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If a dream is a wish your heart makes, then Disneyland was, as LIFE declared one month after it opened on July 17, 1955, “the stuff children’s dreams are made on.” The brand new park featured a Frontierland complete with Davy Crockett museum, an Adventureland with hydraulically operated jungle animals and, of course, Sleeping Beauty’s castle, which would soon include a model torture chamber.
The $17 million park, built on a 160-acre site, was “the most lavish amusement park on earth,” but its opening day was a disaster. Traffic was backed up for hours, delaying celebrity guests. The temperature crept above 100 degrees, causing heels to sink into soft asphalt, while a plumbers’ strike decommissioned all water fountains. Oh, and there was a gas leak, too. Practically everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.
Some parents also expressed dismay at the prices. “Disney had expected that $2 would see a child through enough of his $17 million wonderland, but mothers said twice that was needed to keep any enterprising small boy pacified,” LIFE wrote. Today, admission for a child under 10 is $93—not including the Mickey ears, Frozen wand or Goofyroni & Cheese.
But, said those mothers back in 1955, “as they emerged spent and spinning… it was probably well worth it.”
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.
Correction, Aug. 10, 2018:
A caption in the original version of this gallery misstated the name of a train ridden by Mickey Mouse. The photo shows the Disneyland Railroad, not the Dumbo-inspired Casey Jr. Circus Train.