What Disney Parks Looked Like Through the Decades

The Disney parks have changed a lot over the years, but the magical memories remain. Here's what The Happiest Place on Earth looked like between 1955 and 2020.

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UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: 1955: Disneyland Welcome : What has become one of the best known landmarks of the wondrous world of Disneyland is this gateway to Sleeping Beauty's Castle. Through its portcullised arch lies Fantasyland, one of the five divisions of Disneyland. Greeting visitors on the castle drawbridge are Snow White and the seven Dwarfs, just a few of the famous Disney characters who inhabit this happy land. Some say that Las Vegas, an hour away by air, is a Disneyland for adults. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
Keystone-France/Getty Images


Disneyland opened its doors to the public on July 17, 1955. Ever since, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle has welcomed kids (and kids at heart) into Fantasyland. Hungry? Check out our Disney Parks copycat recipes.

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Disney character actor (played by photographer Tom Nebbia), dressed as Goofy, holds out his leg as a tourist ties his shoelaces at Disneyland, Anaheim, California, January 1962. (Photo by Tom Nebbia/Corbis via Getty Images)
tom nebbia/Getty Images


Oooh boy! A good samaritan steps in to lend a helping hand when Goofy’s shoe came untied at Disneyland.

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ANAHEIM, CA - 1963: Disney characters entertain children in the Fantasyland area of Disneyland in1963 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by David Attie/Getty Images)
David Attie/Getty Images


Characters from some of Disney’s early films—like the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland and the mischievous “Honest John” from Pinocchio—entertain visitors in Fantasyland. These tasty eats are inspired by your favorite Disney films.

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UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: May 13, 1968 view of the California Disneyland, with its then-new PEOPLE MOVER ride in the background. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
Keystone-France/Getty Images


Pluto catches a ride on Disneyland’s “People Mover” attraction—an innovative transportation ride that gave guests an overhead view of Tomorrowland.

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Scenes at the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California, United States. Cable cars passinghe Matterhorn mountain attraction and submarine base on the resort. June 1970. (Photo by Monte Fresco/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
Mirrorpix/Getty Images


One of the most iconic rides at Disneyland, the Matterhorn coaster opened in 1959—and it still runs today! Back in the ’70s, guests could travel through the mountain, too, as part of the Skyway ride.

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Three siblings stand on a rope bridge at Disney World amusement park, Orlando, Florida, 1975. (Photo via Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images).
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images


Disney World opened in Florida on October 1, 1971. A trio of siblings spends some quality time together just a few years after that inaugural date.

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A show outside the Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World, Florida, 1980. (Photo by Barbara Alper/Getty Images)
Barbara Alper/Getty Images


In addition to rides, the Disney parks are known for their high-quality entertainment. Here, a group of performers sing and dance for a crowd gathered outside of Cinderella’s castle. (Which is also where you can catch Disney’s jaw-dropping fireworks displays.)

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ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 1: Standing in front of the "Spaceship Earth" globe at the EPCOT Center at Walt Disney World, Boston College players, form left, Jim Brown, Scott Nizolek and Brian Krystoforski check a map of the attractions while on tour, December 1982. BC was in town to play Auburn in the Tangerine Bowl. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Boston Globe/Getty Images


The Disney parks are enjoyed by all ages—even college students! This group exploring EPCOT was part of the Boston College football team in town for the Tangerine Bowl.

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Walt Disney World Resort à Lake Buena Vista, Floride le 4 octobre 1986, Etats-Unis. (Photo by Jean GUICHARD/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Jean GUICHARD/Getty Images


One of the most beloved events in Disney history, the Main Street Electrical Parade ran in Magic Kingdom between 1977 and 1991. The parade was officially retired at Disney World in 2016.

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Prince Harry (front left) rides a Log Flume down Splash Mountain at Disney's Magic Kingdom in Florida, USA, leaning forward, hidden (top row right) is his mother the Princess of Wales. (Photo by Martin Keene - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Martin Keene - PA Images/Getty Images


Even royalty visits the happiest place on Earth. The young boy on the left is Prince Harry—enjoying a thrilling ride on Splash Mountain.

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, UNITED STATES: Fireworks and six Air Force F-16 fighters fly over Cinderella's Castle during the rededication of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, 01 October. The Castle was decorated as a birthday cake for the 25th Anniversary of the opening of Walt Disney World. AFP PHOTO Tony RANZE (Photo credit should read TONY RANZE/AFP via Getty Images)
TONY RANZE/Getty Images


Time certainly flies! Cinderella’s Castle got a sweet makeover to help celebrate Magic Kingdom’s 25th anniversary.

