Jungle Cruise? King Arthur Carrousel? Autopia? Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride? What is Your Favorite Attraction from Opening Day, July 17, 1955?

Heather Hust Rivera

by , Vice President, Consumer Products

The 55th anniversary of Disneyland park is tomorrow! Today’s post concludes our 11-week countdown as we look back to the very beginning of this magical place – the first five years.

A lot of great attractions opened in this five-year period, but the original attractions from opening day certainly stand apart from the rest.

On opening day, there were 18 ticketed adventures and five free attractions or exhibits in four themed lands and on Main Street, U.S.A. Many of these original attractions remain in the Park today, including King Arthur Carrousel, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Jungle Cruise, Mad Tea Party, Peter Pan’s Flight, Autopia, Disneyland Railroad, Horse-Drawn Streetcars, Mark Twain Riverboat and Main Street Cinema.

We went into the Park and asked guests, “What is your favorite attraction from opening day, July 17, 1955?” Here’s what they had to say:

Let us know in the comments what your favorite attraction is from opening day, but before you do, make sure you brush up on your knowledge of the early years that made Disneyland park what it is today.

1960 – Just five years after opening its gates, Disneyland park continued to add new experiences. Nature’s Wonderland, based on Walt Disney’s film series ”True-Life Adventures,” opened in Frontierland, allowing passengers to travel by mine train or pack mule through Beaver Valley and the Living Desert. A new production in Circarama debuted, called “America the Beautiful.” Nine screens surrounded the audience with scenes from across the nation. “Dixieland at Disneyland” staged its inaugural performance with six Disneyland bands for a musical procession of boats and rafts on the Rivers of America, followed by concerts throughout the park.

1959 – Let the expansion begin! Three of the most famous Disneyland park icons made their debuts in 1959. Vice President Richard Nixon and his family were on hand to dedicate the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail System and were among the first to experience Walt Disney’s “highway in the sky.” The Matterhorn Bobsleds, considered the world’s first steel roller coaster, opened as the first coaster to allow multiple cars to run simultaneously on the same track. The eight original Disneyland submarines began their voyage in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in Tomorrowland. The “E-ticket” is introduced, entitling admission to select attractions. The tradition of Rose Bowl football teams visiting Disneyland park prior to the Pasadena New Year’s Day Game begins, with University of Washington and the University of Wisconsin.

1958 – The first Candlelight Procession took place on Main Street, U.S.A., and Dennis Morgan received the honor of being the first narrator. The special holiday event took place on two separate nights telling the story of Christmas with a full orchestra and mass choir. Guests could now take a trip down the rabbit hole with the introduction of the Fantasyland classic attraction Alice in Wonderland. The Sailing Ship Columbia, a full-size replica of an 18th-century sailing ship, began to navigate the Rivers of America. The 96-year-old Hopi Indian Chief Nevangnewa blessed the trains of the Santa Fe and Disneyland Railroad during dedication ceremonies for the Grand Canyon Diorama, the world’s longest diorama depicting the chief’s homeland.

1957 – Legendary film star Shirley Temple Black and Walt Disney were on hand to open Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough. Guests climbed a staircase through the castle and walked by miniature dioramas that told the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty. A section of the park was added called Holidayland. In the new area, guests could hold a company picnic, group events or conventions and dances. Date Nite at Disneyland park became the hot spot on Friday and Saturday nights from June to September with four Big Bands performing. The first celebration of New Year’s Eve took place on Dec. 31 with 7,500 guests.

1956 – In the same year Disneyland park welcomed its 5-millionth guest, an expansion opened in Frontierland, including Tom Sawyer’s Island and Rafts, Rainbow Caverns Mine Train, Rainbow Mountain Stage Coaches, Rainbow Ridge Pack Mules, Indian Village and Indian War Canoes. The official Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher came from Hannibal, Missouri, to dedicate Tom Sawyer Island. In the Indian Village, an authentic tribe performed hourly dances for guests. The first Easter parade was held on April 1, and in the same year the first Disneyland park fireworks display debuted high in the sky.

