San Francisco may be primarily known for its cable cars, historical landmarks, and cuisine culture. But it’s also a friendly refuge for geeks seeking adventure inspired by film and cartoons. (Think Star Wars, the Peanuts comic strip, and all things Disney!) My husband, Jeff, and I first started traveling as a couple in San Francisco. As a Star Wars super fan, he knew all kinds of space opera info about the city. We’ve continued to revel in all things geek ever since. As a nod to our own romantic history, we decided to take a kid-free “geekaway” to The City by the Bay. With four days dedicated to all things intergalactic and cartoonish, we explored various geek-minded spots throughout the city and its neighboring towns. Here's how to plan your own geek's getaway to San Francisco and beyond.
Day 1: The Presidio
The Presidio was once a U.S. Army military fort on the northern tip of the San Francisco peninsula. Now it is home to museums, restaurants and former bunkers-turned-recreational centers. (Check out this one where students can work on lightsaber skills).
Walt Disney Family Museum
Start your day of exploring the Presidio at the Walt Disney Family Museum. Delve into curated nostalgia masterminded by Walt Disney. Founded in part by Walt Disney’s daughter, Diane Disney, the non-profit museum boasts interactive galleries and state-of-the-art, never-before-seen exhibits. There are also fantastic collections of everything from the earliest known drawing of Mickey Mouse to the original Victorian-style furnishings from Walt and wife Lillian’s Disneyland apartment.
The museum’s crowning jewel is a million-dollar scale model of Disneyland. Bringing to life all things built during or conceptualized during Walt Disney's lifetime, the hand-crafted model measures 14 feet in diameter. It's considered one of the most impressive masterpieces in the theme park industry.
Letterman Digital Arts Center
The Letterman Digital Arts Center is just a stone’s throw from the Walt Disney Family Museum. It houses Lucasfilm, founded by George Lucas in 1971. Production facilities are off limits to the public, but fans who are strong with the Force can geek out in front of the Yoda Fountain outside the main entrance.
Go on a weekday during normal business hours and step right into the lobby at Building B to marvel at the life-size statues of Darth Vader and Boba Fett (yes, it’s allowed). Browse maquettes, awards, and other souvenirs from the saga. My husband and I also had the exciting opportunity to spend an entire afternoon exploring Lucasfilm’s inner creative realm, and while no photographs are allowed within those working areas, it is truly the stuff of legend. Learn more about touring the Letterman Digital Arts Center here.
Explore as much of the 23-acre campus as you can while visiting, and take time to stroll along the beautiful paths and parkland outside. Keep an eye out for the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre as you walk. Originally constructed for the 1915 World's Fair, rumor has it this pseudo-classical building’s silhouette inspired George Lucas to create the domed look for R2-D2.
Day 2: Skywalker Ranch
Drive 45 minutes north on the 101 into Marin County, head west on Lucas Valley Road, and you’ll soon come across a nondescript gate with 5858 Lucas Valley Road on it. Behind it lies Skywalker Ranch. Hop out of the car for a quick selfie next to the gate. (There are no public tours of the property). But make it quick! Security will ask you to move along if you linger for more than a minute or two.
The storied location of Lucasfilm’s design, mixing and audio post-production facility is also on property. Called Skywalker Sound, it occupies the 153,000-square-foot Technical Building. It features a world-class scoring stage, six feature mix stages, 15 sound design suites, 50 editing suites, an ADR stage and two Foley stages. The pastoral property is also home to George Lucas’ fabled Main House along beautiful Lake Ewok and Skywalker Vineyards.
As you pull away onto the redwood-lined road, daydream about Endor and speeder bike chases. Most people don’t know some reshoots from Return of the Jedi were filmed within “the Maker’s” woods, and not just at the Redwood National Park and Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park.
Head 15 miles south on the 101, and you’ll soon reach San Rafael. Two miles west from there is the picturesque town of San Anselmo. George Lucas donated land to create the community’s Imagination Park. This small-town-square-type green space is bordered by rose bushes. Open to the public, its centerpieces are a life-size bronze Yoda statue and a life-size, 6-foot, 3-inch bronze Indiana Jones standing impressively atop a fountain.
Day 3: Rancho Obi-Wan
Nestled in the heart of Sonoma County at the intersection of Jedi Way and Yoda Trail lies Rancho Obi-Wan, the world’s largest privately-owned Star Wars collection-turned-museum. Just 30 minutes north of San Anselmo in the Rockwellian town of Petaluma, the 9,0000-square-foot building is home to four decades' worth of Star Wars collectibles. You can view merchandise, costumes, props, dioramas, models, museum replicas, artwork, toys, arcade games, and even food and drink from around the world. Super-collector Steve Sansweet currated all of it. Tours are open to the public, but only those to who become Rancho Obi-Wan members first.
Day 4: Charles Schulz Museum
Just 20 minutes north from Petaluma is Santa Rosa's Charles Schulz Museum, home to the largest collection of original Peanuts artwork in the world. The 27,000-square-foot museum takes direct inspiration from comics with clean, modern lines evoking comic strip boxes. Modest and comfortable, the museum reflects Schulz's laid-back style while reminding visitors of childhood's simple pleasures.
Among the museum's permanent exhibits are a kite-eating tree, a recreation of Charles Schulz's studio and Snoopy's doghouse. Look down at the oversized birdbath in the courtyard to see if you can spot holographic images of Snoopy and Woodstock. Afterwards, stop by the Warm Puppy Cafe, a neighborhood hangout serving locally-sourced organic coffee and ice cream – all with a nod to Snoopy and friends.
The drive back to San Francisco was a long one, but with so many geekchievements complete, my husband and I agreed that geekaways to other parts of the world should become a regular thing. Maybe we'll even bring the kids.
Want to see more? Check out #SWgeekaway on Instagram for even more nerdtastic discoveries we made along the way.
Have you ever visited San Francisco or taken a geek-inspired trip? Got any tips or questions not covered here? Let us know in the comments below!
A Note from The Offbeat Travel Mama: Many thanks to The Inn at the Presidio, Hotel Petaluma, and the kind folks at Lucasfilm and San Francisco Travel partners for helping us make our geekaway extra geeky. As always, opinions and experiences are my own. Also, this post includes affiliate links, which helps keep Travel Mamas a free resource for readers like you.