San Francisco Geek’s Guide (Star Wars & Comics Fans!)

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 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.

A Geek's Guide to San Francisco and Beyond for Star Wars Fans and Comics Lovers
A Geek’s Guide to San Francisco and Beyond for Star Wars Fans and Comics Lovers (Photo credit: Pilar Clark)

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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 Golden Gate Knights where students can work on lightsaber skills.)

With interactive exhibits narrated by Walt Disney himself, this museum features the life and legacy of his creative genius (Photo credit: Pilar Clark)

Walt Disney Family Museum

Start your day off exploring the Presidio at the Walt Disney Family Museum to delve into curated Disney nostalgia. The non-profit museum was founded in part by Walt Disney’s daughter, Diane Disney. It 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.

Known as "The Disneyland of Walt's Imagination," this scale model is a million-dollar masterpiece ~ Can you spot the miniature figures of Walt and his oldest daughter, Diane, walking through the castle into Fantasyland? ~ San Francisco for Star Wars Fans and Comics Lovers,
Known as “The Disneyland of Walt’s Imagination,” this scale model is a million-dollar masterpiece ~ Can you spot the miniature figures of Walt and his oldest daughter, Diane, walking through the castle into Fantasyland? (Photo credit: Pilar Clark)

The museum’s crowning jewel is a million-dollar scale model of Disneyland. The hand-crafted model measures 14 feet in diameter and brings to life all things built or conceptualized during Walt Disney’s lifetime. It’s considered one of the most impressive masterpieces in the theme park industry.

Yoda Fountain at Letterman Digital Arts Center ~ San Francisco for Star Wars Fans
Yoda Fountain at Letterman Digital Arts Center (Photo credit: Pilar Clark)

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 by the Yoda Fountain outside the main entrance. 

Life-size replicas of Darth Vader and Boba Fett await visitors to Lucasfilm’s lobby (Photo credit: Pilar Clark)

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.

Some fans say the Palace of Fine Arts inspired George Lucas to give R2-D2 his iconic domed shape (Photo credit: Pilar Clark)

Palace of Fine Arts Theatre

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.

Star Wars
Situated just outside San Francisco, Skywalker Ranch is the legendary home to Lucasfilm’s celebrated sound design, mixing and audio post-production facility, Skywalker Sound (Photo credit: Pilar Clark)

Day 2: Skywalker Ranch

Drive 45 minutes north on Highway 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.

Skywalker Ranch
Housed at Skywalker Ranch, Skywalker Sound is the sound effects, sound editing, sound design, sound mixing and music recording division of Lucasfilm (Photo credit: Pilar Clark)

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.

Rancho Obi-Wan Petaluma
This offbeat museum is a non-profit whose sole purpose is to serve the Star Wars community through its world record-holding collection of Star Wars memorabilia and artifacts (Photo credit: Pilar Clark)

Imagination Park

Head 15 miles south on the 101, and you’ll soon reach San Rafael. Two miles west of 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.

Star Wars
When it comes to collecting all things Star Wars-related, the Force is strong with Steve Sansweet (Photo credit: Pilar Clark)

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 curated all of it. Tours are open to the public, but only those who become Rancho Obi-Wan members first.

Dedicated to the works of Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip, this museum houses a collection that resonates with childhood (Photo credit: Pilar Clark)

Day 4: Charles M. Schulz Museum

Just 20 minutes north of Petaluma is Santa Rosa’s Charles M. Schulz Museum. It is 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.

Designed by Yoshiteru Otani, this mural is composed of 5,388 ceramic tiles, which translates to 10 years worth of daily comic strips originally published between 1956 and 1988 (Photo credit: Pilar Clark)

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.

Afterward, stop by the Warm Puppy Café. This neighborhood hangout serves 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.

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, my opinions and experiences are my own.

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  1. I love San Francisco. I am from Scotland but I have family in Anaheim, Southern California. Whenever I visit we usually make a road trip to SF. It’s been a while since I’ve been there (10+ years) – I’m a geek at heart though and I’ll be sure to check out your recommendations on our next trip.

    1. Scotland is near and dear to my heart, Raymond! As is San Francisco of course. Let us know how your adventures go!

  2. I have to show my husband this post, because he and my son are star wars obsessed! They are even going to the conference in Orlando!

    1. Love it, Brianne! My husband is going to that same conference for his annual “boy’s weekend” trip, and he’s old hat when it comes to Star Wars conventions and the like. I think your son is going to have an absolute BLAST alongside your husband. So much to see, do and geek out about!

    1. You got it, Kiwi! Thanks for taking the time to comment. And yes, San Francisco is a veritable haven for the geeks among us. You must go!

    1. Skywalker Ranch is inimitable in terms of beauty, scope and generally geekiness. It was a bucket list adventure for sure.

  3. Fantastic list of places to visit in San Francisco! I would love to visit the Walt Disney Family Museum first. My second destination would be Rancho Obi-Wan. Such cool places for a Disney and Star Wars fan like me.

  4. We loved our trip to San Fransisco. One of our favorite places was the Musée Mécanique located on the Pier. We all loved it.

  5. It would definitely be cool to see the scale model of Disneyland at the museum. Exploring the area around the Letterman Digital Arts Center would be super nice too.

    1. The scale model is absolutely fascinating, Liz! I easily spent more than an hour marveling over it and trying to take in every single detail. The Letterman Digital Arts campus is beautiful. Lots of parkland, paths and of course, gorgeous views.

    1. San Francisco is a never-ending love letter for sure, Marcie. Be sure to let us know if you check out any of the stops mentioned!

    1. It’s definitely a humdinger for those looking for Star Warsian adventures stateside, Pam! Please be sure to share this itinerary with geeks you love 🙂

  6. I love, love, LOVE San Francisco. It is the geeky holy land. There is nowhere else that you can simultaneously bask in the glow of comic books, Star Wars, Peanuts, and more in one city. It’s totally awesome.

    1. Preach. San Francisco has always been, and always will be one of my all-time favorite cities for all the reasons you mentioned above.