On July 17, 1955, Southern California unveiled the Happiest Place on Earth with the opening of Disneyland Park in Anaheim.
The iconic theme park at 1313 Disneyland Drive, a sprawling area covered with orange groves, was a dream come true and a design come to life for Walt Disney. Construction began in 1954 and the magical place where parents and children could have fun together opened its gates a year later.
The moment was captured in a famous photo that shows eager children dashing through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. An iconic photo for the ages: Children dash through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle on July 17, 1955, Disneyland’s very first day.
The opening ceremonies included celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan and Art Linkletter, and were full of pomp, music, and the eternal words of Walt Disney, which may be found upon a plaque near the Main Street flagpole:
“To all who come to this happy place, welcome…” is the opening sentence known by fans around the world.
Opening Day at Disneyland in 1955?
It was warm, very warm, on that fabled July 17th.
Busy, too: Just about everyone wanted a look at Walt Disney’s famous dream.
Two months before she “awoke” to opening day visitors, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle was getting a few final touches from construction workers.
Walt Disney wanted this castle to be a friendly and welcoming presence in his park so it was built on a smaller scale than its European counterparts.
The Disneyland Hotel opened across the street from Disneyland in 1955, but was built and owned by Walt’s friend, Jack Wrather until purchased from The Wrather Corporation in 1988. The Disneyland Monorail track was expanded in 1961 to transport guests to and from the hotel, making it the only monorail in the country to cross a public street.
Former child star and future diplomat Shirley Temple joins Walt Disney at the opening of the Sleeping Beauty Castle walk-through at Disneyland on April 29, 1957. The walk-through, located inside the iconic castle, featured the story of Disney’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ told through a series of dioramas.
Walt Disney reviews a model for the Matterhorn Bobsleds which opened in 1959 at a height of 147 feet.
One of Disneyland’s original attractions from opening day and arguably Walt Disney’s personal favorite, the trains of the Disneyland Railroad provide guests an overall view of the park as well as the Grand Canyon and Primeval World dioramas.
This later photo shows the railroad in the 1960s.
Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room was the first attraction to feature sophisticated Audio-Animatronics figures.
It debuted on June 23, 1963 with more than 200 birds, tikis, and flowers. (Disneyland Resort)
Walt Disney “meets” some residents of the It’s a Small World attraction at Disneyland in California, during construction in May, 1966.
One of the most popular Disney attractions of all time, the show is a fun-filled and whimsical salute to the children of the world that conveys its message of peace and harmony through the international language of music.