Disneyland Opening Day Attractions You Can Still Experience
For many, a trip to Disneyland isn’t just about the fun and good times with family and friends. It’s also about the nostalgia – whether reminiscing over fond memories from past Disneyland vacations or spotting well-loved Disney characters from your favorite childhood movies and cartoons.
People crave nostalgia, especially during these turbulent times we’re living in. Fortunately, nothing takes you back to a simpler, happier time and place than a trip to The Happiest Place on Earth, from walking right down the middle of Main Street, U.S.A., to experiencing some of the remaining Disneyland opening day attractions.
So, if you’re feeling stressed out and need a little nostalgia in your life, keep reading for classic Disney rides, restaurants, entertainment and more that are still operating at The Happiest Place on Earth.
Disneyland – How a Man and His Mouse Changed the World
Disneyland is the Helen of Troy of theme parks. While it may not be the first amusement park (that title goes to Bakken, or “The Hill,” in Klampenborg, Denmark), Disneyland took the concept and, as Walt Disney liked to call it, plussed it, turning the west coast theme park into a beloved family destination and revolutionizing the industry.
Before Disneyland, folks would let loose at other popular recreation areas, such as amusement parks, boardwalks and trolley parks. However, Walt Disney felt these left a lot to be desired, particularly for families. So, in the early 1950s, he decided to build his own.
Disney, the godfather of synergy and a master storyteller, sought to use family-friendly attractions as vessels for his popular characters from the small and silver screens, creating a fun and safe place everyone could spend time together. All he needed were his Imagineers and their Audio-Animatronic creations to bring his dream to life.
Since opening its doors to guests on Sunday, July 17, 1955, for the princely sum of $1 for adults and 50 cents for kids, Disneyland has changed a lot over the years. Then, there were over 30 attractions, each costing between 25 to 35 cents per ride for adults and 10 to 25 cents for children. Now, Disneyland Park has expanded into the Disneyland Resort, gaining two hotels, the Downtown Disney District and Disney California Adventure Park.
Despite all those changes, many original Disneyland attractions and a few classic restaurants remain, along with the Disneyland Hotel, making them the perfect addition to your next vacation if you need a little nostalgia with your pixie dust.
Sure, they may lack the technology-fueled thrills of Indiana Jones Adventure or Rise of the Resistance in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge or (with the exception of Blue Bayou) not sell alcohol like restaurants in California Adventure. But, these simple pleasures are sure to make you feel like a kid again with their wholesome, low-tech fun and old-school flavors.
Disneyland Opening Day Attractions & Classic Restaurants You Can Still Experience
Classics are classics for a reason. From timeless attractions starring some of your favorite Disney characters and old-fashioned entertainment to historic dining outlets and one very nostalgic hotel, these original Disneyland Park offerings have stood the test of time.
Original Rides at Disneyland Still in Operation
Of the more than 30 attractions that were available for Disneyland’s opening day on July 17, 1955, more than a dozen are still around. In other words, there’s no shortage of old-fashioned fun to be had. So, take a break from the theme park crowds and everyday stresses and slow things down with these classic Disneyland rides.
Go for a cruise into the past on Autotopia. Located in Tomorrowland, this retro ride puts guests behind the wheel of their very own pint-sized convertible. Inspired by the freedom of the American highway system, which was still in its infancy, this slow-moving road trip in miniature retains much of its opening day charms.
Casey Jr. Circus Train
Walt Disney was a certifiable train buff. So, it’s no wonder that you’ll find a few different railway adventures at Disneyland Park, two of which were open on July 17, 1955. Choo-chooing its way through Storybook Land in Fantasyland, the Casey Jr. Circus Train – styled after its namesake locomotive from Dumbo– takes guests on a leisurely journey past miniaturized scenes from classic Disney animated movies.
The Disneyland Railroad gets its inspiration from the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, the model railway Walt Disney built in his own backyard. It’s also the only original attraction with a starring role in the opening day ceremony as Disney’s steam-powered chariot to Main Street Station and the park’s dedication.
Originally just an 18-minute train ride around the park, today, guests can hop on and off at will at four different stations in New Orleans Square, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and, of course, Main Street, U.S.A.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
While not open on July 17, 1955, Dumbo the Flying Elephant took to the skies over Fantasyland less than a month later on August 16, 1955, and has been charming young guests ever since. A quintessential attraction located at six Disney Parks across the globe, a fanciful flight on this adorable pachyderm has become a rite of passage for Disney-loving kids everywhere.
