Walt Disney created Disneyland because quite frankly, he wanted it for himself. In describing how he first thought of the concept, he said,
“I’d sit on a bench, you know, eating peanuts. I felt that there should be something built – some sort of an amusement enterprise – where the parents and the children could have fun together.”
More than sixty years later, we know that an amusement enterprise is exactly what he built. With parks and resorts in 5 (soon to be 6!) vastly different parts of the world – not to mention the hundreds of films the company has created since the start of the studios – it’s no wonder Mickey Mouse is one of the most widely recognized icons throughout the entire world.
Some of us around here love Disney. Others of us can recite the monorail spiel, could give touring advice in our sleep, and have had one or more discussions on our favorite Disney Parks smell. 🙂 If you find yourself in the second group, you will appreciate one of our most cherished memories of our first trip to Southern California.
When we first traveled to Disneyland, we knew that after flying all the way across the country we would want to add a couple of day trips. We hit up the beaches, drove down the Pacific Coast Highway, got accosted by creepy characters in Hollywood, and enjoyed a movie at the breathtakingly beautiful El Capitan Theater followed by lunch at the Disney Soda Fountain.
In the earliest stages of planning, though, I just knew we had to get to Griffith Park. Griffith is a gigantic park in Los Angeles. It includes the Los Angeles Zoo, outdoor entertainment venues, an observatory and more; near a modern playground in one section of the park stands the Griffith Park Merry-go-Round. According to the Disney archives, it is on a bench at this very carousel where Walt began daydreaming.
A Griffith Park bench and a picture of Walt (along with a fully restored carousel horse from the original period) can be found in the Opera House at Disneyland for any visitor to see. But with just a little extra effort (and some means of transportation), you can actually ride the carousel Sharon and Diane rode as their Dad watched on, bored. How grateful we are for that boredom 🙂
My girls were too young to really remember it well, but they absolutely loved the ride. Old though it is, and as unappealing as it could have been to three-year-olds who couldn’t possibly appreciate the restoration efforts and historical significance, that sucker spun for several minutes and spun fast. To be perfectly honest, I was a little worried they’d be terrified – and a little jealous that I hadn’t bought myself a ticket!
The Griffith Park Merry-go-Round can be found in Park Center between the zoo and the Los Feliz park entrance. At the time of this post, tickets are still just $2/ride. Whether you want to ride or not, it’s worth a visit for anyone who geeks out over Disney history (or anyone who geeks out over carousel history, which I learned during the Boardwalk Ballyhoo tour in Walt Disney World, is quite vast and intriguing).
I admit, I got a little choked up when the curtains opened for the day and we got our first look. The restoration project had just begun and it really looked pretty shabby… but to me, it was so beautiful.