On October 1, 1971, Central Florida (and family travel) changed forever, when Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom opened its doors to 10,000 people who were instantaneously transported to a land where elephants fly, teacups spin, and bears sing “Oo-De-Lally.” In the 50 years since, Walt Disney World Resort has grown to encompass four theme parks, two water parks, and more than two dozen resort hotels. In honor of the golden anniversary, here are 50 fun facts about the Magic Kingdom.
On its opening day, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park welcomed 10,000 visitors. (Julie Andrews performed at the Grand Opening ceremony.) Today, the daily maximum capacity is about 100,000 guests.
Tickets on opening day cost $3.50. Today, that’s the price of a bottle of water; standard admission will set you back at least $109.
Disney World was originally called the “Florida Project” to keep Walt Disney’s intentions a secret.
Most of the 47 square miles of Florida swampland that are now home to the resort were originally purchased by Walt Disney for around $5 million.
Walt Disney World isn’t actually located in Orlando; rather, it’s in Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, two cities within the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a special taxation district that Walt Disney organized so he could control the areas surrounding the park. The district has its own contracts for fire, police, and traffic protection, and has just a few dozen full-time residents—all of whom work for Disney.
At 107 acres, the Magic Kingdom is 22 acres bigger than Disneyland in Anaheim, California, which is 85 acres.
The parking lot, at 125 acres, is bigger than the park itself.
It took 52 months and $400 million to build the Magic Kingdom; California’s Disneyland, which opened in 1955, was built in 12 months for $17 million.
Fourteen of the roughly two-dozen original attractions in the Magic Kingdom are still open:
Country Bear Jamboree
Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
The Hall of Presidents
The Haunted Mansion
It’s a Small World
Mad Tea Party
Peter Pan’s Flight
Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
Swiss Family Treehouse
Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
Walt Disney World Railroad
When the Magic Kingdom opened, each ride required a separate ticket. Prices varied, but discounted ticket books were sold. Each ticket in the book was marked with a letter, A through E; tickets with an E were for the most popular rides, such as It’s a Small World, Jungle Cruise, and Haunted Mansion.
Nine acres of tunnels service the Magic Kingdom. The Utilidors, as they are called, house costume departments, cast member break rooms, garbage chutes, and other utilitarian areas.
Hundreds of “hidden Mickeys”— three-circle silhouettes of the head and ears of Mickey Mouse— can be found in the park, in everything from wallpaper to rock formations. How many can you spot?
The replica of the Liberty Bell in the center of Liberty Square was built from the same mold as the original in Philadelphia.
There are no bathrooms located in Liberty Square (outside of restaurants), lending authenticity to the land’s colonial conceit. A winding brown path on the ground represents the raw sewage that flowed down 18th-century streets.
The Hall of Presidents attraction dates back to an Audio-Animatronic exhibition called “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” that Walt Disney created for the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
An act of Congress was necessary to get permission to display the Great Seal of the United States in the Hall of Presidents.
At Frontierland Railroad Station, you can spot a wooden leg labeled “Smith” atop the Lost and Found, a reference to Mary Poppins. (Dick Van Dyke’s Bert says, “I know a man with a wooden leg named Smith.” Ed Wynn’s Uncle Albert responds, “What’s the name of his other leg?”)
At 189 feet, Cinderella’s Castle is the tallest structure in the Magic Kingdom. Why? Buildings taller than 200 feet are required to flash aviation lights.
When Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, one of the park’s original attractions, closed in 1998, a tombstone for J. Thaddeus Toad was placed in the Haunted Mansion’s pet cemetery.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction replaced Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. A painting of Mr. Toad handing the deed over to Mr. Owl appears at the start of the ride.
Cinderella’s Castle appears to be made of stone, but its shell is actually made of steel, concrete, plaster, and fiberglass in order to stand up to hurricanes and winds of up to 125 miles per hour.