Back when Disneyland was just a twinkle in Walt’s eye, he envisioned a boat excursion down some of the world’s many waterways, with guests encountering real-life versions of the wildlife that call the rivers home. Sadly, due to obvious health and safety concerns, there could be no true-life adventures.
So, Imagineers were forced to improvise and innovate, swapping actual animals for robotic creations. Today, the Jungle Cruise still looks much the same way it did when it opened on July 17, 1955, with the addition of punny skippers and plenty of dad jokes.
King Arthur Carrousel
What could be more classic than a merry-go-round? Walt Disney was inspired to create Disneyland after seeing his daughters ride the carousel at Los Angeles’s Griffith Park. So, it’s only right that you can still ride one there today.
Guests of all ages can gallop around Fantasyland on a herd of horses inspired by the Knights of the Round Table or kick back in a whimsical chariot. For an especially fanciful view, watch the story of Sleeping Beauty spring to life on vibrant scenes hand-painted on the ride’s inner sounding board.
Mad Tea Party
Twirl your way around Fantasyland in a massive teacup in this madcap classic styled after Alice in Wonderland, a Disney mainstay found at five theme parks worldwide. But be forewarned – if you’re prone to motion sickness, this arm-powered unbirthday party can be a messy ride.
Main Street Cinema
Located across from the Emporium on Main Street, U.S.A., the Main Street Cinema has been one of the park’s many odes to nostalgia ever since opening on July 17, 1955. Back in the day, this old-timey movie theater showed silent films, while today, guests can catch screenings of some classic Disney animated shorts and films, such as “Steamboat Willie.”
Main Street Vehicles
Take a stroll (or trolley ride) down memory lane with a jaunt up Main Street, U.S.A. on one of the Main Street Vehicles. Plucked from the turn of the 19th century, these nostalgic vehicles are a laidback way to get around. Choose from a two-story, open-air omnibus, jitney (an old-fashioned convertible), fire engine or a streetcar pulled by a horse.
Mark Twain Riverboat
Cruise down the Rivers of America past Tom Sawyer Island on the quaint Mark Twain Riverboat, a 14-minute boat ride around Frontierland. Originally known as the Mark Twain Steamboat, this steam-powered paddle boat takes guests on a tour of four great American rivers: the Mississippi, the Missouri, the Rio Grande and the Columbia.
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
Based on Disney’s The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad and Toad’s adventures in The Wind in the Willows, a classic children’s tale which was released just a few years earlier, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is an iconic Fantasyland dark ride. Jump in the driver’s seat and hold on tight for this wacky race through the English countryside, which has been upgraded from the opening day original.
Peter Pan’s Flight
Climb aboard a flying pirate ship and set sail for Neverland on this whimsical dark ride in Fantasyland. From the moonlit flight over London to the charming scenes from the film aglow in colorful paint and blacklight, Peter Pan’s Flight is enchanting for both kids and adults alike.
Snow White’s Enchanted Wish
Formerly known as Snow White’s Scary Adventure, this Fantasyland dark ride has seen its fair share of changes since July 17, 1955. In the original version, guests experienced theoccasionally harrowing tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs from the princess’s perspective.
However, to make the attraction less terrifying for young children and more princess-focused, the ride was slightly reimagined. Reopening in 2021 after closing in January 2020, Snow White’s Enchanted Wish now puts you next to the princess to glittering effect with the help of laser projections, LED black lighting and more.
Storybook Land Canal Boats
Float past the fairytale panoramas of Storybook Land and through Monstro’s mouth (the whale from Pinocchio) on this slow-moving boat ride in Fantasyland. Originally called Canal Boats of the World, which toured past scenic landscapes from across the globe, the Storybook Land Canal Boats remain very similar to their 1956 reimagining.
Historic Disneyland Park Entertainment Offerings
Along with opening day attractions and meet-and-greets with Mickey Mouse, guests can enjoy an array of original entertainment offerings from Disneyland’s early years, from lively concerts to somber ceremonies.
Believe it or not, music plays a crucial part in your Disney vacation. Each area and attraction has its own sound, making for a seamlessly immersive experience. The Disneyland Band has been part of that soundtrack ever since the park’s opening day. Today, you can hear this lively marching band throughout the day in Main Street, U.S.A. and Tomorrowland.
Flag Retreat Ceremony
Another time you might also see the Disneyland Band alongside the Dapper Dans is during the Flag Retreat Ceremony, a daily display in Town Square on Main Street, U.S.A. This salute to veterans and active-duty service members is a time-honored tradition from the park’s founders – Walt Disney served with the American Red Cross, and his brother Roy was in the U.S. Navy during World War I.
