38 standout photos of memorable Disneyland moments

A man and a woman in space suits shake the hands of suited gentlemen.
June 14, 1959: Then-Vice President Richard Nixon shakes hands with a spaceman and spacegirl during a tour shortly after Disneyland’s opening.
(Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)
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Disneyland has cast an unbreakable spell on Southern California — and the world. It has its addicts and its haters, but there’s no denying it has our attention.

The Disneyland Resort is where high school grads, newlyweds and lottery winners celebrate. It’s where churro fans satisfy cravings, pin traders thrill over new discoveries, children squeal at Mickey meet-and-greets, Star Wars fans live out Blue Bantha milk fantasies and Christmas lovers buy ornaments all year long.

It’s also where news is made.

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When the gates swung open for the first time on July 17, 1955, the Los Angeles Times reported that 15,000 people “formed a four-abreast line a mile long.” The first two children inside got lifetime passes. Since that day, the newspaper has consistently covered the park’s notable events.

A month after opening, Richard Nixon, then vice president, took his family and claimed to be spooked by Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. When the Moroccan King visited in 1957, he rode in a canoe; The Times made a to-do about real-life royalty visiting Sleeping Beauty Castle. Fast-forward and The Times would chronicle the visit of a Tibetan lama reincarnate in 1995, the comings and goings of various rides, employee protests, the park’s pandemic closure, and price hikes.


Continue scrolling for a selection of memorable moments at the Disneyland Resort as seen through the lens of Los Angeles Times photographers over the last 68 years.

A winding throng of people at Disneyland's gates
July 18, 1955: On its first day fully open to the public, a crowd of about 15,000 lines up at Disneyland’s ticket windows. Many had waited throughout the night.
(Los Angeles Times)
People milling on Disneyland's Main Street in 1955.
July 17, 1955: The day before the public opening was meant to be an invited event, but numbers swelled due to counterfeit tickets. This was later nicknamed “Black Sunday” because of the number of glitches that occurred.
(Los Angeles Times)
Two images: a band faces a flag pole and Walt Disney welcomes two kids to the park
Left, July 17, 1955: Old Glory goes up in Disneyland’s Town Square during dedication ceremonies. Beyond is Main Street, U.S.A.

Right, July 18, 1955: Walt Disney with Michael Schwartner, 7, left, and Christine Vess, 5, two of the first customers at Disneyland. The Schwartner and Vess families received lifetime passes to Disneyland.
(Los Angeles Times)
A faux snow-capped mountain with faux submarines in the foreground
1963: The Matterhorn at Disneyland
(Los Angeles Times)
Suited musicians line up at a piano
June 13, 1964: Swinging into a Big Band Festival at Disneyland are Wayne King, left; Count Basie, seated left; Bill Elliott, standing right; and Duke Ellington.
(Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)
Two images: an elevated tram and a ride with spinning rockets.
Left, June 28, 1967: The new PeopleMover is run through a remodeled Tomorrowland at Disneyland during a press preview. The ride opened on July 2, 1967.

Right, Dec. 28, 1995: The Rocket Jets ride towers over Tomorrowland at Disneyland. The ride closed in March 1996 as part of an overhaul of Tomorrowland.
(Steve Fontanini / Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA, left, and David Fitzgerald / Los Angeles Times, right)
A man in suit and tie juggles outside a hotel ballroom.
1983: At a conference on the healing power of laughter and play at Disneyland Hotel, Dr. Carl Simonton demonstrates juggling as one way he helps cancer patients increase their playfulness.
(Los Angeles Times)
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, wearing an Occidental College sweatshirt, stands between Minnie and Mickey Mouse.
May 19, 1990: Archbishop Desmond Tutu signs the guest register at Disneyland.
(Lucy Atkins / Los Angeles Times)
Young ballplayers on a float with a baseball uniformed Mickey Mouse.
Aug. 29, 1994: The Northridge Little League All Star team is honored with a ticker-tape parade along Disneyland’s Main Street.
(Kari Rene Hall / Los Angeles Times)
A Jungle Cruise boat filled with passengers at Disneyland.
July 8, 1994: Skippers on the Jungle Cruise updated some of the jokes in their routine. “The jokes are so corny,” said one visitor. “That’s what makes the ride.”
(Kari Rene Hall / Los Angeles Times)
Two men laugh while riding a spinning teacup at Disneyland.
Jan. 31, 1995: 49ers Super Bowl champions Jerry Rice, left, and Steve Young spin on the teacup ride at Disneyland, which hosted the players’ visit.
(Alexander Garcia / Los Angeles Times)
A boy in a yellow robe and hat is carried on a man's shoulders
July 12, 1995: Kalu Rinpoche, 4, a Tibetan lama reincarnate, is carried into Fantasyland by his attendant monk, Yeshi. Rinpoche, known to many as the Golden Child, and an entourage of about 10 people visited Disneyland.
(Robert Gauthier / The Los Angeles Times)
Two images: a boy bites into a piece of cake and a sign on the Matterhorn reads: Disneyland Happy 40th Birthday
Left, July 17, 1995: During Disneyland’s 40th birthday celebration, Andy Kay, 10, of San Diego, takes advantage of free birthday cake while attired in dual party hats.

