Today marks the official 60th anniversary of Disneyland, Walt Disney's passion project that has expanded and grown to be one of Southern California's most iconic landmarks. Along with the incredible personal moments, ride openings, and the growth of a passionate following of Disneybounding fans, Disneyland has shined as a beacon of happiness for so many, spawning several similar parks throughout the world. In honor of this incredible Diamond Anniversary, here's a look at the ten most magical moments in the park's history.
1. Opening Day - July 17th, 1955
With an admission cost of $1 for adults, and roughly 50 cents for children, Disneyland's opening day saw a frenzy of families eager to experience the highly anticipated park. One exceptionally lucky family (who had planned to be in Mexico that day), by circumstance of their niece scraping her knee outside, was pulled into the park before everyone else - effectively making this girl and her cousin, who had insisted they go to the park and recruited her to help him - the first boy and girl to enter Disneyland.
They were guided around the park by Walt Disney himself, and today, the cousins - Michael Schwartner and Christine Vess - will return once again to enter the park, just like they did decades ago.
2. First Ever Grad Nite - June 15, 1961
For anyone who has ever grown up within driving distance of a Disney park, Grad Nite is something of a rite of passage when one finally completes high school, and easily one of the most anticipated senior events of the year. My grad nite -- at Walt Disney World in 2006 -- gave me a look into a park that was only open to myself and my classmates, making for quick lines, unique experiences, and one-on-one meetings with my favorite characters.
Sadly, this spectacular one-night event no longer takes place at Disneyland (it was ended in 2012 - thanks, kids!) but in 1961, over 8,000 students from the year's graduating class experienced the first in a series of milestones for students across the country. What's more, their experience was much more lax than the 4pm-to-12am regulations that my class had to abide by - the Class of '61 partied at the park until sunrise at 5 AM the next morning. Congrats, grads of the past!
3. Space Mountain Opens in an All-New Tomorrowland - May 27, 1977
While Tomorrowland debuted as something of a World's Fair replica in 1955 when the park opened, the opening of Space Mountain (a few years after Walt Disney World debuted their own on the east coast) marked a makeover for the area, bringing the fantastic oddities of our imaginations to life with a rip-roaring futuristic rollercoaster.
Space Mountain continues to be a staple attraction at the park to this day, alongside two other rollercoaster rides which debuted at the park in the following years - the now-newly reopened Big Thunder Mountain, and the much-beloved river-based thrill ride, Splash Mountain.
4. Happy 50th Birthday, Mickey Mouse! - November 18th, 1978
After 50 years, the iconic mascot of all things Disney had gone from a strange nightmare-making rat creature to the friendly, round-faced scoundrel that we love today. For Mickey's 50th, Disneyland went all-out, throwing a park-wide party that involved every character in their roster.
A parade accompanied the celebrations, leading up to the Mouse himself cutting his birthday cake to the applause of over 91,000 park guests. Mickey has celebrated his milestone birthdays several times in the park, but this celebration attracted people from all over the world, packing the park to the brink of it's capacity at that time.
5. The Indiana Jones Adventure Opens - March 3, 1995
Considered one of the most innovative, immersive and timeless rides at the park, the Indiana Jones Adventure featured three different paths and an interactive line experience. Pulling ropes, pressing stones and interacting with one's surroundings (along with decoding the messages on the walls) kept young fans enthralled during the wait.
Guests are carted down a wild track on an EMV with Neoprene-filled tires, with each ride vehicle capable of over 160,000 individual movements, making every trip unique. Indiana Jones himself popped up throughout the adventure to assist his newfound weary friends - or, if you listen to him, a bunch of annoying tourists. "Why does it always have to be tourists?!"
6. The Debut of Fastpass - "Late" 1999
With overwhelming crowds and ever-growing interest in the parks events and attractions, Disney took a page out of Hollywood's ticketing system and created the FastPass, where guests could grab tickets to rides and attractions at scheduled times.
This became a fan-favorite practice, though park attendees would quickly learn that there's no such thing as stocking up on fast passes. Guests were issued one fast pass at a time, and could only get another when they'd turned in their last pass. Regardless, it's now a park tradition, and any clever visitor knows that beelining for your fast pass as soon as you get into the park is the right thing to do.
7. Disney's California Adventure Opens - February 8, 2001
With Walt Disney World ahead of the game as far as spin-off parks went (Disney's Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom -- along with three water parks, a handful of resorts and a gigantic sports epicenter), Disneyland officials moved forward and opened California Adventure, a celebration of the West Coast Wonder that looked into the history and adventure of the California.
The park hosts a handful of interactive attractions, and features one of this writer's favorite Disney restaurants, Carthay Circle. (If you meet Adrian the Bartender there -- tip him well! He'll give you great reason to.)
8. Olympic Champs Swim Through Main Street - October 5, 2004
Disneyland's first ever swim meet was attended by Olympic greats such as Michael Phelps, Lenny Krayzelburg and Ian Crocker, along with local swim club champs, in a gigantic celebration of their victories in Athens earlier that year.
In what can only be described as an epic feat of imagineering, Disneyland cast members constructed a gigantic pool, spanning 50 meters of Main Street U.S.A., in just under 30 hours. The pool was 24’ feet wide to accommodate three separate swimming lanes, and 3.5 feet deep. Roughly 103,944 gallons of water were heated to a comfortable 80 degrees fahrenheit for the Olympic swimmers and their teams.
9. Disneyland's First Ever Female Jedi Masters - May 7, 2015
While Walt Disney World has had women at the helm of it's Jedi Training Academy for some time, the ladies of the Jedi order have been taking Padawan and Knight status at Disneyland for a few years (shoutout to Disneyland's best female Jedi Knight, Tier-Kai). The news was so big amongst fans of Star Wars that it made headlines across the internet.
Jedi Masters Mar-Klaar and Mavishall Helline now reside at the Academy in Tomorrowland, teaching young Padawans the ways of the Force and looking ultra cool while doing it. Check out Master Mar-Klaar's introduction here.
10. Disneyland's Diamond 60th Anniversary - July 17, 2015
Happening as I write this, Disneyland's official 60th anniversary marks six decades of imagineering, magic, and wonder. Along with the park-wide celebrations, guests have the chance to win special prizes at the ticket gate -- including actual diamonds.
Special themed foods, in-the-park prizes at random, and an incredible diamond-studded parade line the streets throughout the day - so try and hop on Periscope if you're not in the park for all of the action right now.