The 1st of October in 1971, a Friday, changed Orlando forever; the Walt Disney World Resort opened its magical gates for the first time to the children within us all. The Happiest Place on Earth did not only include the first park— Magic Kingdom — but also the Contemporary Resort, Polynesian Resort, and Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. After Californian Disneyland’s chaotic grand opening, the Orlando resort overseers purposely planned the big reveal during the off-season so that they could smooth out kinks as they arose without being bogged down by an overcrowded theme park. The final count for visitors on the first day—a little over 10,000—almost doubled the amount of 5,500 Cast Members. While the Florida Highway Patrol was expecting a much higher turnout, the resort planners were pleased with the manageable crowd, and all opening festivities ran smoothly.
Magic Kingdom spread across 107 acres, factioned with the familiar Main Street USA, Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland from Disneyland. The new park did not include New Orleans Square, but instead added Liberty Square with its Hall of Presidents. The lands included classic attractions such as the railroad through Main Street, the Enchanted Tiki Room, Haunted Mansion, and It’s a Small World. The Country Bear Jamboree was an attraction specific to Magic Kingdom, along with the Cinderella castle. Unbeknownst to most native Floridians, the glass-slippered beauty’s home stands at 189 feet tall—a little over 100 feet taller than the Sleeping Beauty Castle in California. Disney was definitely aiming to outdo their previous efforts with their new swampy haven.
Some might be surprised to learn that general admission tickets to Magic Kingdom were only $3.50 for adults, whereas contemporary prices begin at $105 for a one-day, single park ticket. General admission, however, did not grant access to any of the attractions. The rides were managed carnival-style, requiring either an A, B, C, D, or E ticket to hop on (E tickets being the more fun of the spectrum). Even with having to pay extra to take a spin in the Mad Tea Party, general admission plus an eleven adventure ticket book was only $5.75. Better yet, parking was only 50 cents! Seventies era Disney goers could enjoy all the mouse had to offer for half the price of current movie tickets.
Walt Disney World Resorts has kept the magic of October 1st as time went on: Epcot, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, and Disney’s Boardwalk all opened on the same day in 1982, 1988, and 1996 respectively.