On July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened its gates to a captivated public. It was indeed the first theme park and unlike anything seen before. What makes Disneyland so remarkable is the thought and care put into all the little things in the various lands that the average visitor takes for granted.
Disneyland has a unique history and fun facts that those on discussion boards love to discuss. The Happiest Place on Earth is also one of the most fascinating.
1. The Disney Family Crest
The icon of Disneyland Park is, without a doubt Sleeping Beauty Castle. It’s a lovely, charming, and quaint entrance into Fantasyland, complete with a working drawbridge. But there’s also a small but significant detail that many do not notice.
Just above the archway with the portcullis is a beautiful carving of the Disney family crest. The name Disney was anglicized from the French D’Isigny, and the crest features fleur-de-lis symbols surrounding three lions. It was installed in 1965, ten years after the park opened.
2. The Historic Matterhorn Bobsleds
The Matterhorn is more than just a thrilling ride. This attraction was also the first of its kind in both Disneyland and the world. It was the first coaster built for the park. But also, significantly, it was the first steel tubular roller coaster ever constructed.
Before, coasters were made of wood. The Matterhorn set the stage for every coaster that followed. It opened on June 14, 1959, and was loosely inspired by the Disney film Third Man on the Mountain, which amusingly was released in November of that same year.
3. The Horses of King Arthur’s Carousel
The 72 beautiful and majestic horses featured in this attraction have a rich history. Each was salvaged from 19th-century carousels and restored to pristine condition. Walt Disney insisted that every horse on the ride be leaping, so some were re-constructed to adhere to that pose.
King Arthur’s Carousel has been restored many times, including painting each uniquely named horse white and updating the lead horse, Jingles, to include references to Mary Poppins. Jingles was dedicated to Julie Andrews in 2008.
4. The Dominguez Tree
Trees are an abundant and lovely mainstay of Disneyland. But one of these trees has a fascinating back-story. The “Dominguez Tree” can be found in Adventureland and is the oldest natural element in the park. It was planted in Anaheim in 1896 on the site that would later become Disneyland.
The orange grove the tree resided in was owned by the Dominguez family, who agreed to sell the land only if the tree remained. Disney agreed and built around the tree. Its location has been moved from its initial location, but the tree remains in the park and still stands proudly.
5. The Invention of Doritos
Did you know that the popular snack chip was invented in Disneyland? It’s quite the story. In Disneyland’s earliest days, one of the park’s corporate sponsors was Frito-Lay, which opened the restaurant, Casa de Fritos in Frontierland in 1955.
One day, a salesman from their food distributor, Alex Foods, saw the massive amount of unused tortillas disposed of at the end of the day. So he suggested cutting them into triangles, deep frying them and adding flavor. And thus, Doritos were born.
6. An Olympic Pool on Main Street, U.S.A.
In October 2004, one of Disneyland’s most unique events occurred. A 21-foot wide swimming pool that ran down nearly all of Main Street was constructed for a special event with U.S. Olympic swimmers Michael Phelps, Lenny Krayzelburg, and Ian Crocker.
Parkgoers were treated to ceremonious swims down the pool length from the three Olympians. It was both bizarre and incredible.
7. A Viewing on the Apollo 11 Moon Landing
For those fortunate enough to witness the historical event, you certainly remember where you were. Some saw this seminal moment inside Disneyland. On July 29, 1969, a large screen on the Tomorrowland Stage broadcasted the moon landing live. Thousands gathered, making them a part of history in a particular way.
8. The Disneyland Railroad Train Names
Five engines make up The Disneyland Railroad, each with a meaningful name. Four are named after important historical figures in American locomotive history. The C.K. Holliday is named after Cyrus Kurtz Holiday, who founded the Atchison and Topeka Railroad in 1859. The E.P. Ripley is for Edward Payson Ripley, the first President of that same railroad company.
Fred Gurley is named after the President of the Santa Fe Railroad in Walt Disney’s era. He even engineered, along with Walt, the first train on Disneyland’s opening Day. And The Ernest S. Marsh is named for the Sante Fe Railroad president that proceeded Gurley.
Lastly, the Ward Kimball is not named for a railroad legend but a Disney one. Ward was a talented animator and imagineer who shared a love and enthusiasm for railroads with Walt.
9. Main Street Lamp Posts and Cannons
The details that bring beauty and authenticity to Main Street have a history that long precedes Disneyland. The lamp posts that line the streets are 19th-century gasp lamps recovered from such cities as Baltimore, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. Because they were headed to the scrap pile, they were purchased very cheaply-only one dollar a pound.
The cannons in Town Square by the flag pole are from 1800s France. They were restored and are meant to be a symbolic tribute and remembrance of fallen soldiers.
10. Walt Disney’s Opening Day Dedication in Morse Code
Walt Disney’s opening day dedication to Disneyland has often been heard in its usual form. It is also featured on a plaque in front of the Town Square flag pole. But it’s also been heard countless times by millions of guests in another way- Morse code.
At the New Orleans Square train station, you can listen to the ticking of Morse code while awaiting the next train. What you’re hearing is that famous speech. It’s another small but remarkable detail that makes Disneyland stand out as one of the most magnificent places in the world.
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Demi Michele is a seasoned traveler, turned freelance writer. Having explored most states and ventured internationally, her love for outdoor cafes, new cuisines, and cultural immersion shines through her wide range of articles. Based in Texas with her family and two Scottish Terriers, Demi turns her adventures into captivating travel narratives to share with readers.