Right, July 17, 1995: Country singer Randy Travis and Mickey Mouse, atop the Matterhorn, lead the crowd in “M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E” and “Happy Birthday” during the celebration.
(Kari Rene Hall / Los Angeles Times)
Navy men in white uniforms
March 23, 1997: Sleeping Beauty Castle is the backdrop for visiting Chinese sailors, about 100 of them, who visited the park on a goodwill tour. The Chinese navy’s newest ship was docked down in San Diego.
(Craig Y. Fujii / Los Angeles Times)
A group of people riding a rocket-themed ride at Disneyland.
May 10, 1998: The Rocket Rods ride, built into the old PeopleMover infrastructure, is part of a redesigned Tomorrowland.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
A photo of a tall structure wrapped in construction mesh, seen through giant plants.
Jan. 17, 2003: The 13-story haunted hotel to be called Twilight Zone Tower of Terror rises from what was a parking lot next to Disneyland’s California Adventure, which opened in 2001. A Bug’s Land, at California Adventure, is in the foreground.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
A person in an orange and yellow costume, whose wrists are bound, is guided into a van.
Aug. 14, 2008: A picketer wearing a Disney-like character costume is led to a police van for obstructing traffic along Harbor Boulevard in front of Disneyland during a hotel workers’ labor dispute. About 32 of 650 marchers were taken into custody.
(Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times)
Souvenirs bear images of Mickey Mouse, Dumbo, Peter Pan, Tom Sawyer and others.
Feb. 2, 2011: A souvenir collection on display in Disneyland Hotel.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Two photos side by side showing Endeavour flying over Disneyland, left, and Spiderman soaring over California Adventure.
Left, Sept. 21, 2012: During the final portion of a cross-country farewell tour, the space shuttle Endeavour, mounted on NASA’s Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, flies over the faux Cadillac Valley Mountain range of the Cars Land Radiator Springs Racers attraction at California Adventure.

Right, June 2, 2021: During media preview of the Avengers Campus at California Adventure, Spider-Man soars through a performance of Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Lighted holiday signs decorate a ride
Nov. 21, 2013: The It’s a Small World ride gets a holiday makeover depicting celebrations around the world.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Two photos: a Disney D inset with a blue diamond and streaming blue lights.
Left, May 22, 2015: Decorations celebrate Disneyland’s 60th anniversary Diamond Celebration.

Right, Nov. 12, 2015: Hyperspace Mountain during a media preview of the light and sound show Star Wars Season of the Force.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
A man wearing 3-D glasses and looking up.
Nov. 12, 2015: Guests wear 3-D glasses during a media preview of Star Wars Season of the Force.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Women hold signs during a demonstration.
Jan. 22, 2018: A show of support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is held at the east entrance of Disneyland. Emily Hebbard, left, of La Mirada, daughter Maxine Hebbard, center, and Tahesha Knapp Christianson.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
A worker installs decorations in a storefront window.
Nov. 5, 2018: Holiday decorations go up overnight along Main Street, U.S.A.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Blue and white fireworks shoot into the night air above a Millennium Falcon.
May 29, 2019: At the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge unveiling event, fireworks announce, from left: “Star Wars” creator George Lucas, actors Billy Dee Williams and Mark Hamill, Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger and actor Harrison Ford.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
A person standing outside the gates of Disneyland.
March 17, 2021: The pandemic closure. Visitors can only peer through locked gates. After 412 days, the resort was scheduled to open April 30 with limited capacity and restrictions on some attractions.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Two women, one crying, as they enter Disneyland.
April 30, 2021: The pandemic reopening proved emotional for some of the first visitors.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Sleeping Beauty waves from beyond a barrier
May 3, 2021: As the parks reopen, a visit with a princess involves social distancing.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
A woman riding a carousel at Disneyland.
April 30, 2021: A rider on the first day of reopening.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Disney's Sleeping Beauty's Castle decorated with 100th anniversary banners.
Jan. 26, 2023: As Walt Disney Co. turns 100, Sleeping Beauty Castle receives some extra dressing up.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

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