The "Happiest Place on Earth" turns 60 on July 17.

In 1955, Walt Disney and President Richard Nixon led the opening ceremonies in Anaheim, California. The park held just 18 attractions, and Sleeping Beauty's Castle wasn't even open to the public yet.

Today, the park hosts more than 16 million visitors annually.

To celebrate its diamond anniversary, we're taking a look back at how Disneyland came to be.

Walt Disney, pictured in 1950, wanted to build a family-friendly theme park across from his studios in Burbank, California, but local officials turned it down for fear that the carnival atmosphere would bring crime to the area.

Source: USA Today



Disney settled for 160 acres of orange groves in beautiful Anaheim, California. Construction began in 1954, just 12 months before the park's official opening.

Source: USA Today



The park cost $17.5 million to build. In order to finance the project, Disney partnered with ABC to produce a weekly one-hour program, titled "Disneyland." It featured classic characters and fairy tales, documentary shorts on science and technology, and progress reports on the park's construction.

Source: The Walt Disney Family Museum



Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955. President Ronald Reagan co-hosted the opening ceremony.

Source: USA Today 



"The park means a lot to me," Disney told journalist Pete Martin in a 1956 interview, "in that it's something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing, keep plussing and adding to — it's alive."

Source: The Walt Disney Family Museum



When it opened, Disneyland featured 18 attractions scattered throughout five lands: Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, and Main Street USA.

Inspired by Disney's hometown of Marceline, Missouri, Main Street, U.S.A. imitated turn-of-the-century America. “For those of us who remember the carefree time it recreates, Main Street will bring back happy memories," Disney said. "For younger visitors, it is an adventure in turning back the calendar to the days of grandfather's youth."

Source: CNN



Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and other iconic Disney characters rode in a parade down Main Street.

Source: USA Today



Adventureland invited guests to explore new and exotic worlds. Its central ride, the Jungle Cruise, was one of the first attractions built, because Disney wanted to make sure the foliage had time to bloom.

Source: Disneyland



Frontierland, based on the escapades of cowboys and pioneers in the American Old West, featured few attractions at the start. Children traveled across the expanses of wilderness in old-fashioned stagecoaches and on pack mules.

Source: Disney



Disney dreamt up Fantasyland, pictured in the 1960s, as a fairy tale town inspired by Sleeping Beauty's castle in the animated movie. It was his favorite land in the park.

Source: Disney



Upon opening, children raced across the drawbridge toward the castle, which was modeled after a real Bavarian estate. The drawbridge has been lowered once since, at the land's rededication in 1983.

Source: Disneyland



The company scouted the country for old, hand-carved horses to be used on a merry-go-round erected in the center of Fantasyland. They were restored in a Disneyland workshop, and inspected by Disney himself.

Source: AP



Visitors took a whirl in oversized teacups on the "Mad Tea Party" ride.

Tomorrowland aimed to serve as a window to the future, inspired by Space Age innovations. It appeared barren on opening day. Disney and the Imagineers couldn't quite figure out what it should look like, and faced other practical roadblocks.

Source: Disney History Institute



Its centerpiece, the TWA Moonliner rocketship, towered over the land.

An old-fashioned river boat allowed guests to take in views of all the sites.

Disneyland welcomed 1 million guests during the first three months of operation.

Source: USA Today



When Disneyland first opened, it charged an entrance fee and an additional fee per ride. Starting in 1956, guests could instead purchase a booklet of tickets for different attractions. The prices pictured are from 1964.

Source: USA Today



As "Uncle Walt" hoped, the park continued to evolve over the years. Starting in the late 1950s, the Dapper Dans of Disneyland, a barbershop quartet, entertained guests along Main Street, U.S.A.

Source: Huffington Post



Tomorrowland filled out with rides like The Peoplemover. Guests boarded small trains that ran on an elevated track, providing panoramic views of the park. The attraction closed in 1967 because Imagineers thought it was too outdated.

Source: Disney



Another ride of by-gone days, the Flying Saucers were called "the bumper cars of the future." Guests sat in a car that hovered using airflow. It couldn't hold many people, and Space Mountain replaced the Tomorrowland ride in 1966.

Source: AOL



When people wanted to get from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland, they rode the Disneyland Skyway gondola lift. The Skyway opened in June 1956 and made its last run in 1994.

Source: Huffington Post



There, guests could go down the rabbit hole in a caterpillar-shaped vehicle at the Alice in Wonderland attraction.

Source: Disney and Wikipedia



The only thing that didn't seem to change were the gates. Pictured in 1960, the entrance to Disneyland has managed to stay almost entirely in its original condition since the park opened.

Source: Huffington Post



The '60s introduced rides such as the Haunted Mansion, the Pirates of the Caribbean, and It's a Small World.

Source: harmonize.com



Originally called "Children of the World," It's a Small World played an array of national anthems sung by children. Costume artists designed 300 colorfully dressed audio-animatronic dolls to be featured in the ride.

Source: Disney



Trains carried guests from the Disneyland Hotel to the park on a monorail. In the background is the The Matterhorn Bobsleds, a roller coaster modeled after a mountain in the Swiss Alps.

Vice President Richard Nixon, his wife Pat Nixon, and their children were on-site for the opening of the Matterhorn ride.

Source: Los Angeles Times



Nixon and his wife, Pat, also led a 150-unit hour-long parade with Disney. The president had reportedly promised his daughters a day at the park during their weeklong California vacation.

Source: AP



Nixon wasn't the only president to visit the so-called "Happiest Place on Earth." Former President Dwight Eisenhower and his wife Mamie Eisenhower took their grandchildren in 1961.

The park received many celebrities over the years, including Shirley Temple, who attended the inauguration of the Sleeping Beauty Castle Diorama in 1957. At the height of her career, 18 years earlier, she presented Disney with a special Academy Award for “Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs.”

Source: Disney and Fox



Elizabeth Taylor and boyfriend Eddie Fisher rode one of the fantasy rides during a family outing in 1959.

Even TV star Zorro swung on scene. For three weekends in 1958, 1959, and in 1960, characters from the show would make an appearance for "Zorro Day." Guy Williams, who played the titular character from 1957 to 1959, is pictured here.

Source: Disney History Institute



Today, Disneyland is visited by more than 16 million fans a year.

Source: Travel + Leisure



Much of the park has gotten a makeover ...

But it still remains one of the happiest places on earth.

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