10 Things to Know About Disneyland’s Opening Day in 1955

The Disneyland gates on July 17, 1955.

Disneyland Park originally opened in the summer of 1955. Since then, the park has undergone many renovations and expansions—all of which add to the overall experience.

In fact, they are currently building a new Star Wars-themed area, which is set to open in 2019. Needless to say, there have been many changes over the past few decades.

Curious to know what the park was like back in the ‘50s? On this particular page, we’ll be taking a look at Disneyland’s opening day—a magical event that took place over 60 years ago.

1. It was Invitation Only

Guests near the entrance of Disneyland on opening day.

Disneyland opened on Sunday, July 17, 1955, after a little over a year of construction. To the disappointment of many, however, the grand opening was invitation only.

Only certain individuals were allowed to attend such as friends and families of employees, studio workers, the press, and company sponsors.

Several celebrities including Frank Sinatra, Debbie Reynolds, and Jerry Lewis also took part in the event. In total, more than 16,000 invitations were sent out.

2. Over 28,000 People Attended the Grand Opening

A large crowd forms near the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland.

Despite the fact that only 16,000 invitations were mailed out, Disneyland’s opening day saw more than 28,000 people.

Eager to visit the park, many had gotten ahold of counterfeit tickets—something that was unanticipated even by the executives. Perhaps even more amazing, however, is the fact that some people climbed inside using a ladder!

To make matters worse, those who entered the park in the morning stayed all day. As a result, Disneyland was jam-packed by the time it was mid-day as a second group entered in the afternoon.

3. The Event was Broadcast Live on Television

The grand opening of Disneyland was quite a big deal. As a matter of fact, the whole event was broadcast live by ABC, who sent many anchormen to the park.

Despite everyone’s best efforts, however, there were still a few mishaps. For instance, Bob Cummings was caught kissing one of the dancers; at one point, Walt also stumbled with the reading of the Tomorrowland plaque.

That’s not all though—apparently, park-goers also tripped over the wires that were on the ground during the telecast.

4. The Drinking Fountains were Out of Order

Most of the concession stands at the park had long lineups.

Unfortunately, Disneyland’s grand opening coincided with a Plumber’s strike. The outcome? All of the drinking fountains at the park were out of order (they were lucky to have working toilets, really).

To quench their thirst, people had to buy from vendors. Disappointed, many were left to believe that the whole thing was a ploy set up by Disney to increase beverage sales.

5. It Was Super Hot

July 17, 1955, was abnormally hot, even for Anaheim.

As if broken water fountains weren’t bad enough, the weather was also extremely hot. Allegedly, the temperature had reached over 100°F (~38°C)—which was unusually high, even for Anaheim.

In fact, it got so bad that parts of the asphalt began to melt down; some people even got their shoes stuck in the pavement at Main Street, U.S.A.

6. There were 18 Attractions

A group of children running towards Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel in Fantasyland.

Disneyland opened with 18 attractions in 1955. Some of the more popular ones included Autopia, Jungle Cruise, Mad Tea Party, King Arthur Carrousel, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and Mark Twain Riverboat, most of which are still at the park today.

It was hardly smooth sailing, however, for many of the rides broke down during the day. At one point, the Mark Twain Riverboat even sank into the mud!

It goes without saying that many were disappointed with how things had turned out.

7. The Sleeping Beauty Castle Almost Caught on Fire

The Sleeping Beauty Castle stands at the center of the theme park.

Not long after Disneyland opened, a gas leak prompted three areas to close—Fantasyland, Adventureland, and Frontierland. Supposedly, the flames even grasped at the Sleeping Beauty Castle!

ortunately, though, they were able to fix the problem before it got out of hand. As a matter of fact, Walt Disney himself didn’t even know about the incident until the next day!

8.  The Park Ran Out of Food and Drinks

Disneyland quickly ran out of food and drinks due to the large crowd.

Overcrowded, the park quickly ran out of food and drinks in a matter of hours. Not only were concession stands emptied, but restaurants were also devoid of ingredients.

Alas, the inventory that they had prepared was simply not enough for the unexpected influx of guests. Couple this with the fact that the water fountains weren’t working, and you can see how it was quite a disaster!

9. You Had to Pay to Go On the Rides

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride opened with Disneyland in 1955.

The park was a little different back in the ‘50s. Instead of being able to go on the rides for free (given that you’ve purchased an admission ticket), you had to pay separately for each attraction.

On Disneyland’s opening day, this amount ranged anywhere from $0.25 to $0.35 ($2.35 to $3.30 today) for adults and $0.10 to $0.25 ($1 to $2.35 today) for children, depending on the ride.

With that said, guests were able to enjoy several shows for free.

10. The Park was Not Completely Finished

Several things were not yet finished despite being Disneyland’s opening day.

Once the gates opened, it became obvious to visitors that Disneyland was not completely finished.

Not only was there wet paint in certain places, but the riverbank along Canal Boats of the World was covered with weeds. Throughout the park, workers could also be seen planting trees in various areas.

Furthermore, several of the attractions were not yet ready including The Rocket to the Moon, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant.

Would You Have Attended Disneyland’s Opening Day?

How big of a Disney fan are you? Would you have gone to Disneyland’s opening day knowing that all those things would happen?

Let us know in the comments below!


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