Thirty years after Walt Disney threw open the gates to what was then the ultimate amusement park, Disneyland remains a Magic Kingdom for kids of all ages.
Its sister park in Florida, Walt Disney World, offers more variety, and the Tokyo Disneyland is new and fresh.
But the original, which sprouted up out of orange groves in Anaheim south of Los Angeles in 1955, shows almost no signs of its age and still ranks as one the globe's star tourist attractions.
"What a great place for kids, and when you're here, you're a kid," mused a 60-ish refugee from the chilly Midwest, pausing over his ice cream on an unusually warm February afternoon at Disneyland.
"Daddy, can we ride Dumbo again . . . ple-e-e-ase?" pleaded a weary but bright-eyed 4-year-old who had somehow settled on the serene flying elephants as her personal favorite of the dizzying array of 55 rides and attractions.
Intrusion of Real World
Disneyland has faced some harsh realities in recent years, including an employee strike and apparently decreasing attendance.
But Disney, who died in 1966, would still be proud of his park, which continues to serve as a testament to the man's creative genius and obvious warm feelings for children and his fellow man.
Although Disneyland opened three decades ago and nearly 250 million people have strolled along Main Street U.S.A., the park is neat as a pin. Main street, and all the others, are meticulously steam-cleaned each night after closing.
A few attractions have endured for 30 years, including the still-popular Jungle Cruise. But the park, which had just 18 rides when it opened, undergoes constant, gradual change.
A current visitor who had been there at the opening would find that many of the rides, such as the Mickey Mouse Club Circus and the Flying Saucers, have disappeared over the years.
But there obviously are many new rides--Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad--and others that have been updated and rejuvenated--Submarine Voyage and almost everything in Fantasyland, one of seven theme areas.
The rides run the gamut from the slow and soothing, such as the Storybook Land Canal Boats and It's a Small World, to the fast and frantic, including Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Attractions for Youngsters
The favorite rides of younger children, 8 or so and under, include the Jungle Cruise, Country Bear Jamboree, America Sings, Tom Sawyer's Island and most everything in Fantasyland, highlighted by It's a Small World.
Popular attractions for teen+agers and strong-hearted adults are Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and the Matterhorn Bobsleds, all high-tech roller coasters.
Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted House, both of which opened in the 1960s, are two longstanding favorites that still rank as Disneyland's star attractions, each enthralling and technically amazing. Very young children, however, may find them frightening.
It's a good idea to contact Disneyland's Guest Relations (P.O. Box 3232, Anaheim, Calif. 92803 or phone 714 999-4565) before planning a visit.
They will be able to tell you the park hours (varying depending on the season), which rides will be closed for scheduled maintenance and the dates and times of concerts and parades, and will answer any questions about services available.
The cost of an unlimited passport, which allows the purchaser to ride any attraction as many times as he or she wishes, is $15 for adults, $10 for children 3 through 12, and free for children 2 and under. Two-day unlimited passes are $26 and $18, and three-day passes are $34 and $25. Parking is $2 per day.
It's impossible for first-time visitors to see everything in one day, with a three-day visit ideal.
Weekdays generally are less crowded than weekends. Usually, the best times to ride the most popular attractions are in the early morning or just before closing time, when the lines are shorter.
Least Crowded Times
Disneyland spokesman Al Flores said January, February and early in November and December are the least crowded times at the park. He added that the summer season's first week and last week, June 15-21 and Sept. 2-7 this year, also normally are less crowded than other times.
There are a wide range of theme shops, with merchandise ranging from the children's "mandatory" mouse ears to fine crystal. There also is a tempting array of restaurants, running the gamut from fast-food burgers to sit-down dinners in the pleasant atmosphere of the Blue Bayou restaurant.
There are four airports within a 30-mile or so radius of Disneyland, including Los Angeles International, and suburban airports in Orange County, Long Beach and Ontario. Most visitors fly into L.A. International.
A car is practically a necessity in the sprawling Los Angeles area, since its many tourist attractions are separated by miles of freeways. There are car rental agencies near Disneyland as well as at the airports and hotels.
There are abundant hotels and motels near Disneyland, with the Disneyland Hotel--connected to the park by a monorail--the most convenient.