company and its visionary founder worldwide. And there are undoubtedly many other venues you may consider exploring on a more international level as well. But these eight highlights remain among the most treasured yet often missed Disney experiences for fans to consider when looking for beyond-Park alternatives.

About Laura

Laura Catherine aka “LC” is a writer who resides in Maryland with her family and several pets. She visits Walt Disney World whenever she can. Additionally, she is a published author of three novels, a children’s book, and has a passion for gardening.