The Grand Opening of Disneyland

After one full year of rigorous construction demands and a total investment of $17 million, the gates of Disneyland opened for its first guests on Sunday, July 17, 1955, 14h EDT. A special 'International Press Preview' event was held, which was only open to invited guests.

Six thousand invitations to the Grand Opening had been mailed to studio workers, construction workers, the press and officials of company sponsors.

The highly anticipated Opening Day festivities, including the dedication and a parade, were covered by ABC with a 90 minute live special, 'Dateline Disneyland', broadcasted between 7h30 and 9h p.m. EDT and hosted by television personalities Art Linkletter, Ronald Reagan and Bob Cummings.

At the time, it was one of the largest and most complex live broadcasts ever. Ninety million viewers watched the coverage of the unveiling of the world’s most fabulous kingdom.

On day one, the Disneyland Park offered five themed 'lands' with a total of 20 attractions.

Adventureland & Frontierland.

Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Main Street USA.

But as the gates opened, all was not quite ready. Workmen were still planting trees and in some areas paint was wet to the touch. The asphalt on Main Street USA that had been poured just that morning was so soft that the spiked heels on woman’s shoes sank in.

The event did not go smoothly. The park was overcrowded as the by-invitation-only affair was plagued with counterfeit tickets. Only 11,000 people were expected to show up, but by mid-afternoon, over 28,000 ticket holders were heading for the Disneyland, causing unprecedented traffic jams.

Southern California was suffering from a record heat wave with temperatures of over a 100 degrees Fahrenheit. A plumbers' strike left many of the park's drinking fountains dry. Rides broke down shortly after opening and restaurants and refreshment stands ran out of food and drink. A gas leak in Fantasyland caused Adventureland, Frontierland, and Fantasyland to close for the afternoon.

During the event, Walt Disney didn’t know about all the things that were going wrong. His attention was consumed by the 'Dateline Disneyland' live broadcast. It wasn’t until the following day that he became aware via press accounts of what had happened.

Walt and his staff immediately took the necessary measures to deal with the problems of low ride capacity, congested walkways, traffic jams and slow food service. The press was invited back for a private "second day" to experience the true Disneyland.

Disneyland Park opened to the public on Monday, July 18, 1955 at 10 a.m. By 2 o’clock in the morning, people were already lining up outside the park’s gates. The first person to buy a ticket and enter the park was David MacPherson. He got admission ticket number two, as Roy O. Disney arranged to pre-purchase ticket number one.

Walt Disney had an official photo taken with two children, Christine Vess Watkins and Michael Schwartner.

Today, more than 55 years later, Disneyland has become a cultural phenomenon. Even though Walt Disney left us tome time ago, his legacy still lives on in the magical world he created. Disneyland truly proved to be a source of joy and inspiration to you, me and all of us!

So remember Walt, next time you walk into his footsteps towards that castle courtyard.

I certainly will.

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Tom Simpson
Neato Coolville
The Walt Disney Archives

Shared Knowledge

Submitted by Billy W Stephens on September 2, 2016 - 11:24 #

Myself and my cousin Jonnie Bransford held Mr Disney's hand and turned the key to open the gates to Disneyland. Mr Disney was wearing brown slacks and jacket and hat (similar to a zoot suit). Johnnie's dad Mr Donald Bransford was an employee.

It was the greatest day of my child hood. I'm 72 years old now, and will never forget being a part of history.

Mr Disney where ever you may be, myself and millions of children and parents wish to thank you for letting us share your dream in making a fantasy come true. WE ALL LOVE YOU. Who knows Walt, someday we all may meet again.

Submitted by Stephan C. Paliwoda on July 19, 2015 - 06:29 #

My father, Ambrozi ("Amby") Paliwoda had been a Disney artist for over 20 years at the time of the opening of Disneyland, so of course, he - as did all Disney Studios employees - received tickets for the opening day of Disneyland. Thus, came the day for the Grand Opening of Disneyland, Dad, Mom, my brother Jerry and my sisters Lisa and Amber drove to Disneyland that morning from our home in Manhattan Beach. There weren't as many freeways in the L.A. area as there are today, so Dad drove east from Manhattan along Artesia Boulevard, out to where he figured we were close to Disneyland. Trouble was, we had difficulty finding "The Park", because at that time, Orange County whose topography is, pretty flat, was filled with endless orange groves, which kept us from viewing Disneyland from any distance - until we finally (after about an hour of searching) came upon a large opening among the endless orange groves... and there was Disneyland! There were lots of people. I remember hearing Art Linkletter's voice come over the Public Address system, which was piped throughout the Park. I remember hearing him interviewing "Walt". I also remember that the lines to get on the rides were pretty long, so we kids got to go on only a few of them - but we didn't care; the magic of Disneyland had worked its spell on us the minute we saw the place. We all knew that day that we had participated in a very special event at a very special place. I'll never forget it.

