“Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.” — Walt Disney (Disneyland Opening Day Speech, July 17, 1955)
After more than two decades of planning, Walt Disney’s dream came to fruition 64 years ago this week with the opening of Disneyland. Built on 160 acres of former orange groves in Anaheim, California, Disney’s ambitious theme park project intended to combine elements of nostalgia and futurism, featuring four themed lands — Frontierland, Fantasyland, Adventureland and Tomorrowland. The unique concept piqued America’s interest, with thousands of families vacationing to southern California for the theme park’s opening day. Within seven weeks, Disneyland reached one million visitors, quickly surpassing national parks like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone in popularity. Disney’s big gamble paid off — six decades later, Disneyland hosts more than 14 million visitors a year and is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations.