Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round: Where Disneyland Began

The carousel at Griffith Park that Walt took his daughters Diane and Sharon to ride on
The carousel at Griffith Park that Walt took his daughters Diane and Sharon to ride on
The bench Walt sat on while thinking of Disneyland
The bench Walt sat on while thinking of Disneyland
Close up of the plaque on the bench
Close up of the plaque on the bench

One of the iconic places in the history of Disney theme parks is the place where Walt first thought of the concept of Disneyland.  As the story goes, while Walt was watching his daughters on the merry-go-round at the park he thought it would be great if there was a place families could go and enjoy things together.  That place eventually became Disneyland.  For years, I assumed the park he took his daughters to ride the merry-go-round was just “some anonymous park” and could have been one of dozens at the time, but in point of fact it was the merry-go-round at Griffith Park in Los Angeles!  You can still go there and ride the very same carousel Walt’s daughters rode but for a little more than the nickel it cost at the time.

The new bench dedicated to Walt, Diane, and Sharon
The new bench dedicated to Walt, Diane, and Sharon
Tony Baxter talking to one of Diane's children at the dedication
Tony Baxter talking to one of Diane’s children at the dedication

 

Location: Griffith Park (not the same location as the observatory – follow the road until you see signs for the merry-go-round
Description: Vintage Spillman carousel
Days and Hours: Every weekend and select weekdays during Christmas, Easter, and summer from 11am to 5pm
Cost: $2 per ride
Craig’s Favorite:
A significant part of Disney history you can actually experience

On December 6th, D23 members were invited to a dedication of a new park bench at that very merry-go-round in honor of Walt, Diane, and Sharon.  At the dedication we heard from such luminaries as Diane’s husband (and former CEO of the Walt Disney Company), Ron Miller and from Disney Legend and Imagineer Tony Baxter. One of the speakers told us a really cute story about Diane and Walt.  It was traditional for carousels back then to have a brass ring you could try to grab while riding by.  I guess today there would be too much liability with someone falling off.  But Diane was never quite big enough to reach it.  One day while she was riding, she finally got it!  In fact, over and over that day she was able to reach the brass ring!  She was so excited.  It was only many years later that she learned from Walt that he had paid the attendant that day to let her grab the ring as many times as she wanted.

The carousel itself is the only existing four-abreast Spillman merry-go-round in existence.  And it is fast.  I mean crazy fast for a carousel.  But it is fun!  If you want to personally experience what Walt and his daughters did together so many years ago and you’re in the Los Angeles area, then come on down for a ride on this famous vintage carousel.

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