The Most Iconic Disney Locations In California (Outside Of Disneyland)

Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and the whole gang have had an extra pep in their step recently because 2023 marked the 100th anniversary of The Walt Disney Company. While we've already entered a new year at this point, there's nothing wrong with keeping the party going. After all, there's always something to celebrate at a Disney theme park. However, as iconic as Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and the other parks around the world are, there are plenty of other landmarks that also hold great significance to the Disney legacy.

For example, if you're spending time in Chicago, you can find The Walt Disney Birthplace near the Logan Square neighborhood of the Windy City. In Northern California, The Walt Disney Family Museum regales visitors to San Francisco with the tale of the life and legacy of Walter Elias Disney to educate and inspire dreamers of the present and future.

Yet as amazing and worthwhile as these locations are to visit when it comes to The Golden State, Southern California is more synonymous with the House of Mouse. Not only is the company headquarters located in Burbank, but millions of Disney fans of all ages flock to Anaheim to visit the Disneyland Resort every year. Although, if you're looking to take in more Disney history during your trip to SoCal, there are a few significant locations to be found in and around Los Angeles, which is just a short trip north of the "Happiest Place On Earth" on Interstate 5.

Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio

Despite the Disney Studio Lot being located at 500 S. Buena Vista Street today, this wasn't always the location of the empire that Walt and Roy Disney built. When the brothers from Kansas City, Missouri arrived in California in 1923 to work in animation, their first office space (aside from their uncle's garage in Los Feliz) was located in the back of the Holly-Vermont Realty Company office at 4651 Kingswell Avenue. Eventually, they would move into a bigger space next door, but it was still in this same building that the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio was born.

During this period of the company's timeline, the Disneys produced a successful series of silent short films known as "The Alice Comedies" for Winkler Pictures as a replacement for Felix the Cat, whose distribution rights were picked up by Educational Pictures in 1925. Already revolutionizing cartoons this early in their careers thanks to Alice and a team of animators led by the legendary Ub Iwerks, these shorts featured a live-action child that interacted with an animated world. At present, the building is no longer the home of an animation studio. Instead, the space is occupied by a skate shop and tattoo parlor known as KINGSWELL, but they do feature an art gallery space as well. And a few feet away, the Extra Copy business next door keeps the memory of the historic Disney site alive with signage and decorations paying tribute to the block's former occupants.

Tam O'Shanter

Many people love to unwind after a hard day's work by visiting their favorite bar and having a drink. Walt Disney was definitely among those people and his watering hole of choice was Glendale's Tam O'Shanter. Possibly drawn to the Scottish-themed restaurant's storybook cottage-esque design, Disney would often stop in on his way home from the studio, which relocated to Silver Lake by the 1930s. The Tam was even nicknamed "the Disney Studio commissary" since the innovative filmmaker and his employees could often be found at Table 31, which fans can reserve today and admire drawings carved into it by past Disney animators and Imagineers.

In honor of the establishment's centennial in 2022, Disney Imagineering gifted them a painting by Imagineer and Executive Creative Designer Chris Turner that features Mickey Mouse sporting traditional Scottish attire in front of a wall adorned with pictures of Disneyland attractions that were developed within Tam O'Shanter's whimsical walls.

Along with paying tribute to Walt and his studio by proudly displaying this painting, the restaurant also created a drink in his honor. While enjoying their signature world-famous prime rib, guests can enjoy a specialty cocktail known as the Table 31, which is made with rye whiskey, apple brandy, elderflower liqueur, lemon, and bitters. Alternatively, you could also enjoy Disney's regular drink of choice: A Scotch Mist. Although, it's worth noting that The Tam takes scotch very seriously as their collection features over 600 different labels from around the world.

The Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round

Famously, Walt Disney proclaimed that Disneyland "will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world." But what gave this visionary the idea for the beloved theme park in the first place? Well, it was actually another Los Angeles landmark that inspired the fan-favorite vacation destination.

When his daughters Sharon and Diane were young, he would take them to Griffith Park near their home in Los Feliz and they would ride the carousel. As the kids rode the famous merry-go-round, their father would have to sit on a bench nearby and just wait for them to finish. But according to an interview shared by The Disney Parks Blog, Disney wanted to create an experience "where the parents and the children could have fun together." With that one little spark, the fire that birthed Disneyland was born.

Unfortunately, the iconic attraction installed in the park in 1937 is currently closed. While the structure still stands, the ride hasn't been operational since the summer of 2022. The last post on their official Instagram from June 27, 2022, says that the merry-go-round is temporarily closed for repairs. Additionally, Friends of Griffith Park noted in an article from July 2023 that there is also a situation regarding ownership after co-owner and manager Julio Gosdinski passed away in 2020 that could be delaying things. Hopefully, all of these issues will be resolved soon and the ride is restored to its former glory for future generations to enjoy.