1955 – This was the year! It only took a year to construct Walt Disney’s grand vision of “The Happiest Place on Earth.” On July 17, 1955, the first guests descended upon Anaheim for their chance to step into the movies at the Magic Kingdom. A 90-minute live broadcast on ABC network TV introduced the park to the world. There were 15,000 invited guests (more than 28,000 showed up through a mix-up in tickets), including dozens of Hollywood movie and TV celebrities. Co-hosts during the live broadcast were actors Ronald Reagan and Bob Cummings, TV’s Art Linkletter and network anchor Hank Weaver.

The opening day dedication speech presented by Walt Disney can be found on a plaque in Town Square:
Opening day dedication speech by Walt Disney on Town Square plaque

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series. I know I’ve had fun putting it together. If you’d like to review posts that cover other years in Disneyland park’s history, click the “Countdown to 55” link below.


  • i love jungle cruise because all the jokes the director makes and i also love Mr toad wild ride my grandpa took me on it. it was so much fun.

  • WoW….I’m as old as Disneyland!!! It is still my favorite place and my earliest recollection was this round “Home of the Future”, and the Matterhorn! My children and grandchildren are still fascinated with Micky Mouse & Disneyland because it is THE HAPPIEST PLACE IN THE WORLD!!

  • # 1 is the Horse drawn street car. Good chance to look at all the wonderful magic decor. The conductors enthusiasm is a great start to the day.
    #2 is the Park Train. I remember going to Disneyland with my grandfather when I was young. He was an old German Farmer. I recall
    how in awe he was of the ride. As an adult it not only brings back great memories of my grandfather but makes me realize how amazing it all must have been to him.

  • It is impossible to choose! Each is so special. Our family has been going to Disney 2-3 times a year for the last 15 years (our kids are now 16 & 17) Peter Pan is truly magical ride. Mr. Toad is so much fun. We take The Disney RR to get around the park and enjoy the view. Autotopia is not as good as it once was in my opinion. Jungle Cruise Rocks! I don’t care how many times we go on, we love to see the backside of water. Where else but the Happiest place on earth could yousee that! but you are forgetting one major opening day attraction, Main Street. Nothing beats the very first thrill of walking in to DL on Magic Morning, when you feel you have the park almost to yourselves, you can see the fresh washed streets, vendors just opening,almost smell the excitement, and hear in your head the song of “Walking right down the middle of Main Street USA” So i can’t choose but I agree with one thing from most who posted..

  • Happy 55th Anniversary, Disney….Walt really knew what he was doing and you have proved it over and over again…I hope to celebrate my 60th birthday with them next year with ALL my family…what a wonderful celebration…hoping for a FREE trip! Many more years of “miles of smiles”…Disney!!!!

  • I have to say Peter Pans flight .feeling like I’m flying over a Peter Ellenshaw original matte painting of London still gives me goosebumps with Tinkerbell on one side and Mary Poppins on the other it can’t be beat. As for the ppl mover never got to ride it but the bubble cars from the incredibles would fit and be contemporary replacement. Cool too.

  • I love Peter Pan! My daughter loves the carrousel (she rode it 3 times). As a family we love the jungle cruise! I have to agree with everyone anout the people mover! Also did i hear correctly that they are taking out Star Tours?!?! NO NO NO!!! I know they have that jedi academy thing, which is cool, but it is no star tours!

  • My Favorite Ride has to be the Matterhorn. I remember one time it was like 10 mins to park closing and my friend and I ran from Adventure land jungle cruise and got in line for the Matterhorn and got on in a matter of seconds. The line was so short that we rode it over and over again for about 5 times. We wanted to ride more but our group was waiting at the ride entrance begging us to stop so they could get some rest, yeah we didn’t listen we rode until the cast member told us the park was closing. It was awesome.

