17 July 1955: Disneyland opens to invited guests

In the late 19th century, the growth of cities, rising living standards and improving technology led to the emergence of amusement parks, such as Coney Island in New York, Dreamland in Margate and Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen (which began as early as 1843).

However, the Great Depression forced many to close, and the postwar popularity of television and the rise of the suburbs accelerated the decline – indeed, when movie mogul Walt Disney first tried to build a “themed park” near his Burbank studio, it was rejected on the grounds it would encourage crime.

As a result, Disney had to locate his park in the nearby city of Anaheim. Construction was funded by the TV network ABC in return for Disney producing a TV show for them. After just over a year, the park opened for a ‘preview’ on 17 July 1955. Gatecrashers caused the attendance to swell to 28,000 people – with 50,000 attending the public opening the next day.

Overall, five million people attended the park in 1956. Its success inspired Disney to open in Florida (1971), Tokyo (1983), Paris (1992) Hong Kong (2005) and Shanghai (estimated 2016). But Disneyland (now Disneyland Park) is still the third most visited theme park in the world, with 16.7 million guests a year.

Since 1982, attractions are no longer ticketed, with people charged a flat fee for entry. However, prices for an adult have rocketed from $12 as late as 1982 ($29 in 2014 dollars) to $99. And extremely long queues mean some guests are willing to pay up to $500 an hour for “VIP tours”, which give them quick access to all attractions.

Also on this day

17 July 1981: The Queen officially opens the Humber bridge

The Humber bridge was officially opened on this day in 1981. The controversial bridge took nine years to build and cost over £150m. Read more here.