Happy 60th Anniversary, Disneyland!

The Happiest Place on Earth opened to eager crowds, and theme park history, on July 17, 1955.

Paul Hiffmeyer

When we gaze back upon an especially auspicious moment of a bygone era, we often voice the unfulfillable wish that we owned a time machine, the better to return and see, with our own eyes, the history-making day.

Good news: There is a time machine in existence, one that brims with nostalgia and memory and cheer, and going there on any day of the year is much like traveling back to the first day of its existence: July 17, 1955.

Location? Anaheim, California, at 1313 Disneyland Drive.

This famous time-traveling device, which goes by the name of Disneyland, is marking its 60th anniversary throughout summer 2015, but many Magic Kingdom mavens, those pin-collecting, trivia-memorizing, history-happy fans who want to be a part of something extra special, have made the journey to be there on Friday, July 17.

Be there in dressy vintage wear, yes, as if it is still 1955, and be there for a complimentary cupcake, a sweet that comes complete with the diamond D, the insignia for the anniversary (as well as plenty of blue and silver accents of the edible sort).

And be there to eye the updates to various attractions completed just in time for the Diamond Celebration.

Fresh additions have been made to Peter Pan's Flight, one of the original rides that whisked the park's first guests to Neverland on July 17, 1955, and the Matterhorn's resident Abominable Snowman has been enhanced, and made even more abominable, if such a thing's possible, by some growly, state-of-the-art special effects.

Anniversary banners and signs and other blue-and-silver touches can be found throughout the world's most famous theme park, and its affable ambassadors are rocking some special outfits, too, just for the 60th. (You look fabulous, Minnie and Mickey.)

For those fans who can't be at the park, "live historic" tweets straight from Disneyland circa 1955 will pop up on Twitter throughout the day. So if you want to relive -- or live for the first time -- day #1, follow the hashtag #Livefrom55.

And, yes, Walt Disney, the beloved builder of this time machine, is present at the 60th anniversary, in both the much-photographed "Partners" statue, seen where Main Street meets Sleeping Beauty's Castle, and in every window and detail and attraction and the lamp that burns brightly in his former apartment, above the Fire Station.

For few legacy-makers have created a walk-in world that happily hums on, long after their passing, with whimsy, wit, and the ability to touch hearts across all spectrum. Students study how Mr. Disney did it, but capturing this particular lightening in a bottle -- or fireworks over a castle, if you prefer -- remains one of Disneyland's elusive charms.

Time travelers know that the park was called "Walt's Folly" back in the day, as the animator's detractors, and even some supporters, feared for the still-gelling park's future. And opening day, with its oppressive heat and considerable crowds and soft, heel-catching asphalt, hinted predictions might come to pass.

But time machines take, well, time. And few time-traveling devices have possessed the staying power shown by the theme park, a place that remains the bellwether, the crown jewel, and the True North, all wrapped into one, for all other vacation destinations seeking to capture people's imaginations and loyalty.

The nostalgia aspect of this time machine -- and all time machines depend on nostalgia and memory, to some extent -- doesn't mean Disneyland never changes; it does, as several rides have come and gone. It just means that the secret to its longevity isn't stuff but story. Fans adore the attractions, but they're there for the experience. 

And in the spirit of story and experience, we raise a Dole whip float to you, Disneyland, on your big 60th anniversary. 

Copyright FREEL - NBC Local Media
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