Friday, October 23, 2009

Fall Color at its Peak -- Here in California

In the Eastern Sierra, the aspen, poplars and cottonwoods are at their peak of fall color this week and, with the weather report forecasting a sunny weekend, it's the time to go. I wish I could get away. For me, this year, looking at photos like these will have to do. Next October, I'm there.
The photo of June Lake (above) in the Eastern Sierra is by Greg Newbry and taken last Friday. The Napa Valley vineyard photo is by John Poimiroo, longtime tourism official at Yosemite and for the state of California. He shot it last weekend.
John, who is behind the wonderful web site,, points out that Lake County is a good place for fall colors. It's a closer drive to San Francisco than the Eastern Sierra. The leaves turn first along the shores of Clear Lake and then in the higher elevation on Cobb Mountain. "The cottonwoods are a riot of gold at Forest Lake, backgrounded by dogwoods and oaks," he says. And, "Near Loch Lomond off CA-175 at 2,500 feet at the site of the historic 19th century Salmina's Resort, the trees are at their prime color." Thanks for the report, John.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Walt Disney Museum Makes its Debut

The Presidio just keeps getting better and better. Yesterday, what is destined to become a star attraction opened: the Walt Disney Family Museum.
Diane Disney Miller and Walter E.D. Miller, daughter and grandson of the creator of Mickey Mouse, Disneyland and dozens of beloved movies, cartoons and TV shows, designed a place where they and the public can celebrate the life, the work and, most of all, the inventiveness of Walt Disney, the man -- not the big corporation he founded.
It's located in one of those handsome red-brick barracks buildings that line the Presidio's old parade ground. Inside, there's no doubt where the $110 million that the Walt Disney Family Foundation spent went: everything in the building was renovated with high quality materials, and the result is stunning, including one gallery with floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.
The museum is expected to draw 450,000 visitors a year, 80% of them 45- to 65-year olds, said Richard Benefield, museum director. It's a "walk down memory lane" for baby boomers who grew up with Disney.
The museum does not disappoint. Those who love Disney will spend hours here and even those with just mild enthusiasm for his creations will enjoy it. Anyone interested in animation and movie-making will visit again and again.
For one, it's a terrific history lesson in Americana. The ten galleries trace Disney's life from his childhood in the Midwest, the move to California, the struggles in building his business and, most of all, the creativeness in designing his enchanting characters, the first animated movies and, finally, Disneyland.
There are scores of interactive exhibits, display cases of fascinating memorabilia and large video screens playing snippets of movies and interviews with the main himself. Even some of the controversies are addressed: you can listen to Disney's testimony before the House Un-American Committee where he stated that he thought the studio strike that shut down his studio for several weeks was the work of Communists.
One of the final galleries contains a model of Disneyland as Disney envisioned it (left). There's also a large gift shop with merchandise unique to this museum (which is operated separately from Walt Disney Co.), a small cafe and a theater that shows Disney movies three times a day (separate admission charge).
Tickets are $20, with discounts for seniors, students and children. They are sold online at using a timed-entry system allowing 60 visitors to enter every 50 minutes. Local residents may enjoy museum membership that allows unlimited visits per year.