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Disneyland And 5 Other Places To Celebrate Walt Disney's 120th Birthday

Partners Statue at Magic Kingdom
(Image credit: Walt Disney World)

It’s somewhat difficult to imagine that it’s been 120 years since the birth of Walt Disney. While it would certainly be a couple of decades before he would begin to literally change the world, it was on this day, December 5, in 1901, that an incredible human being was born. While he’s now been gone for nearly as long as he was alive, his memory has been kept alive thanks to the company that still bears his name, as well as the multiple theme parks around the world that were named for him. 

In celebration of Walt Disney's life, we’re going to take a look at six places that any fan of Walt will want to check out. The first of these will be obvious, but the others may not be places you’re familiar with, However, if you want to learn more about Walt Disney, both the man and the icon, you should seek them out.  

Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland

(Image credit: Disneyland)

 Disneyland Resort

If there is one place on earth that any fan of Walt Disney must go, it is Disneyland. While there are a dozen Disney theme parks around the world now, there is only one that Walt actually stepped foot inside, and that’s the original park built in Anaheim, California in 1955. As you enter the park, you’ll walk right past the Firehouse where Walt stayed when he spent the night in the park, and where a light still shines in the window to let us know he’s still there.

But honestly, everything about Disneyland is a testament to the man himself. Walt Disney was a committed futurist, and Tomorrowland was designed to be a look toward what was possible in humanity’s future. He loved the natural world, so Adventureland was built to celebrate it. He was also intensely nostalgic, so Main Street U.S.A. and Frontierland look back with rose colored glasses on earlier and seemingly simpler times. If you want to understand Walt Disney, you only need to visit Disneyland.  

Walt Disney with his train, the Lilly Belle

(Image credit: The Carolwood Foundation)

Walt Disney’s Carolwood Barn 

Walt Disney had many passions, and one of them was trains. The man loved trains so much that he built a fully functional scale model in the backyard of his own home. He named it the Carolwood Pacific Railroad since the house was located on Carolwood Drive. Work on the train and other model projects were done inside a red barn on the property.

That barn can now be found in Griffith Park in Los Angeles, and it is regularly open to the public, though on a limited basis, so you likely won’t be able to spend Walt’s actual birthday there. Still, the barn contains many of Walt’s own tools and models, and it shows a particular side of Walt’s personality and his love for the railroad. 

The Walt Disney Family Museum exterior

(Image credit: The Walt Disney Family Museum)

The Walt Disney Family Museum 

Hollywood was, of course, where Walt Disney built his career, so it’s not surprising that most places one can find that honor him and his ideals can be found in Southern California. But if you want to find one museum that is specifically dedicated to the man, you’ll have to head north. The Walt Disney Family Museum is located in the Presidio in San Francisco, California, and it is dedicated to the simple idea of reminding people that while Disney is the name of a massive company, it was first the name of a man.

The Walt Disney Family Museum was built by Walt’s daughter Diane Disney Miller, and it has multiple galleries dedicated to telling the story of the life of Walt Disney, as well as rotating exhibits, the current one being focused on how Walt Disney Studios survived World War II.

Walt Disney Hometown Museum display

(Image credit: Walt Disney Hometown Museum)

Walt Disney Hometown Museum 

There are many places one can go to see what Walt Disney accomplished, but if you want to truly go back to the beginning and learn about where the man truly came from, then there’s really only one place you can go: Walt’s hometown of Marceline, Missouri.

While Walt Disney lived in a few places growing up, Marceline was the one that Walt considered his home, and it’s there that Walt Disney Hometown Museum is found. It’s where he first got into animation and met Ub Iwerks, the man who would help him create Mickey Mouse. There is a museum in Marceline and several other spots of importance to Walt that can be found and visited.  

Griffith Park Merry Go Round

(Image credit: Grfifith Park Merry Go Round/Facebook)

Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round 

The other locations on this list are specific to Walt Disney, and either things that he created or that were created because of him. There are, however, a couple of spots that are important to Walt Disney’s personal history that are worth visiting that aren't specifically dedicated to him. One is not that far from the current location of Walt’s Barn: the Merry-Go-Round in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. 

If you find yourself there, grab a seat on a bench and watch the horses go around, and you’ll be doing the same thing that Walt Disney did on many weekends when his kids were young. Walt would always tell the story that it was here, while his kids had fun and he just sat and watched, that he had the idea for a park where parents and children could play together. While the ultimate truth is a bit more complicated, this place had a role in the creation of Disneyland.

Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln

(Image credit: Disney+)

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, New York 

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is a public park in Queens, New York that anybody can visit, but this spot, which is about as far from Disneyland as you can get in the continental United States, is one that potentially changed the course of both Walt Disney’s life and the history of theme parks.

It was here that the 1964-65 World’s Fair was held, and Walt Disney’s Imagineers would design four different attractions for four different organizations as part of the fair. Three of them, the Carousel of Progress, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and It’s a Small World, would eventually find homes at Disneyland. The fair would also prove that there was interest on the East Coast for Disney attractions, confirming that Disney World would be a success. Little of the World’s Fair is still standing today, but some of it is, and you can still visit the places where these iconic attractions were first shown to the public.

It’s been 120 years since Walt Disney was born and it’s hard to understate just how much of an impact he would have on the world. The movie business wouldn’t be where it is without Walt Disney. The theme park industry might not even exist had Disneyland never been built. So celebrate Walt Disney today, and if you can, do it at one of these important locations are learn a little bit more about the man behind the name Disney. 

Dirk Libbey

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.