In just a few months Walt Disney World will be celebrating its big 50th Anniversary!!
50 years ago, the Most Magical Place on Earth definitely looked different than it does today. But some classic hotels, restaurants, and rides DID open back on October 1st, 1971 with Magic Kingdom. Think you know what was available on Disney World’s opening day? Well, the time to test your opening day Disney knowledge is NOW!
Before we dive in, take a second to make your guesses about what attractions, restaurants, hotels, and other forms of entertainment were available for guests to enjoy on October 1st, 1971 — Disney World’s opening day.
Got your guesses ready? Alright, let’s dive in!
The only park that opened with Disney World on October 1st, 1971 was Magic Kingdom.
The next park to open would be EPCOT, but that wouldn’t be for several more years (11, actually!).
Magic Kingdom opened with a number of attractions (some of which have since disappeared from the park). Here’s a list of all of the rides that were open at Magic Kingdom on its opening day:
- Jungle Cruise
- Swiss Family Treehouse
- Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room (but in 1971 when it first opened it was part of the Sunshine Pavilion and known as “Tropical Serenade and The Enchanted Tiki Birds”)
- Country Bear Jamboree
- Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade (originally known as Frontier Shooting Gallery)
- Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes
- Mike Fink Keel Boats
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- “it’s a small world”
- Mad Tea Party
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Prince Charming Regal Carrousel (previously known as Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel)
- Snow White’s Adventures
- Mickey Mouse Revue
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
- Skyway to Tomorrowland
- Tomorrowland Speedway (previously known as Grand Prix Raceway)
- Skyway to Fantasyland
Main Street, U.S.A.
- Walt Disney World Railroad – Main Street, U.S.A.
- Main Street Vehicles and Horse-Drawn Streetcars
- Penny Arcade
- Main Street Cinema (this attraction later become a store in the late 1990s)
Some other smaller things, like the Safari Club, were also open in 1971.
And some attractions opened up just a few weeks or days after Disney World’s opening day. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea opened on October 14th, 1971, and The Admiral Joe Fowler Riverboat opened on October 2nd, 1971. And more attractions (like Flight to the Moon) opened later that same year.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a day at Disney World without food!! Magic Kingdom’s opening day was no exception. Here’s a list of the major restaurants that were open in Magic Kingdom back on October 1st, 1971:
- Crystal Palace Restaurant — According to D23.com, when it first opened, Crystal Palace was actually a cafeteria-style restaurant. In 1996, the restaurant then changed to an all-you-can-eat buffet featuring characters from Winnie the Pooh.
- Adventureland Veranda — According to D23.com, this restaurant opened on October 1st, 1971, and served “fast food with a tropical flavor (such as teriyaki sauce and a pineapple ring on a hamburger).” It was sponsored by Kikkoman starting in October of 1977 and then closed in 1994. It was then transformed into Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen.
- Sunshine Tree Terrace
- Town Square Cafe — According to D23.com, this restaurant opened in Magic Kingdom on October 1st, 1971, and later became Tony’s Town Square Restaurant.
- Coca-Cola Refreshment Corner — According to D23, the Coca-Cola Refreshment Corner opened in Magic Kingdom on October 1st, 1971, and later got transformed into Casey’s Corner in 1995.
- Diamond Horseshoe Revue
- Pinocchio Village Haus
- Pecos Bill Cafe — According to D23.com, when it opened on October 1st, 1971, it served Mexican fare as well as hamburgers and grilled chicken breast sandwiches. It then closed in 1998 and was remodeled to become Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe.
- Mile Long Bar — As D23.com shares, the Mile Long Bar opened with Magic Kingdom on its opening day and closed in 1998. The bar made use of some mirrors to make it look like it was a mile long (hence the name!). At this bar, guests could grab some light snacks and drinks.
- Main Street Confectionery
- Liberty Tree Tavern
- King Stefan’s Banquet Hall — This restaurant later became Cinderella’s Royal Table
- Veranda Juice Bar — This later became Aloha Isle
And there were a few other restaurants that opened in Disney World in 1971 as well:
- Main Street Bakery (which has had a number of different names over the years)
- The Lunching Pad — D23.com shares that The Lunching Pad originally opened in 1971 in a different spot than you might think of. It actually was originally in the space where Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies is now! The Lunching Pad closed in 1994 to make room for Auntie Gravity’s and then reopened underneath Rockettower Plaza Station in 1994.
- Plaza Ice Cream Parlor (which was originally sponsored by Bordens)
- Tomorrowland Terrace Cafe (what is now Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe)
Opening Day Entertainment
In terms of entertainment in Disney World, there were a number of things on opening day you could enjoy, like:
- The Dapper Dans
You could also enjoy some performers at different spots throughout the park.
While these weren’t available right on Disney World’s opening day, some major entertainment became available slightly thereafter:
- Fantasy In The Sky fireworks — The Fantasy in the Sky Spectacular officially became available for guests to enjoy on October 24th, 1971, the day of the dedication of the Polynesian.
- Electrical Water Pageant — This water show first premiered in Disney World on October 26th, 1971, and was known as the Electrical Pageant, according to D23.
A number of hotels opened on October 1st, 1971 with Magic Kingdom. These hotels were:
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Hotel (now known as Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort)
The campgrounds at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort opened soon after on November 19th, 1971.
A number of restaurants at Disney’s hotels also opened on October 1st, 1971. Here’s a list of the major spots you could have chosen to dine at on opening day:
- Top of the World — This nightclub/restaurant on the 15th floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort provided some food and entertainment to guests for a number of years. The dinner show presented here twice nightly was called “Broadway at the Top.” The restaurant was eventually replaced by California Grill. The Top of the World club still exists — sort of. It’s a DVC member lounge at the top of Bay Lake Tower now serving up drinks and small bites when open.
- Papeete Bay Verandah — This restaurant was located over at the Polynesian. It closed in 1994 and eventually reopened as ‘Ohana!
- Coral Isle Cafe — This spot opened on the second floor at the Polynesian Resort. It closed in 1998 and later reopened as Kona Cafe.
- Captain Cook’s Hideaway — According to D23.com, Captain Cook’s Hideaway first opened at the Polynesian as a small lounge with a mahogany-capped bar. It later changed names and eventually became what we now know as Captain Cook’s.
In 1971, some other restaurants opened in Disney World, including:
- Polynesian Revue — This was a luau show that opened a bit later in 1971 at the Polynesian. A new tropical-themed dinner show, the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show, eventually took its place.
- Gulf Coast Room — This was a temporary restaurant in Disney’s Contemporary Resort’s Grand Republic Ballroom that opened in 1971 and ultimately closed in 1988.
What about transportation? Well, that classic Walt Disney World Monorail system actually opened on October 1st, 1971 and connected the Transportation and Ticket Center to several hotels and Magic Kingdom.
Did you know that the Walt Disney World Marching Band was also formed in 1971? What a year!
And that’s a peek at what Disney World looked like on its opening day (and a bit further into 1971). We can’t wait to see what it will look like on the 50th anniversary and what the future will be like at the Most Magical Place on Earth. Stay tuned for all the latest updates on the anniversary celebrations and more!