Walt Disney was an avid lover of railroads. In fact, he had a miniature railroad called the Carolwood Pacific that ran through his Holmby Hills backyard. Amidst his backyard wonderland, Walt built a barn where he could monitor and control the operation of his railroad. Walt’s Barn also served as a workshop and a place for Walt to relax. The barn was moved from his backyard to Griffith Park (near Burbank) ten years ago and showcases great memorabilia.
Walt’s Barn is open the third Sunday of every month, from 11a.m. to 3p.m., to the public. This is a must-see for Disney fans. If you are from out of town or plan on visiting Disneyland in the future, making a trip out to Walt’s barn is a great way to expand upon your Disney experience. According to the Carolwood Foundation, the Carolwood Pacific provided the launching point for Walt’s vision of a family-oriented themed amusement park, Disneyland. Why not spend a couple of hours where it all started? Parking and admission are free.
Griffith Park – Walt’s Barn
5202 Zoo Dr.
Los Angeles, CA
July 16, 1954, Walt Disney broke ground on his dream. After attending carnivals and other family events with his children, he wanted to create a theme park of his very own. He wanted to create a place where adults and children could have fun together in a safe environment. He wanted a place where his fairy tale adventures could be come real life excitement.
On July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened its gates. The event was to be a day that was by invitiation only, but those with counterfit invitations made their way in to Walt’s magic kingdom. This day has gone down in Disneyland lore as Black Sunday. It was truly a disaster. The plumbers had been on strike just prior to the park opening, and Walt had had to make a choice between restrooms and drinking fountains. He opted for restrooms and had cast members walk the park with cups of water for the guests. With the unexpected guests, one can only imagine the results of the underestimated need for water and other amenities. The park asphalt had been poured just before the opening and in the 101 degree weather, the women’s heals sunk into the pavement.
Things have improved a bit since Black Sunday. Disneyland has become and remains the place of Walt’s dreams. As I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, I don’t agree with everything that Disney management does within the park. But I do believe in Walt’s original vision. I believe in spending quality time with my children in a place that we can enjoy together. I, like Walt Disney, believe in prolonging childhood and imagination.
Happy Birthday, Disneyland. May your current gate keepers remember that it all started with the magic of a mouse and a dream. May they remember that “Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, dreams, and hard facts that have created America…with the hope that it will become a source of joy and inspiration for all the world.” May they remember that Disneyland is more than a theme park, it is a work of art and monument to a great American folk hero.
Recently, my family and I had the opportunity to visit Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City, California. Universal Studios is the busiest studio backlot in California and has been seen in countless movies, television shows, and commercials. Universal Studios has offered tours since it opened. Studio co-owner, Carl Laemmle loved the idea of fans being able to watch silent movies being filmed.
- After the show, we grabbed lunch at the Flintstone’s-themed bar-b-que. The portions were big enough to share. My husband and I shared our $14 dollar lunch that included a half chicken, cole slaw, cornbread muffin, corn on the cob, and diet coke. We were beyond impressed by the automated ordering system. It was super fast and really easy to use. The line moved along VERY quickly. We were able to easily find a table to eat and had the sun been shining, we would have been in the shade. When my husband has done some shooting inside the theme park in the past, he has always been a fan of the Italian restaurant. He says that the pizza is excellent.
- After lunch, we were off to the Shrek 4D show. It was super cute and my four year old liked it. The baby was scared of the dark waiting area and my husband had to go outside with him. One of us would have had to sit with him in the last row had they stayed in, as there is absolutely no lap sitting allowed in the rest of the theater due to the fact that the seats move.
- Went to the Curious George play area. Unfortunately, it was too cold to play in the water, so we went to the ball room. I barely know how to describe the pandamonium that was taking place. It’s a giant room with cannons and other apparatus spitting out foam balls–everywhere. It’s really loud because of the vacuum action of the cannons. My kids loved it. Any attraction that makes a kid interested in vacuuming is alright by me. (See my pic below.)
- We finally made our way to the tram tour. The tram tour was a lot of fun. The baby slept through most of it and my four year old didn’t really “get it” but I enjoyed it. There are a couple of things I think are important to note if you are going to take your child on the tour. First, I think it is important to let him/her know that it is not real. The flood and earthquake are so lifelike, that it could be REALLY scary for a small child. I’m typically not one of those who goes around wanting to ruin the magic for others, but in this case I think it’s justified. Second, I recommend covering your child’s eyes (and closing your own) when you go into what the guide says will be props from “The Mummy.” There is a spinning effect that would freak any kid out and makes the strongest of stomachs queezy. Last, if you are going to visit Universal Studios Hollywood the summer of 2010 or later, I must warn you that the King Kong attraction will be back. This would have been way too scary for my kids and I would not have taken them on the tram attraction had it been there. I think it would be nice for the folks at Universal to run a couple of kid-friendly trams each day so that families with young kids can enjoy it without having to worry what’s around the corner.
- After the tram tour, we rode the world’s longest escalator down to the lower area of the park, home of the Jurassic Park ride, Mummy ride, and Backdraft experience. None of these are clearly appropriate for little guys, so we turned around and went back up the escalator. We then walked around the park more and checked out some of the characters and stores.
Disneyland is more than a theme park, it is a place to learn about the past. Resort imagineers and designers are committed to getting it right down to the very last details. Paying attention to detail reaches far beyond architecture true to the given time period and the use of antique furniture.
Next time you are in New Orleans Square, look for all of the fire insurance plaques on Royal Street and Orleans Street. See how many you can find!
If you have an interesting fact you would like to share with the Babes in Disneyland readers, send me an email!