In the 60 plus years of the history of the Happiest Place on Earth, over a billion visitors have passed through the gates of the park. From opening day on July 17, 1955 all the way through to today, celebrities, politicians, world class athletes, musicians have all sought out the park for a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
If you’ve ever spotted a celebrity at Disneyland, you’ll notice their party is usually being escorted by the red and blue plaid vests wearing VIP guides. Well, those VIPs guides aren’t free. Like everything in the Magic Kingdom, it’ll cost ya–a lot. Depending on the time of year, VIP service can cost between $360-500 per hour. So, a typical 8 hour day in Disneyland in peak season might set you back 4 grand or so just for your VIP guide alone! That’s before the cost of admission for family and friends and a few churros and turkey legs.
While it’s true that celebs do get “expedited access” to the park’s attractions, there are a number of perks they aren’t automatically entitled to just because they’re a household name. Take the ultra-exclusive Club 33 for example: Even if you’re a member of the invitation-only organization, you still need to call and make reservations for the day of your visit. There may be a few exceptions to this policy (Johnny Depp and other Disney mega-earners are squeezed in) but as a rule, there’s no table waiting with your name on it.
Walt Disney was once asked why he didn’t run for President. He replied, “Why would I want to be President of the United States? I’m the King of Disneyland.” He did, however, begin a long tradition of inviting world leaders and a number of U.S. Presidents to the park, beginning in 1957 with Harry and Bess Truman. They took advantage of a number of attractions but eschewed Dumbo the Flying Elephant reportedly because the lifelong democrat didn’t want to be photographed with a symbol of the Republican party.
One politician who was denied a visit to Disneyland was Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. During his eleven-day visit to the U.S. in 1959, Khrushchev expressed interest in seeing Disneyland while in Los Angeles. However, the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) chief declined to arrange such a trip because adequate security arrangements could not be made. In typical style, the Premier responded saying, “And I say, ‘I would very much like to go and see Disneyland.’ But then, we cannot guarantee your security, they say. Then what must I do? Commit suicide? What is it? Is there an epidemic of cholera there or something? Or have gangsters taken hold of the place that can destroy me?”
Well, old Nikita was a rare exception in a rich history of iconic figures to be welcomed to Anaheim. From John F. Kennedy to Katy Perry, check out this collection of the famous figures to visit the park over the last six decades.
1 Walt Disney Admirer Michael Jackson Visited the Park Countless Times
This photo from a 1974 ABC Special “Sandy in Disneyland” starring actress Sandy Duncan included the Jackson 5.
Here is is in 1980 celebrating Disneyland's 25th anniversary by performing on the TV special Kraft Salutes Disneyland’s 25th Anniversary.