Holidayland was on the west side of Disneyland – about where New Orleans Square is today – from June of 1957 to September of 1963. The area had its own admission gate and was fenced off from Disneyland. It was close enough that you could hear the sounds of the Mark Twain as it floated down the Rivers of America. It wasn’t a theme park: but it was a park!
Like most Disney attractions, there were several variations of the idea. It was one of the ideas dreamed up before Disneyland opened in 1955. Holidayland concepts morphed, at times being planned as a large area for group events, and at others as a small picnic area attached to Disneyland.
So what could you do at Disneyland’s first “second gate” (I think I can call it that…) when it finally opened? There was baseball, volleyball, horseshoes, picnic areas, food service (including bottomless beer…), grassy areas, and playgrounds for the kids. The playgrounds were lightly themed to mirror the attractions inside Disneyland. My grandparents tell me about the company picnics they had at Holidayland. Typically those picnics ended with a trip into the rest of Disneyland.
But the kind of demographics that a park like this can draw (family gathering, company picnics, etc…) don’t provide a lot of business during the week. Combine this with a lack of daytime shade and nighttime lighting, a shortage of restrooms, and guests who enjoyed the bottomless beer a bit much, it wasn’t able to hold its own. But with the Happiest Place on Earth next door, it had steep competition. After it closed, a lot of its land was used to make the show buildings for Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion.
At the 2013 D23 Convention, Tony Baxter showed a video of the area and gave some fun commentary on it. Here’s a video on YouTube from WDWThemeParks that shows a part of the presentation.
Please note that Holidayland doesn’t have the same relationship to Holiday World that Disneyland has to Walt Disney World. They’re totally separate ideas… But, Holiday World is a great place, too!