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Disney's Magic Kingdom | © Iain A Wanless / Flickr
Disney's Magic Kingdom | © Iain A Wanless / Flickr
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A Brief History of Walt Disney World®

Picture of Anjali Sareen
Updated: 30 January 2017
With an average of 52,964 visitors per day, the Magic Kingdom Park at the Walt Disney World® Resort in Orlando, Florida remains the top-attended theme park in the world. Add to that the number of daily visitors from the other three parks owned by Disney, and the resort sees over 50 million park guests per year. It is an immortalized part of Orlando, as well as an eternal landmark for families all around the world.

The magic begins

On October 1, 1971, the Magic Kingdom opened its doors to 10,000 guests and was the first of the four parks that would eventually make up the Walt Disney World® Resort. It featured six individually themed lands that remain in the park to this day: Main Street U.S.A., Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, and Tomorrowland. Along with the themed areas, the Magic Kingdom was home to 23 attractions on the day of its inauguration, three of which were unique to the Orlando park – Mickey Mouse Revue, Country Bear Jamboree, and The Hall of Presidents.

By December 29th of the opening year, park attendance hit a high of 69,458 visitors in a single day.

In 1973, a few more attractions were added, including the beloved Pirates of the Caribbean, Tom Sawyer Island, and the Richard F. Irvine Steamboat. Then in 1975, the Magic Kingdom debuted its first (and today, most popular) roller coaster – Space Mountain. The second – a frontier-themed coaster called Big Thunder Mountain – would debut in 1980.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad | © Luis Brizzante/Flickr
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad | © Luis Brizzante/Flickr

The new kingdoms

Finally, after years of development, Epcot Center hosted its first daily guests in 1982. The park opened as a tribute to Walt E. Disney’s original view for Walt Disney World® Resort – an innovative world where “human achievements are celebrated through imagination, the wonders of enterprise, and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all” (Epcot Center Dedication Plaque, October 24, 1982).

Epcot consisted of five Future World pavilions and nine World Showcases (Mexico, China, Germany, Italy, American Adventure, Japan, France, United Kingdom, and Canada) at the time of its opening. By December 26, 1982, Walt Disney World® Resort hit a new high of attendance, with 123,800 daily visitors, between the two distinct parks.

The additions to the resort continued in 1989 with the grand opening of Disney-MGM Studios (known today as Hollywood Studios) and Disney’s Animal Kingdom park in 1998.

Tree Of Life - Animal Kingdom
The Tree of Life at the Animal Kingdom | © Chad Sparkes /Flickr

The continuing magic

In 2017, the resort plans to unveil parts of Pandora – The World of Avatar in the Animal Kingdom, as well as rides from the anticipated Toy Story and Star Wars Lands in Hollywood Studios. Through the years, the Walt Disney World® Resort has added and subtracted attractions, dining, and even characters at the four theme parks. However, through all the changes, the continued interest and love the resort guests hold for this Orlando wonder remain.