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5 Key Landmarks Outside Disney Parks Every Disney Fan Should Visit

The Walt Disney Family Museum, San Francisco, CA

 Kent Slade, Flickr (license)

Image: Kent Slade, Flickr (license)

The Walt Disney Company’s archives are considered the holy grail for most Disney fans. Everything from attraction concept art to original audio recordings are stored away somewhere only Disney’s archivists and big wigs can access — and until such time as Disney opens its own museum, it will likely stay that way for a long time.

Filling the void, however, is the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco — a small museum dedicated to honoring Disney’s legacy and educating the public about what made him special. And while its collection pales in comparison to what the Disney Company itself could offer up, it is still utterly remarkable how many amazing things you can find in this historic place.

Everything from pieces of the famed Carolwood Pacific Railroad — Walt’s rideable miniature railroad he built in his own backyard — to many of his Oscars and personal effects. 

The museum is totally independent of the Walt Disney Company, but it was established by members of Disney’s immediate family, so you can enjoy the personal and familial memory of the great man. 

The Broadway Theatre, New York, NY

 broadwaytour, Flickr (license)

Image: broadwaytour, Flickr (license)

Ironically, this theater, located on Broadway at 53rd St. in Manhattan, hosted King Kong — a musical inspired by the famous film of the same name and Universal-owned intellectual property in 2018. In the past, it was even known as Universal’s Colony Theater So, what’s a Universal theater doing on a list about Disney history?

Well, on November 18, 1928, at this very theater, the world met Mickey Mouse.

Steamboat Willie — Walt Disney’s first animation film that used synchronized sound — debuted at the Broadway Theatre and changed the future of animation as we knew it. And, more importantly, it introduced us all to the lovable and mischievous rodent who would come to be the Disney Company’s mascot and icon.

Mickey would later return to the Broadway Theatre in 1940, when Fantasia premiered in New York City at the very same place.

And, the theater is still there if you want to see it — you’ll just have to watch a musical about King Kong if you want to get inside. 

Park East Theater, Winter Park, Fla.

 aloha75, Flickr (license)

Image: aloha75, Flickr (license)

If you go to 501 Orlando Ave, in Winter Park, Fla., you’ll find a strip mall with your usual assortment of big box stores and chains. One spot in that strip mall, an L.A. Fitness, seems no more remarkable than any other.

And yet, it was at this L.A. Fitness that the fate of Central Florida changed forever.

On February 2, 1967, Roy O. Disney invited a group of Florida legislators into what was then the Park East Theater for a presentation titled “Project Florida.” In the presentation, Disney pitched the local government on granting the company special governmental permissions in exchange for building a theme park, research center, and planned community — potentially causing Central Florida’s economy to boom.

At the end of the meeting, Roy Disney played a film is brother Walt made just before his death describing the project. This film has come to be known for Walt’s description of the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow — aka, Epcot.

And so, at that L.A. Fitness over 50 years ago, Walt Disney World was officially presented to Florida for the first time. 

Not a bad place to get a workout in.

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