Submitted by Burnie on June 24, 2015 - 19:07 #

My mom, her twin sister and their aunt attended opening day. In 1955, it was known as press day, July 17, 1955. The Grand Opening to the public was not until the following day. Disneyland is a special place for our whole family.


Submitted by Cynthia Fix on October 3, 2017 - 08:40 #

I was only two and my sister was 7 when our parents took us to Disneyland on the opening day to the public on July 18,1955. My whole family has such a connection to Disneyland. I go every other year and bring my grandchildren most of the time. We have celebrated many of our family special moments at Disneyland. Thank you so much Walt Disney. I don't think anyone has touched as many people as you have with the help of Mickey. My grandchildren have promised to take me to Disneyland when I can't make it on my own.

Submitted by Marilyn on August 5, 2017 - 04:00 #

I was there the first day. I can remember we were right near the drawbridge and we were waiting for it to come down. My Dad was getting impatient and wanted to leave, but we stayed. Then all of a sudden the drawbridge slowly came down and we all ran into Fantasyland. I can remember the big carousel. I was 4. Such a magical time for a small child!

Submitted by Randy Baker on February 1, 2017 - 06:52 #

I was five when it opened. Not sure when I went for the first time but if I remember correctly, the parking lot was not paved yet.

Submitted by Philippe Tusler on January 15, 2017 - 21:04 #

I was only two when it opened, but my dad went on opening day. He had a friend who got tickets, so they drove down. He always recounted how crowded it was, how little vegetation there was, and how he had to wait two hours in line to get a hotdog. We had a friend who lived in Laguna Beach, and I remember driving down the highway and seeing the "Rocket to the Moon" as we went past. In later years, it was the Matterhorn that was the most prominent landmark.

Submitted by mrsHN on January 17, 2016 - 19:49 #

I wish there was a list of invited people. My grandfather was invited because he worked for a sponsor company. He told me all about the ladies getting heals stuck in the asphalt and everything.

Submitted by Dan on May 25, 2015 - 19:55 #

I too was born on July 17th 1955, and will be celebrating my 60th, but wished I could be celebrating it in Disneyland.

Submitted by Richard Klein on May 22, 2015 - 03:03 #

I was there on July 18, 1955. It was my 10th birthday gift. We drove down from Spokane, WA. So crowded that we were only able to go on 2 or 3 rides... but that's OK... it was worth it! Thanks Mom and Dad... and thank you too Walt!

Submitted by Rob Morton on May 21, 2015 - 19:20 #

I was 9 when we went to Disneyland in August 1955 with my older cousin Tony and our mothers. My cousin spun the teacup ride so fast I passed out and was taken on a gurney to the infirmary behind the theater. My cousin continued on. I later awoke with smelling salts and they turned me loose to wander the park looking for my family which took a couple hours.

Before all this we charged through the gates and there was Walt on the steps of the town hall surrounded by fans. Mom had worked with Walt in the early days and was the fiddler pig voice in "The Three Little Pigs". I have a picture from the recording session.

Anyway, upon seeing Walt on the steps, I pleaded with mom to go over and say hello to him but she didn't think he would remember her. Oh well.

Submitted by Kathryn L. on April 24, 2015 - 05:01 #

My 89 year old mom, with dementia - and can't remember what she had for lunch - just told me that Disneyland opened on a Monday. I had to look it up, and she was right! I'll never know how she remembered that. She said that because she and dad took me, at 4 years old, to Disneyland that day! It's always been my favorite place to go and it is The Happiest Place on Earth!

Submitted by Jessica on April 3, 2014 - 08:53 #

On the day that I was born, Disneyland opened to the public. Pretty cool, right?


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