24 classic photos that show why Disneyland rocks on its 60th birthday

  • Children running through the gate of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Walt Disney’s theme park, Disneyland in July 1955. 
  • American cartoonist and producer Walt Disney wears a cowboy hat and boots and, using a toy revolver, smiles while pretending to hold up children in a stagecoach at his Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, Calif. in 1955. 
  • People spin on the teacup ride in Disneyland.
  • The Skytram passes through the center of the Matterhorn Bobsleds ride at Disneyland ca. 1980s-1990s. 
  • Submarine ride at Disneyland. 
  • Nancy Crouch and her boyfriend Chuck Shirley twirl on one of the eight dance floors as commencement was celebrated by thousands of Southern California’s high school graduates at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., on Jun. 26, 1962. The party went on until 5:30 a.m. 
  • A man watches inflated characters at Disneyland, 1990. 
  • It’s Catholic School Day at Disneyland, and Sisters Mary William and Mary Alfred take the first elephant while Sisters Mary Yvonne and Mary Joachin follow close behind as they join the children in a ride on “Dumbo” the flying elephant at Disneyland on Nov. 1, 1962.
  • A couple kiss while on a carousel ride during an ‘All Night Prom’ at Disneyland, Anaheim, Calif., 1961. 
  • A crowd of happy visitors splurge on various different sweet drinks at The Parlor, which offers yesteryear favorites such as sarsaparilla, cherry phosphate, parfaits and Lover’s delight at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., 1955. 
  • People resting by the TWA rocket at Disneyland Amusement Park in Anaheim, Calif., 1955. 
  • A child poses with a character at Disneyland in 1985.
  • Walt Disney checks over some of the horses that were to be used on the huge merry-go-round to be erected in the center of the Fantasyland section of Disneyland at Anaheim, Calif. on Jun. 9, 1955. Disney scouted the country for these old, hand-carved horses which were being restored to new at the Disneyland workshops.
  • Aerial view of Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., 1985.
  • A quartet of showgirls in costume sit at an outdoor table and drink from mugs at Disneyland amusement park in Anaheim, Calif., 1955. 
  • A marching band rides the merry-go-round at Disneyland in 1985.
  • Newly graduated high school students take a turn on the flying saucer ride during one of the commencement parties at Disneyland, in Anaheim, Calif., on Jun. 26, 1962. The parties were started to give structure to graduation night fun and give it a happy ending, instead of the occasional tragic ending of alcohol fueled car accidents. Boys were required to wear coats and ties for the parties. 
  • English model and actress Twiggy and her boyfriend and manager Justin de Villeneuve enjoying a boat ride at Disneyland during footage shot for a show titled ‘Twiggy: Why?’ in 1967. 
  • A child sees Disneyland from a higher perspective, 1979.
  • Walt Disney character Mickey Mouse rides in the locomotive cab of a circus train as it arrives at a station in Disneyland, Calif., on Jul. 18, 1955. The train is a real-world version of the one depicted in the animated Disney film, ‘Dumbo.’ 
  • A woman makes a call at Disneyland surrounded by Disney characters, 1980.
  • General scenes from Disneyland, 1985.
  • Dave MacPherson purchased the first ticket to Disneyland on Jul. 17, 1955. He achieved the distinction by getting in line at 2a.m., and by dawn almost 6,000 others were in line behind him. A “Davy Crockett miniature,” watches the transaction. 
  • Prince Rainier of Monaco (right) and his children, Princess Caroline and Prince Albert, greet Mickey Mouse during a visit to Disneyland on Aug. 14, 1967. 

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Grab your party teacups and head to the Big Thunder Mountain railroad to get to the biggest party of the weekend—Disneyland is turning 60.

The so-called “happiest place on the Earth” used to be a 160 acre orange grove. The imaginative Walt Disney, inspired by visions of magic and grandeur, started designing the huge amusement park in the early 1950s as a place that would have both educational and amusement value.

“It came about when my daughters were very young and Saturday was always daddy’s day with the two daughters,” Disney said, according to the DisneyParks blog. “I’d take them to the merry-go-round and I took them different places and as I’d sit while they rode the merry-go-round and did all these things—sit on a bench, you know, eating peanuts—I felt that there should be something built where the parents and the children could have fun together. So that’s how Disneyland started.”

Despite a rough opening day that was riddled with problems, including wet paint, food shortages, and malfunctioning rides, Disney managed to carry through with his plan to make his park an international tourist destination.

Now situated in Anaheim, California, the theme park hosts more than 14 million visitors a year, ranging from kids who want to live out their fantasies to adults who want to reclaim their childhood, and everyone in between.

From basic amusements to grandiose attractions like Space Mountain and the thrilling Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Disneyland has come a long way from its original $17 million price tag. One thing that has stayed the same? The startling Mickey and Minnie Mouses that hug you before you even see them coming.

For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography 

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