  • Its very hard for me to pick just one thing. The original Fantasyland rides such as King Arther Carrousel, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and Peter Pan’s Flight are great. I also love Jungle Cruise, and of course, the Disneyland Railroad is a classic, I love it.

    And I agree, the People Mover really needs to come back. Of course, it doesn’t have to look exactly like the original, but we really need that type ride back. Its sad to the the track not being used at all. I’m really hoping that is one of the top secret projects that WDI is working on!

  • Peter Pan – and yes I agree, please bring back the people mover, the track is still there

  • I’d vote for Jungle Cruise, but my sister (and Disney traveling companion) would probably vote for Peter Pan.

  • I was drug to Disneyland the second week it opened, silly me!
    You might see me with my fast pass shirts I wear at Disneyland.
    I am looking forward to Cars Land and Radiator Springs. I rode the flying saucers in 1961 and 62. I was not heavy enough and my saucer sucked to the surface. The new cars land is going to have a similar ride featuring flying tires. Now that I am over 60 years old, my favorite ride is eating at “Club 33”. Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, Peter Pan, Small World, Captain EO, how can you go wrong. See you all on July 17, 2015 for the 60th.

  • My favorite original attraction, hands down, is Mr Toad’s Wild Ride … but I have to agree with Tony and everyone else above … Please bring back the People Mover in Tomorrowland! I’ve missed it for SOOOO long! It really was a favorite of mine. I loved getting to whisk around inside Space Mountain and have time to actually SEE the details inside that you miss when you are on the coaster!

  • My favorite attraction from opening day is the Disneyland Railroad. Without that, and the berm it stands on, Disneyland would be a very different park. Plus, it’s just a wonderful ride, especially with the Grand Canyon Diarama and Primeval World (although they were added later).

  • FYI, the name of the 1959 submarine attraction was not 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but rather Submarine Voyage, hence why the current attraction is called Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. 20K was at Walt Disney World.

  • Mr. Toads Wild Ride has been a ’55 favorite of mine for a long time. its so epic and stunning. King Arthurs Caroussel is pretty epic too. OH heck I just loved that it opened Peroid! It was also in my backyard for 9 great years. and this year it will be again 😀

  • However, the Autopia is a close 2nd

  • I hate seeing the old people mover track sit there and rust away. That attraction needs to be brought back for sure!

  • I think Peter Pan is a beautiful attraction, but the one I go on the most of the originals is the Disneyland Railroad. It used to be kind of a tradition in our family to go on it, once all around the park, as the last one before going home. I still love the Grand Canyon and Primeval World dioramas.

  • Day one? Gotta be the Jungle Cruise.

  • Absolutely the Jungle Cruise. But please bring back the People Mover. As a former Cast Member we really need it back.

  • Jungle Cruise is my favorite of those…it was the first ride I went on as a 6 year old. Jungle Cruise, then Pirates, then Haunted Mansion…I was amazed! Happy 55th Disneyland!!

  • While there are several opening day attractions I love (DLRR, Jungle Cruise, Mr. Toad, Mark Twain…to name a few) I’d have to say my all-time favorite attraction from opening day would have to be Peter Pan’s Flight. It still amazes me to this day that back in 1955, the Imagineers had so much vision and imagination to pull off a ride of that technological capacity and detail.

  • As classic as many of those opening day attractions are, I absolutely have to go with the Jungle Cruise. I love bad jokes and puns, and those have some of the best. Plus it’s a little different every time you go through depending on which jokes the skipper tells.

  • I love Mr. Toad and Peter Pan, but I have to go with the Jungle Cruise, mostly for the skippers’ spiel.

    [I also agree with Tony from CA — bringing back the People Mover would restore some of the energy of Tomorrowland. Looking back at old videos, I’m amazed at how much used to go on at Tomorrowland!]

  • I really miss the People Mover. After all the really fast rides, it is really cool just to sit and be whisked through Tomorrowland. Please rebuild it!!!

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