More Walt Disney World Resort Stories

This Day in History: Walt Disney World Resort Officially Opens – 1971

Thomas Smith

by , Editorial Content Director, Disney Parks

Opening Day at Walt Disney World Resort
It’s rare that we post a “This Day in History” on the blog but this is something we thought you’d enjoy. On October 1, 1971, the Walt Disney World Resort officially opened, including Magic Kingdom Park, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Resort and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. And on that day in 1971, William Windsor, Jr., was our record-breaking first guest.

Are you a Walt Disney World fan? If so, let us know what your “must-do” is when visiting.

Also on this day in history:


  • My family’s “must do” is The Haunted Mansion and Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin. Last month was our sixth family vacation to WDW. We introduced the newest addition to our family to our favorite family vacation spot and he celebrated his first birthday with Mickey and the Gang. Now we’re DVC members and will be coming back every year! Can’t wait!

  • My wife and I went the first year we were married in 1972, we loved it, but did not go back till 1992 with our son, joined the DVC while we were there vacationing at WDW, and we have not missed our annual visit ever since(even twice a couple of years). This year we had nine of us go including our Son, Daughter-in-law and Grandson, and a fantastic time was had by all. Truly Old Key West is our Home Away From Home!

  • My first visit was in 1977 wow that’s along time ago how o wish o could go back and take my daughter let her see what I saw it was past the WOW factor it was amazing

  • It is funny, I was just telling my daughters that I was born the day Disney opened and we searched this on the internet. I love to share my birthday with Disney World. My father was in the military and he was based in Florida. He took picturs of Disney being built. I am going to have to ask them to dig them out so my children can see our favorite place in the world being built. 🙂

  • Having been a guest in 1971 and stayed in Disney’s Contemporary when I was 5 I think that it’s wonderful I that I got to spend the parks Anniversary there with my son who was just a week shy of turning 5. Happy Birthday Disney World.

  • i know im a few days late in posting this but Happy Birthday disney……i love Disney so do my girls, it is a wonderful place to go this world is filled with such mean things so it is great to be able to go to WDW and live the magic where everyone gets along…when we go are must do is the safaris, but really anything that makes you feel magical on the inside is a must do..112 days till my family gets to the mouse….4th year in a row i cant wait see you all there…

  • There are so many must do’s at WDW! A relaxed dinner at Tony’s Town Square is at the top of my list.

  • 1971 was a great year. I look forward to spending my 40th right at MK next year! Happy Birthday, WDW

  • Happy Birthday Walt Disney World! Cant wait to visit soon…Our must dos are Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, Space mountain, and BTMR!

  • Happy Birthday WDW!! I was there as a youngster early in 1972, and of course many time since then. I was also there the summer that EPCOT opened!


  • I was 11 weeks old when Walt Disney World opened. I didn’t make my first trip until 1981 during the “Tencennial”. I’ve been hooked ever since. 20+ trips later, we are heading back next year for 4th of July weekend and then boarding the Disney Dream to celebrate my 40th birthday.

  • Happy Birthday WDW! Walt – you did good!!

  • “must-do”: Voices of Liberty

    p.s.: Auditions were this week.

  • Happy birthday Walt Disney World! We are the same age.. 39 and holding!

  • Happy Birthday! My Dad retired to Cocoa,Florida from the Air Force in January 1973 and we made our first trip to WDW in February 73 and many times there after (still have ticket books with an E Ticket still attached)… Monsanto’s Circle Vision 360 and Eastern Airlines Dream Flight became a regular stop…. and wouldn’t you know we take our youngest Son and the Grandkids to Buzz Lightyear and the Laugh Floor every time we go (Season Ticket holders). I was fortunate enough to receive the EPCOT preview book in the mail shortly before it opened and I have it put away with many of my other keepsakes..

  • Why am I logged in as Eric from IL?

  • Happy Birthday Walt Disney World!! The happiest place on earth!! Can’t wait til I see you next month!! Ooooh look how young the castle looks :))

  • Happy Birthday!! It is the happiest place on earth and I can’t wait to come back for a visit!

  • I remember our first visit to the Magic Kingdom, April 1972. It was the best experience because we just didn’t have a clue, and dad said we were never coming back to this crazy place and traded our tickets for Mickey Balloons. But that changed quickly when we got home and he talked to a friend that went also, he told my dad he did it all wrong, we had to stay in the park and for more than one day. So we all saved our $$ and we went back and stayed at the Polynesian Village (that was the name at that time) for $35 a night! Can you imagine! Mom said that was alot of money back then. We continued to go back through the years, as a matter of fact mom and my sisters are arriving on Sunday!

  • Happy Birthday! Even though I did not start visiting until 1994, I have been around 20 times, and will see you in about a week! I always try to get a haircut with Michal at the Harmony Barber Shop, and love Mission:SPACE and Expedition Everest. But there is nothing that reflects a simpler time that Beaches and Cream at the Beach Club, enjoying a hot fudge sundae with coffee ice cream!

  • Happy Birthday WDW!!! My life would be so incomplete without it!!! Some of the best memories in my life were spent at the park!!! The magic you feel as you walk down Main Street and forget about EVERYTHING else!!! Happiest place on earth!!1

  • Happy Birthday Magic Kingdom!!! I too am interested in knowing what is on hand for next year’s 40th?
    Honestly I am suprised Soarin’ or Toy Story Mania haven’t been mentioned as must do since they seem to have some of the longest wait times and run out of fastpasses more than many other rides at WDW.
    I would have to say my must do is more related to food. I always do a breakfast at Crystal Palace with Pooh & Friends in the MK.