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ME.Disney.2.1102.D.IK ; Anaheim, November 02With Halloween over, Disneyland is promoting itself as a Christmas destination by early start in decorating itself for the holiday season . Christmas wreathes adorn the Main Street in Disneyland. (Photo by Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Irfan Khan/Getty Images


‘Tis the season for a little magic. Mere days after Halloween, Disneyland transforms into a holiday wonderland.

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Situated at the edge of the Paradise Pier lagoon, at Disney's California Adventure is the 150–foot–tall Sun Wheel. (Photo by Don Kelsen/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Don Kelsen/Getty Images


Disneyland’s sister park, California Adventure, made its debut on February 8, 2001. Since then, the park has undergone several transformations—including a rebranding of the Sun Wheel seen here to Mickey’s Fun Wheel in 2009.

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Sleeping Beauty's Castle can be seen in the backround as people make their way past the "Partners" statue (depicting Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse) at Disneyland, Friday July 15, 2005, in Anaheim. Disneyland celebrated its 50th anniversary on July 17, 2005. (Photo by Richard Hartog/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Richard Hartog/Getty Images


Disneyland celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2005—and the “Partners” statue depicting a hand-in-hand Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse remains a popular photo spot for park guests. Another park favorite? Dole Whip.

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(Anaheim) – After being closed for nine years, the Disneyland submarines finally get a return voyage. With a new coating of exterior paint the attraction is now known at the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. The submarines are also environmentally friendly with new electric motors, replacing the old diesel engines. The view of the submarine lagoon you see the submarine port and the Monorail platform PHOTOGRAPHED TUESDAY JUNE 5, 2007 (Photo by Don Kelsen/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Don Kelsen/Getty Images


One of the original Disneyland attractions, Submarine Voyage, reopened to the public after nine years of refurbishment. It was rebranded with a Finding Nemo spin.

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As visitors pass by on a 'safari' truck, a group of rhinoceroses wander the grounds of the Animal Kingdom Theme Park at Disneyworld, Orlando, Florida, August 2012. (Photo by Tom Nebbia/Corbis via Getty Images)
tom nebbia/Getty Images


No, this isn’t Africa. It’s Disney World’s Animal Kingdom park, which opened on April 22, 1998. Its goal is to help guests learn about and better appreciate all kinds of animals—like the rhinos seen here.

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ANAHEIM, CALIF. -- THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2015: Exterior view of the updated Hyperspace Mountain at Disneyland during the media preview of Star Wars Season of The Force on November 12, 2015 in Anaheim, California.(Photo by Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Allen J. Schaben/Getty Images


After acquiring the rights to Star Wars just a few years earlier, Disney began integrating the beloved films into park experiences, like the Hyperspace Mountain attraction seen here. (In 2019, the brand would go a step further and introduce Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge worlds at both Disneyland and Disney World.)

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - MAY 24: In this handout photo provided by Disney Resorts, a view of the new Pandora: World of Avatar attraction inside Disneys Animal Kingdom during the dedication ceremony on May 24, 2017 at Disneys Animal Kingdom inside the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The World of Avatar opens on May 27, 2017. (Photo by Steven Diaz/Disney Resorts via Getty Images)
Handout/Getty Images


A new attraction based on James Cameron’s Avatar film was introduced at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in May 2017. The Na’vi River Journey ride, seen here, takes guests through the enchanting world of Pandora.

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An employee cleans the grounds behind the closed gates of Disneyland Park on the first day of the closure of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks as fear of the spread of coronavirus continue, in Anaheim, California, on March 14, 2020. - The World Health Organization said March 13, 2020 it was not yet possible to say when the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 5,000 people worldwide, will peak. "It's impossible for us to say when this will peak globally," Maria Van Kerkhove, who heads the WHO's emerging diseases unit, told a virtual press conference, adding that "we hope that it is sooner rather than later". (Photo by DAVID MCNEW / AFP) (Photo by DAVID MCNEW/AFP via Getty Images)
DAVID MCNEW/Getty Images


Disneyland temporarily closed its doors to the public in March, 2020 due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. parks are expected to reopen in July.

Katie Bandurski
As Senior Shopping Editor, Katie connects Taste of Home readers with the best gifts, deals and home products on the market. An avid foodie and a holiday enthusiast, Katie is an expert at cultivating meaningful moments. When she’s out of the office, you’ll find her exploring Wisconsin, trying out new vegetarian recipes and watching Christmas movies.