You don't really need a reason to visit Disneyland. It is the happiest place on Earth after all. But when was the last time you stepped onto Main Street U.S.A. or took a spin on Dumbo the Flying Elephant?
If it's been awhile, you might want to consider planning a visit this year as the resort goes all out for its 60th anniversary Diamond Celebration. In honor of the occasion, let's highlight 60 of the best reasons to gather your theme park buddies, put on your mouse ears, and hightail it to Disneyland.
It's the 60th Anniversary for Crying out Loud!
Disneyland is an American original, an icon, and a national treasure. Opened in 1955, it has reached an important milestone in its long and proud history. (Check out what Disney did to celebrate the park’s 50th anniversary.) It remains a beloved destination for visitors of all ages. 60 years on, the park that Walt Disney built beckons simultaneously with a warm glow of nostalgia and the promise of new features imbued with cutting-edge technology. What are you waiting for?
Win Weekly Prizes
Maybe you're waiting for this: As part of the celebration, the resort will be presenting Disneyland Diamond Days sweepstakes. Among the weekly prizes visitors could win are actual diamonds, a private, romantic cruise aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat, and an overnight stay in the Disneyland Dream Suite (pictured).
Win Daily Prizes
If you're more the instant gratification type, the resort will also be giving away daily prizes that will include a personalized tour of both parks, front-of-the-line access to most of the popular attractions, on-the-house dining, and VIP viewing to the new nighttime spectaculars.
"What new nighttime spectaculars," you ask? One of the three new extravaganzas the resort will be debuting for the Diamond Celebration will be the Paint the Night parade. Expect a wildly colorful procession to make its way through Disneyland.
June 2015 update: Read my (glowing!) review of Paint the Night.
Check Out Over 1.5 Million Lights
Over 1.5 million LED lights, each capable of changing colors and intensity, will adorn the floats and costumes of the characters in the Paint the Night parade. Among the most impressive floats will be Mack Truck from Cars. Embedded in his trailer will be a three-dimensional grid of lights that the Imagineers refer to as a "volumetric display." I saw a preview of the float and was wowed by its ability to render depth and motion using sophisticated light technology.
Hey! Is That the Main Street Electrical Parade?
Paint the Night will essentially be a modern-day update of the Main Street Electrical Parade. The new procession will more than hint at Disneyland's classic parade. It will include its "Baroque Hoedown" theme song and feature its signature bass drum on one of its floats.
See Fireworks Explode Over Sleeping Beauty Castle
No visit to Disneyland would be complete without seeing fireworks light the night skies at the end of Main Street U.S.A. For the Diamond Celebration, the park will be presenting a new multimedia extravaganza.
Enjoy Projections Throughout the Park
Disneyland Forever will be more than just a fireworks show. It will include digital mapping projection on a grand scale as well. Guests throughout the park will be able to see media projected onto the facades of Main Street U.S.A. shops, the Matterhorn's mountain, the water screens used for Fantasmic, and the front of "it's a small world."
Get a "Kiss Goodnight"
Composer and Disney legend Richard M. Sherman, who co-wrote famous songs such as "it's a small world" and "A Spoonful of Sugar," will debut two new tunes for Disneyland Forever: “Live the Magic” and “Kiss Goodnight."
Since 2010, Disney California Adventure has been giving its guests a kiss goodnight with the spectacular World of Color. It combines vibrant dancing fountains with an enormous water screen onto which scenes and characters from Disney and Pixar films are projected. The show will be updated for the Diamond Celebration and will focus on Disneyland's history.
June 2015 update: Read my review of World of Color - Celebrate
How You Can Meet NPH
Co-hosting the new World of Color – Celebrate will be Neil Patrick Harris and Mickey Mouse. Harris is an avid Disney parks fan. He will help narrate the story of Walt Disney's journey to build Disneyland and set the stage for some of the company's classic animated films.
June 2015 update: I got the chance to chat with the star at the debut of World of Color. See what Disneyland means to NPH and other fascinating folks.
Glow with the Shows
You'll be able to purchase new Diamond Celebration ear hats, paint brushes, and wands that will light up in sync with the three new nighttime shows.
Pull an All-Nighter
The Diamond Celebration will kick off at 6 a.m. on Friday, May 22 for a 24-hour event that will last straight through to Saturday, May 23. The three nighttime spectaculars, Disneyland Diamond Days sweepstakes, and other anniversary features will debut at the event.
Take Flight with an Updated Peter Pan
The endearing Peter Pan's Flight attraction gets plussed with new special effects. The re-imagined nursery scene will feature projections of Tinker Bell and Peter Pan.
Endure the Wrath of a More Ferocious Abominable Snowman
Climb on board the Matterhorn Bobsleds -- if you dare. At the apex of the mountain, passengers will encounter a restored Abominable Snowman and see a newly added scene.
