When Disneyland opened its gates on July 17, 1955, Walt Disney realized his dream of creating a magical theme park where families could immerse themselves in fantasy and adventure. The park featured five themed “lands” with a total of 33 rides, shows, and exhibits for guests to enjoy.
After years of planning and construction, Walt Disney unveiled his innovative Disneyland theme park to the world in 1955. Built on 160 acres of former orange groves in Anaheim, California, Disneyland opened with five themed lands modeled after Disney films and American culture. On opening day, over 28,000 guests with counterfeit tickets crowded into Disneyland for a televised sneak peek.
Though rife with mishaps caused by the unexpectedly large crowds, Disneyland proved an instant hit and has remained beloved by generations of visitors. This article will provide an overview of Disneyland’s original 1955 attractions, starting with the flagship rides of each themed land.
Main Street, U.S.A.
The gateway into Disneyland, Main Street U.S.A. introduced guests to an idealized depiction of a 20th century small town main street. Its buildings housed shops, restaurants, and exhibits that set the stage for adventures ahead. Popular opening day Main Street attractions included:
Main Street Cinema: This theater played Disney cartoons and live-action shorts. It remains open today as one of Disneyland’s classic attractions.
Horse-Drawn Streetcars: These trolleys offered transportation up and down Main Street.
Disneyland Railroad Station: The station for Disneyland’s steam trains, which still circle the park today.
Just beyond Main Street lies the jungle rivers of Adventureland, where visitors can embark on exotic cruises past tropical scenery. Adventureland’s premiere opening day attraction was the:
Jungle Cruise: This boat ride takes passengers on a humorous river tour past animatronic animals and native villages. Now a Disney Parks icon, the classic Jungle Cruise remains one of Disneyland’s most popular attractions.
From the jungles of Adventureland, Disneyland transitions into the old American West. Frontierland celebrated the pioneers, cowboys, and Native American culture of the frontier. On opening day in 1955, Frontierland featured:
Mark Twain Riverboat: This large-scale steamboat offers cruises around the Rivers of America, providing scenic views of Frontierland. A Disneyland original, the Mark Twain continues operation today.
Golden Horseshoe Stage: This saloon hosted a Wild West musical revue show from day one, setting the record for Disneyland’s longest-running live show.
Classic Disney fairy tales come to life in Fantasyland’s storybook attractions. As the heart of the park, much of Disneyland’s early identity centered around Fantasyland dark rides. Fantasyland’s opening day attractions included:
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride: This dark ride sends passengers on a chaotic drive through scenes from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. It remains a beloved Fantasyland attraction today.
Peter Pan’s Flight: On this suspended dark ride, vehicles fly through the Darling children’s nursery and on to Neverland. Perennially popular since 1955, Peter Pan’s Flight continues to draw long lines.
Snow White’s Scary Adventures: Now far less scary, this opening-day dark ride retells Snow White’s story through diorama scenes. (Snow White’s Enchanted Wish)
Storybook Land Canal Boats: Slip inside a 12-person boat for a gentle open-air tour of enchanting homes and villages from classic Disney movies.
Disneyland’s vision of the future, Tomorrowland showcased science, technology, and exploration. While many of its 1955 attractions are now obsolete, some Tomorrowland classics remain. On opening day, Tomorrowland featured:
Autopia: One of Disneyland’s few opening day attractions still in its original land, Autopia allows guests to drive miniature cars through a futuristic highway.
Rocket to the Moon: This space travel simulator took passengers on a pretend flight around the moon and back. A version of the ride operated until 1992 under other names.
Here are the 14 original Disneyland rides from opening day on July 17, 1955, that remain open today:
When Walt Disney opened Disneyland’s gates in 1955, he revolutionized the amusement park industry with movie-inspired rides and themed lands that immersed visitors in fantasy worlds. Despite early mishaps from unexpectedly massive crowds, Disneyland became an instant success that has only continued to grow.
Fourteen attractions from Disneyland’s first day remain in operation, transporting 21st-century guests back to 1955. These classic rides, including the Jungle Cruise, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and Autopia, laid the foundation for Disneyland’s popularity and influence. As the original Disney theme park, Disneyland’s 1955 attractions made dreams into reality for Walt Disney and families around the world.