The Walt Disney World Railroad is a functional steam-powered train. The four trains were built between 1916 and 1928 and have been restored to tip-top shape. (The train isn’t running, but it’s expected to resume this year.)
Built in 1917, Prince Charming Regal Carrousel in Fantasyland was originally located in Belle Isle Park in Detroit, and then later Olympic Park in New Jersey. Disney acquired it in 1967.
It’s a Small World, one of the first attractions at the Magic Kingdom, made its debut at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
On Jan. 15, 1975, Tomorrowland expanded, with the addition of the Space Mountain roller-coaster and the Carousel of Progress, an Audio-Animatronic spectacle that holds the record for longest-running stage show in the history of American theater.
Space Mountain’s grand opening was attended by astronauts Scott Carpenter of the Mercury-Atlas 7 mission, Gordon Cooper of the Mercury-Atlas 9 mission, and Jim Irwin of the Apollo 15 mission.
Smellitzer machines pump out scents throughout the park to further enhance the visitor experience. On Main Street, you’ll smell fresh-baked cookies; saltwater is the pervading odor while you’re waiting in line for Pirates of the Caribbean.
Space Mountain was the world’s only computer-controlled thrill ride when it opened, allowing several cars to use the track at the same time without crashing.
Many of the popular rides at Disneyland made the leap to Disney World for the 1971 opening, but Pirates of the Caribbean was not among them. Fans were so mad that it was quickly added to Adventureland two years later.
Adventureland’s Swiss Family Treehouse is 90 feet tall and is made of concrete and thousands of polyethylene leaves; the entire attraction weighs about 200 tons.
The Magic Kingdom used to have a seventh land, Mickey’s Toontown Fair, but it merged with Fantasyland when the resort expanded in 2012.
There has been a flag-lowering ceremony in Town Square every day that Disney World has been open. An active-duty military member or veteran visiting the park is chosen to participate in the Flag Retreat, and the Main Street Philharmonic plays “God Bless America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Any cast member who works at the Magic Kingdom is not allowed to point under any circumstances, even when showing a park guest how to get somewhere. (Pointing is considered rude in some cultures!)
Cast members who perform as Disney Princesses at the Magic Kingdom are also required to spend several weeks playing characters in full-head costumes.
John Lennon received the paperwork that legally disbanded the Beatles during the 1974
Christmas holidays, while he was staying at the Polynesian Village Resort.
Walt Disney passed away five years before the opening of the Magic Kingdom. His older brother, Roy Disney, who supervised the park’s construction, died a few months after the park’s debut.
While it’s the smallest of the theme parks at Walt Disney World, the Magic Kingdom is the most visited, with an attendance of 21 million in 2019. (Epcot is second, with 12.4 million in 2019.)
Anniversary festivities galore kick off this month. Here are a few highlights.
Disney Fab 50 Sculptures
Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, and 44 other characters have been immortalized as golden statues and displayed throughout the four parks. Look for your favorites (we’re excited to see Gus from Cinderella!) and discover fun ways to interact with them.
New Nighttime Spectaculars
At the Magic Kingdom, the “Disney Enchantment” show features music, enhanced lighting, fireworks, and, for the first time, immersive projection effects that extend from Cinderella’s Castle down Main Street, U.S.A. At Epcot, “Harmonious” takes guests around the globe and brings Disney songs to life with visual effects, multimedia magic, and choreographed moving fountains. “Beacons of Magic,” meanwhile, occurs nightly at different parks, illuminating landmarks such as the Animal Kingdom’s Tree of Life and Hollywood Studios’ Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in “EARidescent” color. Disney also commissioned a new song for the event, “The Magic Is Calling” by platinum-selling songwriter Alana Da Fonseca.
The brand-new Disney KiteTails comes alive several times daily at the Animal Kingdom’s Discovery River Amphitheater. Performers fly windcatchers and kites of all shapes and sizes, while out on the water elaborate three-dimensional kites—some stretching out to 30 feet long—depict Disney animal friends.