Among the 999 ghosts roaming the Haunted Mansion, will be the new Hatbox Ghost. He's not new exactly. The poltergeist appeared for a brief time when the classic attraction debuted in the late 1960s. About 50 years later (which is the blink of an eye in ghost time), he will be returning.
I saw the Hatbox Ghost! Read my updated review of the Haunted Mansion. For more info about the beloved ride, see my features, Giving Up the Ghosts: Haunted Mansion ride secrets revealed and Researching the Deed of the Haunted Mansion.
Savor New Sweets
The resort will be introducing new food in conjunction with the anniversary event. Among the sweet items will be orange- and lemon-flavored Diamond Celebration Cupcakes.
If the new cupcakes whet your appetite, you might want to indulge in some more decadent treats. The resort is overflowing with choices. Lucky for you, I've narrowed it down to Disneyland's 10 Best Snacks and Desserts.
Drink Up, Me 'earties with New Beverages
Raise a toast to Disneyland on the occasion of its anniversary with beverages created especially for the the Diamond Celebration. Among the new brews will be a Pomegranate Silver Sparkler. The sweet, slushy drink will be capped with a lemon-lime foam and silver flakes.
Speaking of good food, if you haven't been to Disneyland for awhile, you may not have been to Flo's V8 Cafe. You should give it a test drive. The counter-service restaurant has reasonably priced, tasty dishes that are unique takes on classic diner fare.
Flo's topped the list, but you can see what other eateries made the grade for Disneyland's top ten best casual and quick-service restaurants.
Have a Square Meal at the Carthay Circle
Another relatively new place to eat at the resort is the Carthay Circle Restaurant. Located inside an elegant movie theater facsimile in Disney California Adventure (it's an homage to the since-shuttered Hollywood theater at which Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered), it takes in-park dining to a whole new level. The Carthay Circle is a bit pricey, but the special-occasion restaurant is sumptuous. Consider making reservations for its World of Color dining package, which includes reservations for the show in a special viewing area.
What's your pleasure? Steak house? New Orleans Cajun fare? Mediterranean specialties? There are a surprising number of wonderful sit-down restaurants throughout the resort offering these choices and much more. Carthay Circle is tied for the top spot, but check out the other establishments on Disneyland's top ten best table-service restaurants.
Party Like It's 1955 at Diamond Mad T Party
Tim Burton's twisted take on Alice in Wonderland is the inspiration for the nighttime Mad T Party that has been presented at Disney California Adventure the past few years. This year, the summer-season party will celebrate Disneyland's anniversary with a diamond theme.
March Along with the Disneyland Band
Guests will be invited to join the procession up Main Street U.S.A. with the Disneyland Band and Mickey and the gang for a Diamond March-Along.
Sing Along with the Dapper Dans
Get in tune with the tight harmonies of the Dapper Dans when the barbershop quartet invites guests to join Diamond Sing-Alongs.
Dream Along with Mickey and Hear a New Song
Mickey Mouse will join the Red Car News Boys for a new song about Disneyland. The show will be presented in front of the Carthay Circle Theater at Disney California Adventure multiple times daily.
Ogle the Decked-Out Park
Special anniversary banners, displays, and more will be featured throughout the resort for the Diamond Celebration.
See the Carthay Circle Shine
Among the most prominent anniversary displays will be at the Carthay Circle Theater at Disney California Adventure. It will sparkle with diamonds on its marquee and tower.
See Sleeping Beauty Castle Sparkle
The centerpiece at Disneyland Park, Sleeping Beauty Castle, will also be bejeweled for the anniversary celebration.
Be a Big-Time Collector
There will be plenty of special merchandise available to purchase for the anniversary, including a "Diamond Collection" line of high-end items. The most over-the-top collectible will be a Sleeping Beauty Castle figure from Arribas Bros. that will be outfitted with real sapphires and diamonds. Its cost? A cool $20,000. Look also for a rhinestone-encrusted, Michael Jackson-style Mickey Mouse glove and a cellphone case with fireworks that sparkle when a call activates it.
Be a Small-Time Collector
If, like me, $20,000 is out of your league, Disney will also offer more modest collectibles, such as limited-edition pins and Vinylmation.
Get a Head of the Anniversary
The ever-popular Mickey ear hat will get an anniversary makeover. If you've got the bucks and like bling, you could purchase a crystal-decorated version of the ear hat as well as a sparkly Minnie Mouse headband.
Bring the Celebration Home
If you want to decorate your home Disney style, the resort will offer snow globes, pillows, dessert plates, and other kinds of anniversary-themed items.
Have Your Own Anniversary Toy Story
Kids (and kids at heart) will be able to play with a line of Diamond Celebration-themed toys, including a Disneyland train set, puzzles, and dolls.
Wear the Anniversary on Your Sleeve
Of course, Disney will have plenty of T-shirts, jackets, hoodies, and other items to commemorate the Diamond Celebration
One of Disney's best attractions, Soarin' Over California, is getting an upgrade and will reopen for the Diamond Celebration with higher-resolution imagery and a better projection system. It should produce a clearer and brighter picture and a more immersive experience.
