Opening Day of Walt Disney World

The Orlando Sentinel, 01 Oct 1971

Opening day of Walt Disney World, 1971 (The Orlando Sentinel, via Newspapers.com)

Walt Disney World Resort, located near Orlando, Florida, opened to the public on October 1, 1971.

Background

After the success of California’s Disneyland, Walt Disney decided to launch a larger, more ambitious project in the eastern United States and began quietly acquiring roughly 27,000 acres of land in Central Florida. He officially announced the project at a press conference held in November 1965, after the Orlando Sentinel broke the news weeks earlier.

Walt Disney passed away just over a year later, in December 1966, but his brother Roy resolved to continue the $400 million Florida project, and construction began in 1967.

Opening Day

Walt Disney World’s 100-acre Magic Kingdom, which was based on Disneyland, opened to the public on Friday, October 1, 1971. Opening day saw a moderate attendance of around 10,000 visitors, as the theme park had deliberately chosen to open on a weekday in the offseason.

The Magic Kingdom opened with more than 20 attractions across six themed zones: Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Liberty Square, and Main Street, U.S.A. Also ready by opening day were two resort hotels (Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort) and two golf courses (Palm and Magnolia).

Grand Opening

At the end of the first month, Walt Disney World celebrated with a three-day Grand Opening on October 23–25. The dedication ceremony was held on the final day, with a speech by Roy O. Disney and a parade that included a 1,076-piece marching band. A television special of the event, The Grand Opening of Walt Disney World, aired on October 29 and featured numerous celebrities.

In addition to the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World would grow to include three more parks: Epcot (in 1982), Disney’s Hollywood Studios (1989), and Disney’s Animal Kingdom (1998), with accompanying accommodations and attractions.

Learn more about the Opening Day of Walt Disney World through historical newspapers from our archives. Explore newspaper articles, headlines, images, and other primary sources below.


Articles and Clippings about the Opening Day of Walt Disney World

Orlando Sentinel front page breaks the news of new Disney project in FloridaOrlando Sentinel front page breaks the news of new Disney project in Florida 24 Oct 1965, Sun The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.comWalt Disney holds press conference about his new Florida project in November 1965Walt Disney holds press conference about his new Florida project in November 1965 16 Nov 1965, Tue The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.comDisney's new Florida venture is expected to be named Disney WorldDisney's new Florida venture is expected to be named Disney World 22 Dec 1965, Wed The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.comWork on Disney World will continue despite death of Walt Disney in 1966Work on Disney World will continue despite death of Walt Disney in 1966 16 Dec 1966, Fri The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.comFlorida's Disney World expected to open in 1970 or 1971Florida's Disney World expected to open in 1970 or 1971 02 Feb 1967, Thu Orlando Evening Star (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.comPlans for Disney World and EPCOT unveiled in 1967Plans for Disney World and EPCOT unveiled in 1967 03 Feb 1967, Fri The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.comDisney World opening day is set for October 1971Disney World opening day is set for October 1971 30 Apr 1969, Wed Orlando Evening Star (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.comDisney airs television preview of progress of Walt Disney World in February 1971Disney airs television preview of progress of Walt Disney World in February 1971 01 Feb 1971, Mon The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.comArticle detailing cost of a family trip to Disney World in 1971, published prior to opening dayArticle detailing cost of a family trip to Disney World in 1971, published prior to opening day 26 Sep 1971, Sun The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.comPredictions about Walt Disney World's economic impact as opening day nears in FloridaPredictions about Walt Disney World's economic impact as opening day nears in Florida 26 Sep 1971, Sun Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut) Newspapers.comSome attractions “may not be completed or fully operational” for weeks after Disney World’s openingSome attractions “may not be completed or fully operational” for weeks after Disney World’s opening 26 Sep 1971, Sun Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.comNewspaper front page coverage from October 1, 1971, Disney World's opening dayNewspaper front page coverage from October 1, 1971, Disney World's opening day 01 Oct 1971, Fri The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.comFront page of Orlando Sentinel reporting on opening day of Walt Disney World in 1971Front page of Orlando Sentinel reporting on opening day of Walt Disney World in 1971 02 Oct 1971, Sat The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.comExcerpt from article describing Walt Disney World on opening day, October 1, 1971Excerpt from article describing Walt Disney World on opening day, October 1, 1971 02 Oct 1971, Sat The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.comOverview of Walt Disney World attractions published as part of coverage of opening dayOverview of Walt Disney World attractions published as part of coverage of opening day 02 Oct 1971, Sat The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.comWorkers at Walt Disney World prepare for opening dayWorkers at Walt Disney World prepare for opening day 02 Oct 1971, Sat The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.comWindsor family becomes first to visit to Disney World on opening day and are given lifetime passesWindsor family becomes first to visit to Disney World on opening day and are given lifetime passes 02 Oct 1971, Sat The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.comAttendance lower than expected for the opening of Florida's Walt Disney WorldAttendance lower than expected for the opening of Florida's Walt Disney World 02 Oct 1971, Sat Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia) Newspapers.comPhotos from Disney World opening day: “Magic Kingdom Opens with Excitement, Color, Music”Photos from Disney World opening day: “Magic Kingdom Opens with Excitement, Color, Music” 02 Oct 1971, Sat The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.comWhite House flag presented to Roy Disney during Grand Opening of Walt Disney WorldWhite House flag presented to Roy Disney during Grand Opening of Walt Disney World 25 Oct 1971, Mon The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.comDescription of Walt Disney World Grand Opening dedication ceremoniesDescription of Walt Disney World Grand Opening dedication ceremonies 26 Oct 1971, Tue The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.comWalt Disney World Grand Opening weekend closes with unveiling of plaque and a paradeWalt Disney World Grand Opening weekend closes with unveiling of plaque and a parade 27 Oct 1971, Wed The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.comNumerous celebrities attend Walt Disney World's Grand Opening in October 1971Numerous celebrities attend Walt Disney World's Grand Opening in October 1971 27 Oct 1971, Wed The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.comOverview of Walt Disney World, including map, attractions, ticket pricing, etc., in October 1971Overview of Walt Disney World, including map, attractions, ticket pricing, etc., in October 1971 27 Oct 1971, Wed The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.comStar-studded Walt Disney World Grand Opening celebration to air on TVStar-studded Walt Disney World Grand Opening celebration to air on TV 29 Oct 1971, Fri The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.comCelebrating Walt Disney World's 25th anniversary with pictures from opening day, October 1, 1971Celebrating Walt Disney World's 25th anniversary with pictures from opening day, October 1, 1971 06 Oct 1996, Sun The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) Newspapers.com
"Opening Day of Walt Disney World," Newspapers.com Topics (https://www.newspapers.com/topics/end-of-the-20th-century/opening-day-of-walt-disney-world/ : accessed October 24, 2021)