13 Fun Facts About Walt Disney World: A $3.50 Ticket, Walt’s Secret Plan, Closures, First Visitor, And More

January 26, 2022Updated: January 26, 2022

Walt Disney World opened to the public on Oct. 1, 1971, after years of construction. The theme park owned by the Walt Disney Co is now the most visited theme park in the world.

The park celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021. Here is a look at some fun facts you may not know about Disney World.

1. Opened Oct. 1

Five years after Walt Disney announced plans to open a theme park in Florida, the Walt Disney World Resort opened Oct. 1, 1971. The date was selected by the Disney Company as it was the slowest day in a slow month for the Orlando area. The company saw huge demand when they opened Disneyland and were trying to not repeat issues with food, attractions and guest satisfaction.

Plans from Walt Disney were to build a theme park “bigger and better than Disneyland.” Epcot opened on Oct. 1, 1982, with an additional 305 acres as part of the Disney World theme parks.

2. Visitor Stats

On opening day, 10,422 people visited Walt Disney World, paying $3.50 per ticket. Visitors enjoyed 26 attractions throughout the park. In three months, the park had over 400,000 visitors. Today, Disney World is the most visited theme park in the world with over 55 million annual visitors.

3. Walt Disney Didn’t Get To See Park Open

The vision for Walt Disney World came from Walt himself. Sadly, Disney did not get to see the park open as he passed away in December 1966. Walt’s brother Roy Disney, who co-founded the company, passed away three months after the park opened. Roy oversaw the construction of the park.

4. Walt Disney’s Secret Plan

In the 1960s, Walt Disney bought swampland in Florida for $5 million. The purchase was for 43 square miles, an area the size of the city of San Francisco. Disney knew the majority of the U.S. population lives east of the Mississippi, creating an opportunity to cater to additional visitors with a second theme park. Disney wanted to find cheap land without getting noticed, to prevent a bidding war. Disney paid $182 an acre for the purchase. Nearby land went to $80,000 an acre after Disney World opened.

In October 1965, a journalist for the Orlando Sentinel named Emily Bavar questioned Disney on if he was the buyer of land in Florida.

“Walt Disney is a good actor, but he’s a terrible liar,” Bavar said at the time. The Orlando Sentinel reported that it was Disney buying the land in Florida with plans for a theme park.

5. Park Slogan

Disney World has the trademarked phrase “The Most Magical Place on Earth.” Sister park Disneyland uses “The Happiest Place On Earth.” After years of another slogan “Where Dreams Comes True” being the greeting to guests at Disney World, the company made a change. In 2020, the company put the official slogan on its entrance gates.

6. Park Closures

Disney World has closed a total of eight times in its park history. The closures were for Hurricane Floyd (September 1999), Sept. 11 terrorist attacks (2001), Hurricane Charley (August 2004), Hurricane Frances (September 2004), Hurricane Jeanne (2004), Hurricane Matthew (October 2016), Hurricane Irma (September 2017) and the COVID-19 pandemic.

7. First Visitor

William Windsor Jr. from Lakeland, Florida was the first visitor to Disney World. Windsor Jr. brought his wife and two sons Jay (3 years old) and Lee (19 months old) to the theme park. The family slept in their car overnight at a roadside rest area. As the first guests, the Windsor family was part of postcards and photographs that were used and part of the first Disney World parade.

“This is better than Christmas,” Jay Windsor said at the time.

8. Animal Kingdom Largest Section

In 1998, Animal Kingdom opened to park visitors as part of Walt Disney World. The park is the largest theme park area in the world by acreage at 580 acres. Animal Kingdom is 100 acres larger than the entire Disneyland theme park.

9. Park Costs and Expansions

Disney World cost $400 million to build. Disney has now spent over $3.5 billion on the massive theme park with continued upgrades and additional theme parks opened nearby. Some of the most recent expansion includes the 11-acre Toy Story Land and the 1- acre Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge area.

10. It’s A Small World Ride

One of the most popular rides at Disney World is the It’s A Small World ride, which opened on day one. The ride is similar to one at Disneyland and a staple at other Disney theme parks around the world. More than 250 million people have ridden the theme park ride at Disney World, featuring the well-known song and exploring cultures from around the world.

11. Space Mountain Ride

Located in the Tomorrowland section of Walt Disney World is the Space Mountain ride. The popular ride was opened in 1975 and was the first computer-controlled thrill ride in the world.

12. No Gum Sold

The guest might be surprised to learn that no gum is sold inside Disney World or other Disney theme parks. The rule is an effort to cut down on waste and cleaning.

13. Hidden Mickeys

There are over 1,100 “Hidden Mickeys” inside Disney World, according to a popular Disney blog. The history of Hidden Mickeys dates to the construction of Epcot. With alcohol being sold at this theme park, Disney decided its popular costumed characters like Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse wouldn’t appear. Instead, the construction team placed Hidden Mickey profiles inside the park.

All Disney theme parks now feature Hidden Mickeys and enjoy visitors who search endlessly to find new ones.

By Chris Katje

© 2021 The Epoch Times. The Epoch Times does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.

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