Enjoy More Grizzly Peak
When Disney California Adventure first opened, some of the themed lands were small and the transitions were a bit abrupt. The park will address that when it expands Grizzly Peak into the former Condor Flats area (the home of Soarin' Over California). Instead of an open airfield, the re-imagined area will include more trees and shading. The existing counter-service restaurant has been made over as Smokejumpers Grill to better tie in with the Redwood Forest theme.
It's astonishing how many of Disneyland's original attractions are still open today. Get into the spirit of the anniversary by boarding some of the rides that greeted guests in 1955 such as Snow White's Scary Adventures, the Jungle Cruise, and Autopia.
Be Enchanted in the Tiki Room
It did not debut until 1963, but the Tiki Room is another classic attraction that should be experienced during the 60th anniversary. The landmark show was the first to feature Disney's audio-animatronic technology.
Another classic attraction that should be on your Diamond Celebration itinerary is Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. Although it opened a few months after the Tiki Room, its audio-animatronic character was much more advanced. Lincoln was one of the four Disney attractions that debuted at the 1964 New York World's Fair.
Another World's Fair attraction was Ford's Magic Skyway. You could experience part of the ride by boarding the Disneyland Railroad. It travels through Primeval World, the dinosaur-filled land that was transplanted from the Magic Skyway.
Get Dolled Up for "it's a small world"
The most iconic attraction to emerge from the World's Fair was "it's a small world." The classic ride is a must for an anniversary visit to the park. In 2009, Disneyland enhanced the ride with doll versions of Disney and Pixar animated characters.
You can't go to Disneyland without riding Pirates of the Caribbean. Since it was one of the last attractions that Walt Disney personally oversaw, it would be especially appropriate for a 60th anniversary visit.
The original Submarine Voyage opened in 1959 along with Matterhorn Bobsleds. The two attractions were Disneyland's first E-Ticket rides. In honor of the anniversary, you could dive to the ocean floor in the re-themed Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.
See Anna and Elsa
The crazy-popular stars of Frozen perform in a show at The Royal Theatre in Disneyland. You may have trouble dragging your kids away after the performance.
If you have not been to Disneyland since 2012, you have not been to Cars Land. It was one of the final additions to Disney California Adventure's recent expansion and has helped transform the park from also-ran to must-see. So go see it during the anniversary.
If you haven't been to Cars Land, you haven't ridden Radiator Springs Racers, one of Disney's best attractions. It's become a DIsneyland tradition to race to Disney California Adventure and get FastPasses for the popular ride. Join the tradition.
Also opened in 2012, Buena Vista Street transformed the front of Disney California Adventure from a mishmash of California culture to a sharply defined and lovely downtown street in circa-1920s Los Angeles. It's meant to evoke the era when Walt Disney first arrived in the city.
Board the Red Car Trolley
One of the highlights of Buena Vista Street is the Red Car Trolley. Take a one-way ride around Carthay Circle, down Hollywood Boulevard, and end at Hollywood Tower Hotel (better known as the Tower of Terror).
Travel to an Updated Wonderland
The classic Alice in Wonderland dark ride recently got updated with new projection technology. Have a very merry un-birthday aboard the vintage attraction.
Survive an Upgraded Big Thunder Mountain
The beloved Big Thunder Mountain Railroad also got some TLC and improvements recently. It has an upgraded track, a restored Rainbow Ridge Mining Town, and enhanced scenes.
If you haven't ridden Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland Park lately, be prepared for a spiffed-up ride experience. A recent overhaul improved the effects, audio, and other features.
The retooled Star Tours - The Adventures Continue that launched in 2011 dramatically improved the ride with 3D, high-resolution imagery, and a wild random sequence generator. The latter feature makes over 50 story combinations possible, so it's likely you'll rarely have the same ride experience more than once.
When you visit during the anniversary, make sure you ride the best rides at Disneyland's two parks. Here are my top 10 picks.
If you will be visiting Disneyland during its 60th anniversary, why not plan a special character meal? It's especially fun for families with young children.
Become a Wilderness Explorer
The Redwood Creek Challenge Trail got a makeover recently and now includes Russell, the scout from the wonderful Pixar film, Up. Kids can earn badges by completing challenges along the trail.
Ride the Monorail
It's one of Disneyland's most iconic features. So take a ride aboard the monorail for the park's 60th anniversary.
Stay at the Disneyland Hotel
It opened soon after the park debuted and has a great mid-century vibe. Celebrate Disneyland's 60th anniversary in style by staying on property at the Disneyland Hotel.
Say Hi to Mickey
Walt Disney once famously said, "I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing -- that it was started by a mouse." In honor of Walt and the park that he built, make sure to stop by and say hello to Mickey during the 60th anniversary.