Marceline, Missouri seems a lot like any other small town in the Midwest, but Disney fans know it as the hometown Walt Disney often spoke of. Despite being born in Chicago, Walt Disney always said his years on the Disney family farm in Marceline made the biggest impact on him as a child. Being a Disney nerd, I was so excited to finally visit the place that inspired Walt Disney so much.
Our first stop on our day in Marceline was the Walt Disney Hometown Museum, which is located in a former train depot next to the railroad tracks. They’re open April through October, Tuesday through Saturday 10AM-4PM and Sunday 1-5PM. They are closed on Mondays. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for kids 6-12. Children under 6 are free.
The wonderful Linda gave us a guided tour of part of the first floor, which focused on Walt’s time in Marceline as a child and when he came back for events and dedications later in his life. Here you can see Walt’s original school desk, complete with his initials carved into it, and a car from the former Midget Autopia, a retired Disneyland attraction that was relocated to Marceline as a gift to the town.
The museum also currently has a special exhibit running of personal collections from Disney enthusiasts, with lots of neat memorabilia.
The second floor has a preserved piece of the original Dreaming Tree, a cottonwood that Walt used to play under with his sister Ruth as a child. There’s also an incredibly detailed miniature of Disneyland.
At the museum you can pick up a map of other places in Marceline for Disney fans to visit. One of those is the original Main Street USA, the street that Walt took inspiration from when he dreamed up the Main Street for Disneyland. There are markers up and down the street noting certain buildings that correspond to buildings on Disneyland’s Main Street, including the Uptown Theater and the former location of the confectionery.
The corner store on Main Street that inspired Coke Corner in Disneyland also made a discovery several years ago. One of the corner store’s walls had been hidden for decades, and after the fire destroyed a nearby building, there were the remains of a Coca-Cola ad on the hidden wall. The museum researched and found that the ad likely went up shortly after the Disney family arrived, so in Walt’s mind that corner store (which was actually a jeweler’s) was always associated with Coca-Cola. After hearing the story, the Coca-Cola company sent a team in to restore the ad.
The Disney family home still stands in Marceline, as well. It’s a private residence, but there is a marker outside. Just past the house there’s a gravel parking area so guests can visit Walt’s Barn, a replica of the barn Walt built as a workshop for himself as an adult, based on what he remembered of the barn they had in Marceline. Guests are welcome to write a note or sign their names on the barn’s interior, if you can find a space. You might spot a few famous names written on the inside, too. Well-known animators and cartoonists visit every year for Marceline’s Toonfest in September.
Here guests can also see the Son of the Dreaming Tree. Walt’s original Dreaming Tree succumbed to lightning strikes and old age, but a sapling taken from the original tree was planted on the property.
Marceline is a great destination for fans of Disney history that want to see where the inspiration for many of Walt’s stories and for Disneyland originated.
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