Golden Horseshoe Piano Player
For dinner and a show, head over to Frontierland and the Golden Horseshoe (originally called the Golden Horseshoe Saloon), where folks have been tickling the ivories since 1955. In fact, this opening day restaurant technically opened a few days early to host Walt and Lilian Disney’s 30th wedding anniversary. Although full revue shows were put on in the past, today, guests can listen to Wild West tunes by a live piano player.
The Dapper Dans
Though they technically didn’t make their debut on Main Street, U.S.A. until 1959, the Dapper Dans are the epitome of nostalgic vibes. Featuring tap dance, chimes, vaudeville humor and four-part harmony, this barbershop quartet will sing and dance itsway into your heart with classic Disney songs and Americana tunes.
Classic Disneyland Dining Options
Walt Disney used many elements to immerse guests in the story, such as the rides, design, music and even the food. In effect, Disneyland made the restaurants part of the show, dishing up items like turkey legs and DOLE Whip with a dash of Disney magic.
As a man of simple tastes when it came to food – think hamburgers and chili – Disney wanted to offer guests unpretentious, hearty fare. Today, not only can guests eat in his footsteps at some original restaurants, but they can even try some of his favorite foods.
Carnation Café (formerly the CarnationIce Cream Parlor)
Opened on July 17, 1955 as the Carnation Ice Cream Parlor, an old-school ice cream counter, this classic Main Street, U.S.A. restaurant lives on as the Carnation Café. For breakfast, lunch and dinner, guests can indulge in humble dishes Walt Disney would surely love, from Walt’s favorite chili recipe to comfort food classics like cheeseburgers, chicken-fried chicken, a parmesan-toasted patty melt and, of course, apple pie.
Coca-Cola Refreshment Corner
Another opening day dining option on Main Street, U.S.A., the Coca-Cola Refreshment Corner is more of a snack stand than a full restaurant, serving up palate-pleasing favorites like hot dogs, chili and mac & cheese, as well as hot dogs with mac & cheese or chili and chili-topped mac & cheese. Occasionally, you can even get an extra dose of nostalgia thanks to some live ragtime tunes by the resident piano player.
Plaza Inn (formerly the Red Wagon Inn)
Originally called the Red Wagon Inn, said to be Walt Disney’s favorite restaurant, this easy-going restaurant on Main Street, U.S.A. cooks up all sorts of meat-and-potatoes classics with plenty of Disney history. In the mornings, you can even meet the likes of Mickey Mouse and other popular Disney characters during the restaurant’s character breakfast.
The Golden Horseshoe
While you can’t enjoy the same song and dance you once could at The Golden Horseshoe Saloon, this quick-service restaurantstill serves up a fun, Wild West-inspired ambiance and some live music alongside some basic theme park fare like chicken tenders, fish & chips and ice cream.
Blue Bayou Restaurant
When it comes to atmosphere, you can’t beat a meal at the Blue Bayou Restaurant in New Orleans Square. Along with twinkling lanterns and dreamy views of the Pirates of the Caribbean boat ride, this must-try restaurant specializes in Cajun and Creole cuisine.
While not opened until 1967 due to complaints over the park’s dining options (or lack thereof), the Blue Bayou has become a truly iconic Disneyland dining experience. To top it all off, as of May 2021, you can even jazz up your meal with some wine, beer or a Hurricane cocktail.
Tiki Juice Bar
Following the Blue Bayou Restaurant just one year later, the Tiki Juice Bar in Adventureland has been dishing up another Disneyland icon, the addictive Pineapple DOLE Whip, since 1968, following the debut of Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room in 1963. Get your fix for this Disney legend with either a dish or float.
Disneyland Hotel, a Nostalgic Stay from Opening Day
What better place to stay for your nostalgic Disney vacation than the Disneyland Hotel? Opening its doors to guests just three months after the theme park’s opening day, the hotel was designed as an upscale retreat with something for everyone. Now, it’s an ode to Disneyland’s storied past, with towers named after the park’s opening-day lands, magical guestrooms inspired by the theme park and specially themed signature suites.
You can even dine with your favorite Disney characters at Goofy’s Kitchen, an incredibly popular buffet restaurant. Outside, the nostalgia continues with water slides styled after the Disney Monorail, which opened in 1959 and still stops at the Disneyland Hotel to this day.
Well, nostalgia seekers, that wraps up our guide to classic Disneyland attractions, entertainment and dining. What are your favorite opening day originals to enjoy? Which do you wish were still around? Let us know in the comments! Then, learn how to bring your tickets a tiny bit closer to those opening day prices with our Disneyland ticket discounts.