The basketball court inside the summit of Disneyland Matterhorn

The first time I went to Disneyland was in 1966. I was five years old. My parents, who were in their 20s, drove our Volkswagen Beetle from Boulder, CO to Anaheim, CA in the middle of summer.

I remember four things from the trip:

1. A motorcycle cop pulling over my father for speeding. When my father produced his driver's license, the cop looked at it and did a double take. The cop said that his last name was Frauenfelder, too. And since they must be sixth cousins or something, he was duty-bound to let my father go.

2. My mother putting a wet towel on my face as we drove through the Arizona desert in the non-air conditioned Volkswagen.

3. Seeing live mermaids and feeling water drip on my face on the Submarine Voyage ride.

4. Seeing climbers in lederhosen climbing the artificial Matterhorn.

(Unfortunately, I don't remember anything else about the trip! I wonder if additional memories are locked in the recesses of my brain, retrievable through CIA developed truth serums or hypnosis.)

Out of those four memories, the most vivid was the one of the Matterhorn. To me, the Matterhorn looked as big as the Rocky Mountains. A few years ago, I googled Disneyland's Matterhorn to learn about its construction. The most interesting thing I learned was that there is an actual basketball court inside the artificial mountain near the summit. Some of the websites I've read about the Matterhorn say that Walt Disney added a basketball court to the Matterhorn to skirt around Anaheim's building codes, which prohibited structures from exceeding a specified height unless they were sports arenas. But according to, that great debunker of myths, the basketball court was put there solely as a way for the climbers to have fun during inclement weather.

Above is a Disney Imagineering video about the basketball court in the Matterhorn.


  1. On my first and only visit to Disneyland when I was 11 (in 1983 or 84), the Matterhorn broke down when I was on it, and all of us were escorted off the ride by going down inside it on some stairs. I don’t remember any basketball court in there, but I do remember it was really big and scary and dark and felt much larger inside than what you would think. After that we went to Knott’s Berry Farm for a concert where the headliners were Sister Sledge and John Stamos.

  2. I wonder how many commenters here have ever traveled in a car before air conditioning, tinted windows and windshields visors became standardized (or were even available for any price)? 

    I’ve only been to Disneyland once, at age 15.  This would have been around 72′.  We traveled there as part of a larger church group circuit, by school bus, from Washington state.  No airconditioning.  We were teenagers with very little excess fat and still sweated buckets driving through Arizona, New Mexico and southern California.  The triple-digit heat was much more miserable for the chubby adults up front.  We employed every trick we could think of to keep cool.  Tempers grew short. 

    How many kids in the backseat, Mark?

  3. I can’t say I’m surprised they did away with the sexy teenage girls in bikinis, but sexy teenage girls in bikinis are such an iconic 60’s Southern California thing that I’m definitely still disappointed. 

    My favorite thing about Disneyland is the sense of history and nostalgia that you get from it even if you’re young and have no logical reason to feel nostalgic about it, an aspect that is sorely lacking at Disney World (not to mention the lack of the Matterhorn, by far my favorite ride even including Space Mountain). Bikini mermaids are a perfect fit for that SoCal nostalgia. 

    1. According to the article the Mermaids weren’t dropped because people were too uptight about seeing bikinis, but because they were in the same water the submarines drove around in and the diesel exhaust combined with the chlorine in the pools was making the girls sick. 

  4. Went to Disneyland every year in the late 60’s and early 70’s as my father worked for Hughes Aircraft.  The Matterhorn was an “E” ticket ride.  How many remember Disneyland ticket books?  Now it’s a single entry fee.

    1. Possibly rhetorical, but I remember the ticket books at Disney World, I assume in the mid-to-late 1970’s.

  5. My parents were, and really still are, cheapskates when it comes to fun and adventure. They did go to the recently-opened Disneyland as a young couple when my father was in the Navy, but the thought of the family going . . . hah!  Of course, it would have meant a cross country trip. Even Florida, to Disneyworld, would have been an unbelievable stretch.

    Disneyland was this unachievable thing that was tantalizingly portrayed on The Wonderful World of Color, GULF gas station promotional magazines, and via scant reports from school mates lucky enough to go.


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