Disneyland History: 10 Big Events In Its First 10 Years


Disneyland began construction in 1954, building the theme park on 180 acres in a south Anaheim orange grove. The idea to make a theme park “the happiest place on Earth” came to Walt Disney as he sat on a bench and watched his daughter’s play at a destitute Griffith Park in California. While the park served its purpose with its fantastical merry-go-round and playground amenities, it was lacking in spirit and imagination. Disney wanted more, and the idea to build Disneyland soon derived and his dream would become a reality as the park opened on July 17, 1955.

Disneyland still under construction in 1955

This may come as a surprise to some readers out there, but Disneyland was a mess on opening day. Only 18 attractions were open at the time, with many of the lands (namely Tomorrowland) being void of many rides. Because of this, there were a lot of big events and time stamps during Disneyland’s first year. It was during this time that Walt Disney paved the way for new ideas and innovations to make the theme park what it is today.

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle still under construction in May, 1955

From the first Christmas Parade to the introduction of Grad Nite, here are 10 big events that happened at Disneyland in its first ten years!

1. July 13th, 1955 –Walt and Lillian’s 30th Anniversary

The very first event to take place within the walls of Disneyland was actually a romantic one. Four days before the park was the set to open, Walt and Lillian Disney celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary at the park. Their “Tempus Fugit Celebration” invited their closest friends and family to a night out on Mark Twain’s maiden voyage, followed by dinner at Slue-Foot Sue’s Golden Horseshoe.

Walt and Lillian, with daughter Diane, left, and Sharon, right, celebrating their 30th anniversary at the Golden Horseshoe just 4 days before Disneyland’s grand opening in 1955.

The night was celebrated by taking guests for an exclusive sneak peak at the wonders of the new park. They saw Frontierland before taking a cruise along the Rivers of America while enjoying fresh Mint Juleps. During the show at the Golden Horseshoe Saloon, Walt Disney himself got up onstage alongside comedians Wally Boag and Donald Novis to entertain his guests.

Walt’s daughter, Diana, later recalled the night for Bob Thomas’ Walt Disney: An American Original. Lillian also got up on stage to get her husband to come back down, but the crowd encouraged the couple to stay on stage. Lillian then brought up her daughters while the band played and guests began to dance. Diana remembers her father grinning from ear-to-ear. Within minutes of getting in their car to head back home, she recalls her father quietly fell asleep. After months working alongside tired designers and imagineers on his soon-to-debut theme park, the 30th wedding anniversary was a special event and well-deserved night off.