  • Happy Birthday!!!!!! My must do place is Splash Mountain – absolutely love the “getting wet” on a hot summers day!

    Wow, 40 next year, and we will be there untill the day before. Are you doing anything special that we need to plan extra time for?

  • Let’s celebrate! I love everything Disney! See you in a couple of hours Mickey! We love you

  • Happy Birthday to my Happy Place! I’m so glad Walt had the vision to create this amazing place.

    Must dos? Well, that’s hard. Everything in the parks really 🙂 and the mandatory visit to Walt’s and Roy’s statues.

  • “IllumiNations: Reflection of Earth”… a MUST see! I have the soundtrack on CD and LOVE LOVE LOVE it. Hearing it takes me right back to the summer I worked there. I must have seen it about 20 times, and it never got old.

  • Happy Birthday Walt Disney World. 39, huh? Wow. I mean, you aren’t as old as your West coast cousin, but you are getting up there. I’ll be buying you over-the-hill novelties soon enough.

  • Even though Epcot is my family’s favorite park, we always hit Main Street on our first day just to soak up the atmosphere. There are just too many attraction must-do’s to list.

  • I always wanted to go to Disneyland when I was a small child, but never got to go. My aunt brought me back a small change purse when she visited in the 1960’s. I still have the purse. I wanted to visit Disney World when it opened, but never got to until 1995. We took our sons, ages 5 and 8 that summer. We were there the week hurricane Erin hit FL and came all the way inland to Disney. Needless to say we had lots of rain and wind that week. It was the first time Disney every had to close the parks any for the weather. The parks delayed opening that day until about 3:00 p.m. It was so bad we had to stay in our rooms, but we did get to go out that evening to the parks. Disney was already trying to repair the damage to trees and other areas. I have never loved going anywhere else more than I love going to Disney World (and I have traveled to 6 other countries). We have been season pass holders for most of the years since. We have made 23 trips to Disney World since 1995 and loved every one of them. I can’t wait to come back. We didn’t get to come this summer, but hopefully we will be able to visit next summer. I miss WDW!!!!!!

  • Is WDW doing ANYTHING special for the 40th?? Next year we will be there on October 1st!!! I’m really excited about our trip, but just wondering if there’s anything special going on to ‘plus it up’ for the 40th!

  • Congrats on 39 years of MAGIC!!!! °O° The WDW Resort will forever be a special place for those of us who have and continue to visit it. I am so thankful that I have been able to share numerous trips to WDW as a child with my parents and siblings, and now as an adult with my own family. My wife and I have taken our 3-year-old son twice and can’t wait to go back again! Here’s to MANY more years of magic, fun, laughter, and love…

    NCDisneyDad Bob °O°

  • Happy Anniversary WDW! My father, Charles McReynolds, architect of the Contemporary and Polynesian Resorts was there along with Welton Becket and Walt as opening day marked a new era as a family phenomenon. May you bring many more years of joy to the kid in all of us!
    Kimberly McReynolds Merton

  • happy bday will celabrate with u today and many comming

  • happy bday will celabrate with u

  • IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth also debuted on this day, in 1999. This is my favorite attraction at Disney World!

  • My first trip to Walt Disney World was in June 1972, I was 9. I will never forget how I felt the first time I saw the castle in the distance from the monorail, it was magical! I have been back so many times since I have last count, I have had an annual pass since 1988! Thank You for all the great memories and being such an important part of my life!

  • I visited Walt Disneyworld the year it opened and the MAGIC just mesmerized me. I took my two boys for the first when they were 6 and 8 in 2002….It has become Home away from Home for us, we just got back from our September trip and made some more wonderful memories…LOVE YA DISNEYWORLD!!!!!!

  • Happy Birthday, WDW!! Being locals, we have learned to enjoy some of the slower, charming aspects of the World. I would recommend people visiting to take a few minutes or half an hour from the running around and excitement and try these: 1) take a sandwich or ice cream to Tom Sawyer Island and enjoy while rocking in the rocking chairs; 2) Don’t be too old or busy to give a character a hug or even an autograph; 3) watch the shows, even if they are geared for the kids – the real enjoyment is often the excitement on the faces of young people; 4) and Hoop-dee-Doo! 🙂

  • Our new must do is the Behind the Steam Trains tour. We took the tour last week and it was wonderful. Jim, the tour guide was a lot of fun and told great stories about Disney. We can’t wait to do it again.

  • I was 10 years old when I visited for the first time in June 1972. We came by car from our home in Tennessee. My first impression was amazement that WDW had its own divided highway (“interstate”) leading into the park. That was very grand to a young boy.

  • My family & I love Walt Disney World. We try to do something different each time we visit – a new restaurant or go on a tour. We do have several “must do” activities – we love to ride Big Thunder on our first night. It’s a fun experience at night. We always ride Pirates multiple times & love all the other traditional rides – Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, etc. Other “must do” activities – Mickey’s Philharmagic, Fantasmic, Aerosmith & Soarin. Actually, everything in WDW is a “must do” for us.
    Happy Birthday WDW – can’t wait to go back!

  • The must do attraction for all visitors is Kilimanjaro Safaris. In my opinion next is Mickey’s Philharmagic.

  • I am hoping to go Walt Disney World next year for my 40th birthday. I was born the same year and same month, when Walt Disney World open.

  • The must do for all people in the US is Kilimanjaro Safaris, I know its in Animal Kingdom, but man, can you really beat that ride. It is stand alone on its own.

  • Happy Birthday, Walt Disney World Resort! Can’t wait to visit MK tonight & celebrate with Mickey + his pals. 🙂

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