Disneyland is a celebrated American institution that allows visitors to step outside reality and into a blissful fantasyland filled with childhood wonder, magical entertainment, and unique foods. Sure, it’s expensive, but for many, it really is the happiest place on earth. Whether you’re a longtime fan or you’ve never visited, here are seven facts about Disneyland you probably didn’t know.
Disneyland Opened in 1955
At 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened its gates to the public in Anaheim, California. Ronald Reagan—still only an actor at the time—introduced Walt Disney to the waiting crowd. Walt then proceeded to christen his park with the words now famous to Disney fans worldwide:
“To all who come to this happy place: welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past…and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts which have created America … with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”
Admission cost $1, while the price of individual attractions ranged anywhere between $0.10 and $0.35 each.
Construction Was Fast
It took less than two years for Walt Disney to purchase a 160-acre plot of land in Anaheim and build the entire park. Construction officially began on July 21, 1954, just a year before the park opened to the public.
Walt Disney Had an Apartment Inside the Park
If you walk down Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland, you’ll see mostly shops—but also a few unmarked buildings that add to the ambiance. One of these buildings used to serve as Walt Disney’s private apartment where he could feast his eyes on the park crowds without risking a run-in with rabid fans. Due to Walt’s desire for privacy, few ever got to see inside this dwelling while he was alive. It was a space meant only for Walt, his guests, and the occasional photographer. As a result, very few photos exist of him in it.
The apartment is located above the Disneyland firehouse. Even today, few are permitted to venture inside. A lamp constantly burns in the window to represent Walt Disney’s spirit in the park.
It’s a Feral Cat Haven
At some point in Disneyland’s history, feral cats began to roam the grounds at night in search of mice and rats. Since Disneyland is alive 24/7—teaming with cleaning and maintenance crews long after daylight—the animals’ presence didn’t go unnoticed.
However, to this day, park workers offer a welcoming atmosphere to the helpful felines that keep the rodent population down and make the park a cleaner and safer place. They take the time to sterilize the adult cats and find homes for all kittens born within the resort. Several feeding stations have even been installed so that the cats can eat at their leisure.
There’s a Basketball Court on the Matterhorn
Located in an attic-like space at the top of the Matterhorn ride is a small basketball court that allows workers to let loose during breaks. It’s an ideal spot to wait out bad weather and prep for performances.
It Once Used Real Body Parts on Rides
When Imagineers (Disney’s ride and attraction designers) were creating the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, they decided that it needed a more realistic feel. Plastic skeletons looked too fake and just weren’t cutting it. Their solution? Procuring real skeletons from the UCLA Medical Center and adding them to the set.
These skeletons stayed on the ride until the technology used to create realistic-looking skeletons improved. Then the real bones were sent back to their countries of origin to receive a proper burial. But a persistent rumor circulates among Disneyland workers that some real human remains still grace the ride.
It Has a Secret Restaurant
Located inside Disneyland Park is a secret restaurant called Club 33 that—until the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge—was the only place in the park that served alcohol. However, the only way you can get into Club 33 is to be a VIP member (or the guest of one), and it’s rumored that there is a 14-year wait to get on the list. Membership costs upward of $100,000 per year.